Millennials, those born between 1982-2004, have taken on a bad wrap in regards to their love lives. Dubbed as the generation that killed dating, many feel lost as to what they want and who they are looking for. Is romance, or even worse, marriage, dead?

We grew up longing for love like Corey and Topanga, and watching Kelly Kapowski and Zack Morris get hitched after the College Years. But, high school sweethearts seem to be romanticized ideals of the past.

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The average age of marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, which means half of people are not getting married until after this age.

30 and single is the new 21 and single!

Here’s the deal—there are now more single than married adults in the US. However, research tells us that most people actually want to be married. So why are our desires and behaviors not matching up?

Studies tell us that young adults today attach less moral stigma to living together with a boyfriend/girlfriend status, and we are more approving of having children out-of-wedlock.

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Millennials have also pushed marriage to the back burner while focusing on building a career and paying down enormous student loan debt. With the combination of these giant stressors and an increase in cohabitating couples, fewer flock to the alter in a hurry.

These factors contribute to the delay of marriage, as well as to the seismic shift in belief that modern marriage is now about personal fulfillment.

Millennials have said goodbye to the days of saying, “I do,” solely for the purpose of procreating, child rearing, and purchasing a home. This mental shift means they are more focused on, “Does my partner make me happy,” and, “How does my partner improve my life?”

The idea of “settling” has become a major turn off. With the goal of personal fulfillment in mind, many Millennials are searching for their soul mates, “The One.”

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They are holding out for someone truly special who meets all of their needs—physically, emotionally, spirituality, environmentally, politically, financially.

However, it gets harder and harder to find someone when there’s potentially a “better” option one finger swipe away. This grass is greener dating mentality is preventing relationships from taking off. Loyalty and courtship have gone out the window with the ease of online dating and swiping apps because, well, who likes to put in effort when you don’t have to?

While some Millennials are taking their time to practically evaluate a perfect match, many are engaging in some seriously dysfunctional dating dynamics.

Nothing is wrong with a one night stand if that’s what you’re looking for, but many Millennials are engaging in this behavior, afraid to assert themselves and ask for what they really want—a committed relationship.

Though there are many perks of online dating, daters are frustrated, disheartened and burnt out. Apps like Tinder often leave singles feeling as though they are scraping the bottom of the barrel. It can be an addicting, ego-stroking game.

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If you’ve found yourself questioning, “WTF is wrong with everyone,” or maybe self-doubt is creeping in that makes you question, “WTF is wrong with me,” I promise you’re not alone!

If being labeled as the instant gratification generation bothers you, then collectively we need to challenge this stereotype by changing dating behavior.

Though Millennials are faced with dating and relationship issues unique to our generation, it doesn’t mean we are doomed! In fact, I’m quite optimistic.

Research tells us that Millennials do still want to get married, even if it’s later in life. This means that we are giving relationships a chance to pan out before getting hitched. Naturally, some of those partnerships will fail, so we are just being smarter about who we want to commit our lives to forever.

We just need to realize that marriage doesn’t start with “Netflix and chill,” it starts with real dating!

Whether it is initiated online or organically, dating is the consistent courtship and development of a romantic connection and bond between two people.

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Modern day dating should NOT include ghosting, fading, logging into your dating profile just to see what’s out there when you’re in an exclusive relationship, messaging someone for weeks but never actually asking them out, and sending someone a booty “text” (because let’s be real, many Millennials have forgotten how to pick up the phone and actually call) that is disguised as a lame invitation to come watch a movie.

Sparks fly and relationships are solidified in person. I know this idea sounds really old school, but actually calling someone on the phone instead of just texting will take your connection to the next level. You can tell a lot by the sound and tone of someone’s voice. Plus, when you text someone they have hours to craft a perfect, witty responses, but their personality might fall flat in person.

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A 2015 Pew Research study found that one-third of online daters have not yet met up in real life with someone they initially found on an online dating site. That’s disturbing. They are called dating sites, not pen pal sites for a reason! I implore you to only join these sites if you have the intentions of meeting up in real life.

Modern day dating also includes taking advantage of technology, such as, FaceTime, which allows for further connection that comes with eye contact and reading facial expressions. One of my friends got together with her now boyfriend after having a first date on FaceTime after conflicting travel schedules prevented them for meeting up for a few weeks.

We are animals after all, so we read, interpret and make automatic inferences about someone’s body language that tells us important information, such as whether they are trustworthy, threatening or friendly. When we hide behind screens and emojis, it makes it difficult to get a sense of how someone feels about you.

Courtship is also something that needs to make a come back. Sleeping together and not talking for a week does not fast track you to a girlfriend/boyfriend status.

Nowadays these things may look more like funny memes, gifs, and cat videos, but all are better than ghosting. Planning a date in advance, communicating when you’re not together, small gifts, and love letters are romantic and build anticipation in a budding relationship.

Let’s get back to the basics, people. Romance isn’t dead, let’s prove it by being the generation that decreases divorce rates and enjoys longer, happier marriages, even if they are starting later.

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