Many days ago, I remember praising SunkenThought’s article in which she described the relationship she had with her husband. That was for a very specific reason, because I was at the end of a long string of lousy dates that never seemed to go anywhere. I was consumed by the cynicism that modern dating, online dating especially, engendered.
My peers have become worn out, and many of them remain single. But not just single, they’re lonely too. Many of them yearn for affection and love, but things just don’t seem to be working out for them. It is not just my male friends who feel this way, as my female friends also feel this crushing sense of loneliness. If there was a theme to the 21st century millennial dating experience, it would be the Beatles’ classic “Eleanor Rigby”.
The circumstances that created this phenomenon are manifold, but the most unique aspect of modern life is the constant state of being busy. My peers are juggling school, work, and occasionally family. Sometimes multiple jobs are part of the equation. The economy that we live in is far less kind to a millennial. Where a boomer could reasonably expect to get a single bedroom apartment with a secure 9-5 job that only requires a high school diploma, this would fail spectacularly in today’s economy.
There is another concern that I have. As I made mention, our sex education is sorely lacking. But there’s another aspect that needs to be addressed as well: My peers don’t get a model of what a healthy, positive, realistic relationship looks like. When I ran Eyes Through the Glass, someone brought this to my attention, asking why we don’t cover that topic in health class. I dismissed this, saying that I liked the idea but that producing curriculum around it was probably going to be difficult. Then again, we kind of had that when I was growing up, but it was so bare bones that I barely remember a thing.
My conception of what a relationship was, how it works, the process of moving through it in stages, and so on was formed over the process of many years. It was mainly because what would happen is that I got to a certain point, screwed up, then tried again. On the plus side it means that every relationship I’ve gotten in is a marked improvement. On the minus side, it usually means that I don’t know that I’ve screwed up until it’s too late to come back from.
As SunkenThought has pointed out, there’s a certain level of unforgivingness in modern dating, relationships have become disposable. To play devil’s advocate, in bygone days some people clearly stayed in relationships that they did not want to be in due to the way society worked back then. But now, we live in a world where you can just swipe to find another potential match. Why bother if they’re not ideal? You can always find another one.
Another problem that this lack of modeling healthy relationships creates is that while some of my peers have trouble due to unrealistic expectations for their partners, others have no way to detect when a relationship is toxic or abusive.
The last thing that I think that my peers have trouble with is understanding what a relationship actually means, specifically in its responsibilities. Some people think that they can have all their problems solved by the right person. That their soulmate is going to come along and save them.
I put myself in this category, which is why I decided to take a temporary hiatus to work on myself before I went searching once more. I began devoting my time to making myself into the best of version of myself, so that when I am ready, I am able to be a capable partner.
I think a little reflection is a good thing, and it’s not a race to get married or anything like that. Hopefully, this will pay off in the long run.