Perhaps you’ve heard the news about Millennials and their relationships: between technology and other factors in their upbringing, it’s getting harder and harder for twenty-somethings to develop intimate relationships of any significant length of time. We don’t even have to be talking about marriage, per se: just the kind of face-to-face interaction that could count as dating or ‘courting’ has fallen by the wayside.
It’s one of the many facets of Millennial life Eric will be tackling in his upcoming Millennials Reading. And it’s a subject others are beginning to take up with some urgency.
Among the factors at play are: ‘hookup culture’, which prioritizes no-strings, short-term sexual interactions; emphasis on career-building and ‘being an individual'; and the supremacy of texting and social media over meeting face to face for a conversation — and undoubtedly more, such as media representations of sex and the proliferation of Internet porn. All of that apparently combines with the paradox that these young people, despite being aware of the reality of their parents’ marriages (somewhere around half are divorced), still hold an idealized version of marriage so high (it must be to a ‘soul mate’) that the bar may be unattainable.
The net result may be that higher education needs to take on the task of teaching this generation how to love, how to allow vulnerability and therefore intimacy. This is one of the conclusions made by Andrew Reiner, a professor of writing at Towson University, in his February 2014 New York Times article.
Speaking about colleges now holding workshops on such topics as “How to Be in Love,” Reiner writes, “When Dr. [Theresa] Benson, [assistant director of the counseling center at the University of Illinois], says that ‘students may not be learning the interpersonal skills to communicate face to face,’ she may be couching this trend a bit too tentatively. That there is even a need for these workshops speaks volumes: The most elemental skills of romantic intimacy are going the way of cursive handwriting.”
Reiner also notes that, “During class discussions, my students often admit to hoping that relationships will simply unfold through hooking up. ‘After all,’ one student recently said, ‘nobody wants to have The Talk’” the dreaded confrontation that clarifies romantic hopes and expectations. ‘You come off as too needy.'”
If you can’t talk, how can you relate? And if you can’t relate — even remotely intimately — where does that leave you?
Consider also a piece from the Millennial trenches. Sarah Hartman, a 24-year-old writing over at Thought Catalog, has put together her list of “7 Reasons Why Relationships Are Hard For Millennials.” Here’s item number seven from her list:
7. Romantic notions are scary and forward.
People are so afraid of appearing clingy, too forward, or too sappy, that it seems notions of romance are circling the drain. Growing up, it seemed that every movie and TV show depicted a first date as having a guy show up at the door with flowers and a cute smile. Now the norm is a text of, “here” as he waits outside. For some reason, men of my generation seem to have associated romance with sappy clinginess, and have eschewed both. Hand holding, asking to kiss, or just kissing a girl is a rarity. Of the past four first dates I’ve had, only one asked to hold my hand. The rest just felt like hanging out with a friend of a friend after the mutual friend left the room. So much for sexual tension.
Indeed, how does one emit, allow, receive or even recognize sexual tension if the door to in-person communication is guarded by the ultimate commandment of, “Thou shalt not look like you are interested”? How do you teach your voice to speak your heart when your heart is seen as an impediment or handicap, and your voice has been sublimated to your fingers? Something tells me alternative healers are going to be doing a lot of work on throat chakras and heart chakras in the coming years.