At a recent forum on singles, dating and marriage, a father stood up and asked me, “Why is it so hard for our singles to commit today? Why do we hear about so many young couples who are divorcing? Do you think the two are related?”
He had a good point. Many speak about the ‘singles crisis’ and we also hear a lot about couples who are not making it to their second and third anniversary. If we could put our finger on what is contributing to the problem, perhaps we can find solutions that can transform this painful bind that many young people find themselves facing today.
I think there are four key factors we need to contemplate.
1. Disposable Society
Who fixes appliances anymore? Toaster ovens, microwaves, and alarm clocks get tossed while quickly outdated laptops, iPhones and cars get traded in for the latest model. After all, new is always better. Our kids lose their clothing knowing that we’ll just buy them more of the same next time. Somehow it has become no big deal to throw away or replace what we’ve lost.
This thinking has seeped into our attitudes towards the people in our lives. I’ve seen it in the conversations I’ve had with couples who are facing marital issues. One young woman said to me, “So what’s the big deal? I’ll get a divorce and find another one. There are lots of men out there. Look at all my friends.”
We’ve lost the ability to value what we have, including the people we’re supposed to cherish the most.
When we see relationships as disposable, whether they are friendships or marriage, the sacred bond becomes easily unglued. We’ve lost the ability to value what we have, including the people we’re supposed to cherish the most. All relationships have their ups and downs. The mindset that it never pays to fix things and that newer is better impacts our daily lives, lessening the sacrosanct value inherent in marriage.
We need to value the people and things we have in our lives. Work on appreciation and stop taking relationships for granted.
2. Instant Gratification
Whatsapp, texting and emails have brought us to expect an immediate response. Otherwise we wonder, “What is taking so long! Why didn’t they answer me?” Instead of waiting our turn to be helped in the store we just click and order most things online. We have next day delivery. I remember taking my film in to be developed when I was a little girl and anticipating the day it would be ready for pickup. Who can imagine not viewing your photo and sending it to others across the world instantly? We’ve lost the ability to be patient. We expect it all to be there for us right here, right now.
What does this have to do with relationships?
Serious dating and marriage takes work. You will not always see instant results. Love grows with time. The more we nourish a relationship the greater we feel invested in this partnership. If we don’t automatically feel madly in love or don’t always see the fruits of our labor, what then? Do we just give up and move on?
When couples look back through their years of being together they realize how much they have evolved. Sure there were great obstacles and dark moments. What would have happened if they decided then that it’s not what they thought it would be, so why go on together? (I am not speaking about abusive or intolerable situations). With time and much sweat, tears and self-work is born a love that is deeper than one could have ever imagined. Love is not instant. Marriage is built on a “mature love” that is carefully nurtured. Great patience is required.
Expecting instant gratification strips us of the opportunity to work through the difficult times and climb life’s tougher moments together. We give up too easily believing that there is no point if we don’t see what we want to see or feel what we want to feel right now. We end up selling ourselves and our relationships short.
3. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
You see parties posted online, other people’s vacations, even delicious sushi or steak dinners and think to yourself, what about me? This fear of missing out is not good for singles and married couples. Comparing lives, wondering if there is something better out there, and checking out Facebook posts feeds this frenzy.
People are too busy counting everyone else’s blessings to see their own. Commitment requires one to be happy with what we have. FOMO is the exact opposite. There comes a point where we must make peace with our lives. We need to make a decision to stop glancing over our shoulder. Dating with one eye on who else may be around becomes an impossible way to create a lasting relationship. And surely one can’t have a solid marriage thinking that others have it better.
Begin with making a conscious mental U-turn. Stop looking at others and work on being satisfied with all you’ve been given. Seek out the good in your days and the people in your life. Instead of imagining other people’s happiness, work on creating your own. You will become self-satisfied and content.
4. A Disconnected World
Technology has connected us but it has also brought us farther apart. We’ve become used to communicating through texts instead of speaking. Singles have told me that their dating hit a roadblock when they began texting instead of talking. Husbands and wives converse while staring at their screens. Eye contact brings deeper connection-now this is lacking. Couples listen with half an ear and see with half an eye. Of course our relationships are affected. We also get bored easily with those next to us; constantly checking our phones. Our loved ones begin to feel irrelevant.
The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to put down our devices and pay more attention to those around us.
Whether you are single or married, or raising children who will be in future relationships, contemplate how these four factors affect your relationships. A few simple changes can allow us to live better, and love better too.