The death of modern dating has been coming for a long time. For Lisa Bunnage, parenting coach and the presenter of a Ted Talk on today’s hookup culture, it started in the 60’s when child-rearing adults began shirking their responsibilities as parents.
As women gradually gained access to the workforce (a good thing, mind you) children became more and more independent from their parents. Parents were told to become friends with their kids rather than discipline them. And at the same time that schools were losing power and control over their students, parents were asking the schools to do more parenting – to teach kids about nutrition, manners, hygiene and sex. By the time smart phones came out and kids had instant access to the internet, kids didn’t trust their parents anymore and went to the internet for answers, about relationships and sex as well.
She says that kids as young as 8 are being exposed to pornography. Kids at this age don’t understand sex, so they think that their parents are doing what’s being done in the porn they watch. She tells the story of a kid whose being ostracized at school because he doesn’t shave his genitals and all the other guys found out in the locker room. Because from the onset of puberty they are already following what they see in porn.
And just as parents aren’t talking to their kids about sex, they also aren’t talking to them (nor modeling for them) what a healthy, intimate relationship ought to be. We can blame much of this on the culture of divorce that was so promoted at least during my childhood. Parents were told that kids would bounce back quickly after a divorce.
Marriage and Divorce
Judith Wallerstein disagrees. A psychologist and researcher, she studied the effects of divorce and published the findings in her book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study. Following over 100 children who came from either divorced parents or parents who remained unhappily intact, she traced their lives from childhood through well into their adulthood.
One example of her enlightening yet disturbing results was Karen, an intelligent and beautiful young woman who had chosen to live with a man she didn’t love, despite his being very kind to her. She explained that Nick was not just kind, but also uneducated and had no plans, meaning that he was unlikely to leave her for someone else. In her mind, dating someone her equal meant taking that risk.
Another example is Greta, who is afraid to marry, despite it being the thing that she wants most in life, because her parents divorced after 23 years and she wonders how she could possibly avoid divorce if her parents didn’t. “I am…afraid that any man that I love will be gone the next day”, she confessed.
So as the authors of the book point out, Greta and others of her generation have learned to evolve their own values that were not part of their childhood. Unfortunately for many of these now adults, these values often avoid true intimacy and authentic love, because both involve too much of a risk. Kids today are terrified that they will fall in love and have their hearts broken, so they opt out of it for something more transitory.
If modern love is to be saved, it’s going to take something more than a one night stand.