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Dating And Commitment In The 21st Century

A year has passed since we suggested [1] that traditional love and marriage were still possible, worthy, and, yes, preferable, to the casual sexual interactions or pornographic non-interactions so plentiful today—especially among the young.  Yet, recent articles in the Daily Telegraph [2] and Vanity Fair [3] suggest that what was already a veritable crisis may now be more-aptly described as apocalyptic.  For the (fortunately) uninitiated, I offer a few of the tamer examples (caution, some of the material is quite provocative) of what is being put forth as “dating’s” new normal:

What’s The Core Problem?

As a culture, we have moved from “Love and Marriage go together like a horse and carriage” to treating the sexual act like a pit stop in a car race.  How?  Why?  At the core, the human person and sexuality have been degraded and devalued to such an extent that many young people are simply neither surprised nor outwardly chagrined at the objectification and anonymity of the “dating” scene:  “We don’t know what the girls are like….  And they don’t know us.”

The callousness and deceit should be shocking:

Females are apparently somewhat attuned to the tragedy: “’Tinder sucks,’ they say.  But they don’t stop swiping.”

Why On Earth Do They Keep Swiping?

The VF article reviewed various theories; some focused on a form of feminism whereby women are thought to be improving their lot by behaving sexually more like men.  Others assert that females go along with such schemes because they feel they have to in order to find a mate.  Some women interviewed sum up the dynamic well:

Yet, the longing of the human heart for love and attachment is real and persistent, so people search in whatever context they find themselves.  And now, technology is defining the context.

As the Daily Telegraph notes, what was once private is now public.  With others able to watch your relationship in real time, the natural discernment and exploration of relationships is truncated.

What Is A Relationship?

When the basest aspects of pleasure dominate personal interactions, calling such interactions “a relationship” is nonsense.  The Daily Telegraph quotes one counselor as suggesting that “the lines of what constitutes a relationship are now completely blurred….  Young people today are brilliantly liberated because they have so much freedom, but also incredibly oppressed because that means they have to find their own rules and they’re confused.”

Even the prior generation, which was steeped in sexual freedom, is dumbfounded by current attitudes.  While some in that generation are surely part of the Ashley Madison phenomenon, most have learned that monogamous commitment and intimacy are intertwined in a manner that makes for profound contentment and happiness.  Unfortunately, there is a generation at risk for missing out on the formative experiences in building relationships and intimacy, including its inevitable pain and struggles, that make such commitment possible.  The psychological impact of that absence on family and future children could be devastating.

The remedy is not complicated, but it is difficult to implement.  To cultivate genuine relationships, young people must eschew the incessant and ubiquitous pseudo-connections on their electronic devices.  Period.  Emotionally-intimate relationships through that medium are not possible, and rarely blossom into genuine encounters.  Our youth deserve to learn how to engage others in the fullness [1] of who they are as human persons, not as digital images with bumper sticker descriptions.  Parents and friends must intervene.  Such actions may be met with disdain, but the destruction wrought by current societal fads is too great to remain idle.  Despite the outrageous remarks of many Tinder users, glimmers of hope can be seen in the discomfited reactions by some, reactions which, I suspect, reveal true desires: to love and be loved.