Millennials contend with modern dating dilemmas that straight up make it difficult to connect and commit. Our love lives come with a unique set of challenges that have not been faced by past generations.
Our need for instant gratification, hookup culture—casual dating and sexual encounters without emotional bonds or commitment, and online dating is changing the dating game and our ability to form long-lasting relationships.
Over time, these Gen-Y changes will impact relationship satisfaction, a sense of commitment, and future divorce rates.
Let’s explore these three generational differences in more detail:
1) Millennials crave instant gratification!
Millennials are the instant oatmeal and trophy generation! We want things quickly, and we want constant reward and validation. Not only do we want promotions and a raise every year, we feel entitled to receive them without having to work hard. We lack coping skills for frustration and disappointment. We bounce around from company to company when our needs aren’t being met, whereas our parents’ and grandparents’ generations had lifelong careers and employer loyalty.
It seems as if our workplace infidelity has also crept into our relationships! If we don’t feel our needs are being met—be in emotional or physical, we are onto the next date or relationship.
Millennials feel entitled to not only be happy all of the time, but there is also an expectation to be happier. We are constantly evaluating our relationships and putting pressure on our partners to meet all of our needs, sometimes without taking responsibility to communicate or meet these needs ourselves.
We question, “Can I feel happier in this relationship? What is this relationship doing for me? Could another partner make me feel this way?” as if we need proof that it’s worth it to remain in our current relationships.
Millennials also come from a generation of disillusioned and divorced parents. Some Gen Y grew up with the idea that if you are not happy in a marriage, you can just leave. Our generation has shifted to a mentality of quality over longevity—you don’t have to stay in a relationship if it’s unfulfilling, unrewarding, or you’ve straight up just fallen out of love.
This definitely has its perks, and I appreciate that people are more focused on connection, happiness, and relational satisfaction—but some of us have become lazy in love!
This mentality impacts Millennials’ dating life because we are left to contemplate whether life could be better or happier without ever putting in the work and commitment that it takes to create a successful, long-term relationship.
How seriously are we taking marriage and this notion of “’til death do us part,” when we have fairly successful examples of divorce and prenups in our lives? It’s as if some people use these as a “get out of jail free card” instead of investing due diligence in their relationships.
Also, what about the rise in polyamorous relationships? We turn to an open relationship status to meet our needs before we have really invested the time and energy into giving our current relationships everything we’ve got!
2) Millennials are hooking up and settling down later!
According to the most recent US Census Records, the median age of first marriage isn’t until 27.6 for women, and 29.5 for men, compared to 22 and 24.7 respectively in the 1980s, when Millennials were born!
We want the commitment, security and love of a relationship, but we also value and desire freedom, independence, and the excitement of the unknown. With the later age of marriage, it means we have dabbled in casual sex, multiple short-term and even multi-year relationships.
Since hook up culture has become more established, casual sex and being single is now socially acceptable, and Millennials are spending a longer time engaging in this lifestyle.
This means we are spending more time working on our own personal goals, and posses a sense of pride and self-actualization before entering into long-term relationships. Rather than settling down after college and finding our first jobs and apartments together, we expect our potential partner to be established and successful.
We want to be a power couple! It has become important to know what our partners are contributing emotionally and financially to the relationship. And again, if we think we can get more from someone else, we may leave.
Millennials often don't want to settle down until we’ve had a sampling of what is out there. Nowadays, we have to verbally agree upon monogamy, rather than assume our partners are committed and exclusive. We shy away from these conversations out of fear or rejection, or because we are not ready to commit.
3) Millennials have widely accepted and utilize online dating websites and apps!
Millennials are the generation of Tinder relationships! Sites such as match.com, eHarmony, and OKCupid have been around since the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but at the time it was mostly early adopters—either viewed as geeks or weirdo’s, or as progressive and adventurous—using these websites. These early adopters paved the way for online dating to become widely accepted by the majority, so here’s a big “THANK YOU” for that!
Online dating is an incredible tool that allows us to come into contact with hundreds of people with whom our paths may have never crossed during our daily routines. With the boom of smart phones and the ease of mobile apps, a hot date or soul mate is just a finger swipe away.
However, now that the majority of Millennials are utilizing online dating, it comes with the complaint of the “grass is greener” mentality—no one is willing to commit because another option is readily available.
Commitment-phobes have always existed, but now the fear of settling is perpetuated with the ease of finding someone “better” by literally signing in or swiping right. Everyone wants the next best thing, and with the ease of online dating, it’s basically like 24/7 shopping for a date or relationship.
Millennials also have to contend with “ghosting” or “fading,” which is when a potential partner will suddenly disappear or slowly decrease communication until you are being ignored. This likely happens because he or she has moved on to one of the many other options, without being straightforward that he or she is no longer interested.
We have lost a sense of dating etiquette or respect because technology has made it easy to hide behind a screen or text, rather than having to disappoint someone to his or her face. This ties up a lot of emotional energy and time, which is spent obsessing and overanalyzing non-communicative behavior, instead of being invested back into the dating market!
So now that we know about these generational changes in dating, what can we do about them so that we can still have happy and healthy long-term relationships and marriages?
Despite still being young, Millennials are a generation of jaded daters, and we come with more emotional baggage. This means we must invest time into reflecting upon our love lessons learned. We have to ask ourselves what we learned from our past dating experiences, what unhealthy patterns are we repeating, what are our deal breakers, and what are we really looking for in a partner so that we can choose a better match for our next relationship.
Also, just because we engage in hook up culture does not negate the fact that we want to settle down eventually and have a meaningful, heartfelt, and committed connection. The casual dating mentality does not work for everyone, and if you fall into this category, you need to own it!
It’s important to be assertive and unashamed of wanting an exclusive, committed relationship. If you’re looking for something more than a one night stand, don’t be afraid to put your needs out there. Though it takes courage to be vulnerable, you’ll be happy that you’re not wasting your time and energy on someone who simply does not want a relationship.
Lastly, be willing to put in effort before calling it quits! If your needs (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual) are unmet in your relationship, you must communicate openly about this with your partner. Learn each other’s love languages, invest in building intimacy, or try couples counseling.
Contact Samantha if you need help sorting through your Millennial dating drama!