In this lesson, I will be looking at the world we live in how life and relationships used to be and how it is now.
When we look back at our parents' and grandparents' lives, we often see a very different picture of how they found each other, how their lives were as a couple, etc.
The Tinderella age, the age of online dating, began in 1994 with the start of match.com. About 15 million singles in the UK are currently registered for online dating. 80% of people know someone who has found love online. It is not unusual to meet people through the internet either through dating sites or social media, face group or speed dating nights, etc. This is probably the most significant change in love finding in the Western world today.
As I said in the introduction, we have the world market to choose from with the internet when it comes to shopping in general, and we have been shown so many options of types of people and types of relationships through the media that we are really spoilt for choice.
For example, Given the right amount of money and time, we can choose a shirt with the perfect colour we are looking for, the right shape, fabric. The perfect set of roses on the wallpaper we are looking for, and sometimes if nothing is available, you may even be able to find a way to get it made. It is easy to believe that if you wait long enough, you'll find the perfect partner too.
There are tv programmes that encourage this belief. A recent one allows participants to choose a date based on attributes that are revealed in stages on the show, a naked line up of potential dates stand in booths as their bodies are revealed bit by bit. There is a discussion from the participant about their preference for tattoos, body hair, the preferred size of body parts, the colour of eyes, etc. Not surprisingly, these dates rarely work out.
When dating online through tinder or match or one of the many sites, there are now. You can state your preferences, and if matches proceed to a first date, your next set of checklists can be gone through; are their parents happily married, are they emotionally available. Do they love their mothers or fathers, what job do they do, etc?
Some dating sites and the many people that use them work towards a match by interests based on the idea that the perfect partner will be just like them. But research shows this isn't the formula for a successful relationship at all.
In the well-known book on the subject, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman talks about how the communication styles of the individuals is what is most important for the success of the marriage. Meaning that you may not both have to love Harry Potter, mountain climbing, shopping, theatre, doing sudoku, or watching the Chelsea football team to have a great relationship! And I will be talking about communication styles and how they affect relationships further on in the course.
Of course, there are other styles of matching apart from online. Friends may introduce you, random meetings sitting next to each other on a plane journey, and even arranged marriages. And the principle still applies that if you are looking for the perfect list ticker or the perfect like-for-like match, then you may well be going down the wrong route to the healthy, happy relationship you most want.
In previous generations, before the idea of 'you can get anything you want,' even a carbon copy of yourself, when divorce rates were much lower, people stayed in marriages due to different expectations of marriage than we have today. People didn't necessarily expect the perfect partnership, to be in love forever or to never fight, etc. There was less expectation of being in a committed relationship because they have fallen in love and the knowledge of a 'slow burner' relationship, love that grows over time was very much part of the culture. Many people also stayed together because of the stigma of separating, of being a divorcee. It was against the norm and sometimes against religion.
Marriages were often more transactional than today, the man was the breadwinner and the woman the homemaker. Marriage was not necessarily about sustained intimacy or developing the self through relationships. There were more judgments about people 'giving up' on marriages.
Similarly, the idea of being a bachelor or a spinster, unmarried into middle age, was seen as different or 'of concern.' And in this respect, the freedoms and acceptance we have now serve the needs of happier lives.
However, stable long term marriages are not necessarily happy even today, with the choice of divorce being somewhat easier. People still stay in unsatisfying relationships for a variety of reasons (e.g., children, merged finances, religion). The question then is not one of stability, but also of quality.
The negative cultural stigmas of being divorced or single are still part of people's thinking today, it takes a lot to leave a relationship, fear of failure, fear of being alone, being seen to be alone, etc… For some, they choose not to even get into a relationship because of the challenges they may bring.
However, when it works, or works well enough, with due diligence getting into relationships and a commitment to working on them once in them; love and the sharing of lives, not only children, but sharing activities, memories, joys and heartache, the support and the bringing together of friends and family, making a home, sharing pets, holidays. It can be a truly wonderful way to live.
In the next lesson, we are going to begin to take a look at how best to avoid choosing relationships that may not work out in the first place.