Essay on dating in the 21st century

  • The difficulties of 21st-century dating - Telegraph.
  • The Nightmare of Dating In The 21st Century;
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  • Modern Love: Scientific Insights from 21st Century Dating – Association for Psychological Science.

Bridget Jones, yadda, yadda, yadda. But here we are, squaring up to the subject one more time. Love in the 21st century is both the same and different; mutating interestingly as we try to reconfigure it for lives led at a different speed, but its power is undiminished, its grip on our hearts and record collections as strong as ever. But here's the thing: Since the 17th century, it's been the pursuit of love that has fascinated us, not what we do with it when we get it.

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All love stories end with a wedding, but where once we presumed the lovers faded away into a happy ever after, now they just fade away. Couples are uninteresting at best - if you're married, or as good as, don't expect to find yourself the subject of a snappy sitcom on Channel 4. Or they're malignant, 'smug marrieds', bourgeois, superior and sexless. If you don't recognise yourself as any of the above, you will at least admit that coupledom is a bit of a slog, and where's the fun in that?

Smart books are written about the 'tyranny of two' and the unhealthiness of co-dependency. Which brings us to the one question left worth asking in the blizzard of love talk: Why put yourself through the pain and work and scorn of conventional coupledom when there are plenty of postmodern alternatives? For all kinds of ideological, biological, practical, romantic and lifestyle reasons, The Couple should be as common as the dodo.

Why, in spite of the passion-killing grind that is daily domesticity, do we go on shacking up together? We all know about the 40 per cent divorce rate, so why do we still get married? Love arrives, or grows, but marriage is a decision.

The Problem With 21st Century Dating | Thought Catalog

Love feels like something outside ourselves. We talk about being struck by Cupid's arrow, or 'falling' in love, we're overtaken by emotion, we 'can't help' how we feel. But marriage happens from the inside out, and in the head as well as the heart, even if we later decide we weren't thinking straight.

And the answer is, they're not.

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Nobody is per cent sure of marriage, with its 40 per cent divorce rate, and who knows how many more per cent stuck miserably together. Instead, we decide that we love this person enough, we find them interesting enough, and we think we're ready enough to draw a line in the sand and say, this is it. All committed couples are optimists. We commit in the hope and belief that love and interest won't diminish, but grow. It's an act of faith. And most of us still make it. Fifty-four per cent of men and 52 per cent of women in the UK are married, with a further 10 per cent of men and nine per cent of women cohabiting, most of whom will eventually tie the knot, according to the General Household Survey.

Just six per cent of men and nine per cent of women are divorcees, in spite of the divorce rate. Most wait just long enough for the scar tissue to heal before jumping in again: And yet marriage rates have been declining for 30 years. Last year there were just , marriages the lowest rate since , when the population was about half the current number.

The Problem With 21st Century Dating

At the same time, the age at which we get married has been steadily rising. Your average first-time newlyweds will now be 34 him and 32 her. So why do so few couples choose that option in the long term? Why do we still get married? And not just for convention's sake. They want their situation sanctified, or given a legal framework. It's a way of saying that the relationship is bigger than the people in it. Wills, inheritance, rights of property, pensions, separation, children and access to them are all affected by marriage. Most of us don't know this, whether we're married or not, until we come up against it.

One friend of mine who lived with his partner and son for five years, was shocked to find he had no automatic legal right to see his child when they split up. My partner and I married, having lived together for eight years, after he was taken to hospital and we had to wait for his mother to sign the consent form for his operation. In the eyes of the world, or at least the law, those eight years counted for nothing.

I was surprised by how excluded I felt. At one of those dark life-or-death moments, I wanted to be his next of kin. I doubt if anybody gets married thinking about inheritance tax or longevity rates, but there's an elephantine stack of surveys going back decades showing that couples are healthier, happier and wealthier than singles. Jessie Bernard's famous book, The Future of Marriage, started it off in the early 70s when she found that married men lived longer, enjoyed better health and greater long-term prosperity than single or divorced men. Married women, on the other hand, didn't get the same benefits, and were more prone to depression.

We've been quoting that research for 30 years, but it's out of date.

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Social change and female independence inside and outside relationships have levelled the playing field. Couldn't we all, deep down, do with a buffer against the toughness of life? And, of course, we marry or we move in, more than anything else, for love. And the point is, to be really loved is a lifetime's work. You'll never forget those three days in Paris when it was all new, and where you barely got out of bed, but you were in bed with a beloved stranger.

To get what we most want and can't explain, we have to outlast passion, which is wonderful, easy and necessarily temporary. The social psychologist Ben Voyer warns that while texting and online messaging are perceived to be easier than face-to-face contact or a telephone conversation, in the medium to long term they can make things more difficult. Your guess is as good as mine. We have more visual and audio cues to help us form an impression of someone. You can become vastly experienced in the heady yet confusing dance of Early Days — I have had years of it, and know all the steps — yet remain an ignoramus about the mysterious state of proper Girlfriend and Boyfriend.

So, how did it go?


With texts, you are allowing a large space for fantasy to take over. One friend furiously edits her Facebook page when a man she likes accepts her friend request. So, proper, honest, face-to-face communication is key. Unfortunately, for a generation practically weaned on telecommunication devices, person-to-person communication is not exactly our strong suit — as evidenced by a stand-up argument I recently had with a man I was seeing. We were having a drink in the pub when I referred to him, to his face, as my boyfriend.

To my mind, I was never that pitiful caricature of a desperate woman, waiting by the telephone for him to call; we texted, Facebooked or emailed every day.

Plenty of couples owe their entire relationships to technology. Anna Williams, a year-old writer, met her boyfriend on Twitter. We started messaging each other and, eventually, I invited him to a night out I was already going to. For Anna, the constant tweeting and messaging took the stress out of the first date.

But instead of politely disappearing off the edge of the earth and never being seen again as in the Olde Days , these men are now my Facebook friends. And their numbers are saved on my phone and in my iCloud and probably engraved on my spleen until the end of time. Perhaps among all those frogs there was actually a prince? Emma Weighill-Baskerville believes we risk becoming emotionally stunted by our reliance on texting and instant messaging.