That is how Amazon bills a 2015 book by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg entitled Modern Romance. The book is now a New York Times bestseller. I got curious last Fall, purchased and read the book over the Holidays. Glad I did.
The pitch for the book on Amazon’s site continues: “At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago.
Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?”
What it feels like
Yes, I came to appreciate the book and, while of the Baby Boomer generation, must admit that I had wondered what single people in this day and age experience. While not being clueless, the book was a bit of an eye opener. That should come as no surprise given the recognition that one generation really never knows what “it feels like” for another generation.
A word of warning: the book is laced, here and there, with vulgar expressions – perhaps a comedian’s tool to endear him or herself to an audience and “fit in.”
Regardless, I recommend the book to life coaches, mentors and other professionals engaged in conversing with singles about relationships.
Baby Boomers vs. Millennials vs. GenX
Perhaps unnoticed by many, the process of finding a person to marry is very different today than it used to be.
The author argues that a few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a criminal, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Marriage used to be the first step into adulthood, and for many the opportunity of moving out of their parent’s dwelling and into their own.
Today, economic changes require more and often higher education to enhance the prospects of financial stability for younger folks. Increasingly, both genders are spending more time evaluating all kind of choices and marry later than ever. That creates a prolonged adolescence, an extended “space” in between the transition from youth living at home to parenthood. To the point, people spend years of their adolescent lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soulmate, instead of settling for Mr. Right Now.
The book quotes Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research for the Council on Contemporary Families, as saying that “marriage certainly isn’t dead, but marriage no longer organizes not only most of your life but not even most of your major transitions and decisions.”
How many parents understand that new reality?
Looking for a Soulmate
Have people moved from looking for a companionate marriage to a soulmate marriage? Yes, argues the book’s author. The majority of people no longer live on farms but in large urban areas. Marriages are not the only way to keep women from starving and men from having holes in their socks. We are reminded that children are not created for the purpose of using them as free farm labor, either.
Essentially, people do not marry someone because they have to; thus they may have become a lot more choosy about their partner. That creates its own problems, though. It is perhaps harder to make a commitment and stay with it when there could be a “better” person just around the corner, an upgrade past the next swipe or listed in another dating site altogether.
The concept of a soulmate is an interesting one to us. Dating site do cite the concept to lure in singles and keep them going as paying customers because finding a soulmate is time-consuming, but rewarding. Some may conceive of a soulmate as a person destined to become the partner for life, sort of as an outcome of fate. Others may believe that a soulmate is simply a person with whom to easily get along, blissfully and forever.
What do you think?
Online dating is sometimes mistaken as actual dating, and the negative perception persists that it is merely a means to find a one-night stand. Obviously, there is a lot more to online dating as it undoubtedly has helped to bring forth a lot of happy long-term relationships and marriages. However, what does not seem to lodge itself into that many minds is the reality that online dating is a mere introduction service.
Advice from this book’s author and other relationship professionals prompt singles to not linger too long in dating sites and move the conversation with another single to actual face-to-face dates much sooner than later. While online dating is common, it will not work unless people actually meet the people they are introduced to online in person.
Are You Game
The authors of the book have taken a good look at the essential or characteristic customs and conventions of three sample countries and found that relationship mores differ considerably across cultures. In the US, marital infidelity is considered a moral crime, whereas in other countries it is not. They have come to the conclusions that: in France, mistresses are part of life; in Argentina, everyone is hooking up; and in Japan, many young people are abstaining from dating.
I guess that low-end dating site may not gain much commercial success in countries with ambiguous attitudes about sex and relationships, in perhaps countries like France and Argentine.
Someone Better around the Corner
Online dating sites, combined, track in their databases an overwhelming number of singles one can connect with. This often creates pressure to look into as many of them as possible. Are people inundated with too many choices? Perhaps so. Lots of options makes it difficult to settle on the right person.
Decision fatigue may set in at some point, with people loosing their ability to make a sensible commitment at all. On top of that, some experience being single as a boatload of fun. In the end, however, the author admits that the single world had worn him out, that he had reached a point of exhaustion.
The author suggests that giving fewer people more attention creates better odds. Settling down offers the chance to fill a natural void with the dependable, deeper, intimate love of a committed relationship.
Stages of Love
People point to common wisdom when speaking of two phases in every intimate relationship. The passionate love experienced at the outset of the relationship is replaced by companionate love after a few years. In lasting relationships, as passionate love fades and things get to be less exciting and more routine, companionate love arises.
This transition from passionate love to companionate can be tricky, the author states. When people get married way to quickly and do not understand or handle the transition well, they break up and wonder what it all was about.
While the book singles out modern romance, it misses to speak about dater’s perspectives on eventually having children. It also missed the opportunity to introduce readers to Sternberg’s Triangle of Love theory and people’s experience of what is termed consummate love. The following link will try to fill the gap.
In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor and insights gained from personal experience with findings from social science to let readers hitch a ride on a tour through a contemporary romantic world.