I sat down to write this evening pretty certain about the topic I was going to riff on. I sat with my fingers perfectly positioned on the keyboard, but the words weren’t coming. So, I took a break...which is when I saw this Jay Shetty performance piece based on an article by Krysti Wilkinson called We Are the Generation That Doesn’t Want Relationships. I’m almost certain I’ve seen the video before, but I watch it again anyway. The performance is catchy, the words are eerily accurate:
“We want the façade of a relationship, but we don’t want the work of a relationship. We want the hand holding without the eye contact, the teasing without the serious conversations. We want the pretty promise without the actual commitment...We want the happily ever after, but we don’t want to put the effort in the here and now. We want the deep connection, while keeping things shallow.”
In short, the manifesto describes how typical millennial stereotypes (lazy, self-interested, entitled, narcissistic, un-focused, non-committal) carry over into romantic relationships. It may sound harsh, but I technically fall into this generation and I've seen first-hand how these stereotypes play out in the modern dating world.
The characters in this story are all too familiar; I’ve met them as dates, I’ve known them as friends...I’ve certainly been a part of this story myself. Now, that's not to say that we're all doomed for a life of self-induced loneliness or that we are all the imperfect image of what's described in this story. But, the sad truth is that we we are indeed a generation subconsciously guilty of what is described in this story...the generation that doesn’t want relationships. It’s a concept I’ve been intrigued by for quite some time. Why would we actively seek, but then sabotage the thing we said we wanted? Is it because we’re set in our ways? Because we have a false idea of what relationships are supposed to be? Because we are terrified of getting hurt? Because we are afraid of being vulnerable with others (which, in turn, means being vulnerable with ourselves)? Is it because we believe we are fundamentally flawed and undeserving of potential happiness?
Yes, I've witnessed this scene play out in real life. While I try to avoid being cynical - after all, your perception creates your reality - it’s been hard not to get jaded by the proliferation of the “don’t want a relationship” types described in Wilkinson’s manifesto. What's even more difficult is really stopping to consider why we've seemingly embraced the trend of seeking instant gratification versus long-term connection. How and why did we condition ourselves to behave in this way? Is it really that we don't want a relationship, or that we're afraid of the type of work we need to do to get there?
Whatever the reason for this generational trend, the words from Wilkinson’s original article provide a lot to think about. How can we begin to heal ourselves so that we are ready to fearlessly move beyond this stereotype and engage in meaningful relationships? So that we are able to more fully trust others with our hearts to the extent that we don’t have to hold them at arm’s length? So that we are fostering relationships based on balance and not on keeping score? So that we are developing long-term partnerships rather that short-lived encounters?
I certainly don’t know the answer to all of these questions, but I’m curious (and crazy) enough to try and find out - even if it means doing a lot of crappy and difficult work to get there. And, I intend to hold a ton of space for others who want to find a better way too. I have too much faith in our own resilience to heal and truly believe that we are all capable and deserving of love, harmony, and happiness - so long as we are willing to put in the work.