Millennials, Love, and Unhealthy Relationships
by Geo Sique
The change in relationship culture is clear: millennials are known for living life by their own rules, and they have clearly taken the dating world and made it their own. Characterized by fear of commitment, focus on individual goals, and questioning or even denying the concept of marriage, this age of dating generates fascination from the modern world, and while the trends themselves are interesting, looking at the potential consequences is equally, if not more important.
Yes, I am a millennial. Yes, I hate dating. I can admit that some new dating rituals suck, and others are great. I am all for questioning past traditions, especially when it means less pressure to have your life together before you turn 25, and less pressure to engage or stay in an unhappy marriage. However, I could live without the commitment phobia.
I don’t pretend that this millennial dating culture makes sense, though I feel in some ways that I am a stereotypical millennial. I firmly believe in living life your own way, and I am happy to see my peers fully embracing life in a way that makes sense to them. However, I am also painfully aware that certain aspects of modern dating culture can set the foundation for unstable and unhealthy relationships.
An important element of millennial dating is keeping all things casual. On its own, this can offer many benefits for individuals, including learning to manifest self-happiness, not depending on someone else to feel accomplished in your life, and figuring out what you want out of life without relying on others. Millennials are prioritizing their education and careers over getting married and starting a family.
That on its own is no bad thing, but avoiding serious relationships or treating a serious relationship like a casual one can lead to detrimental habits. Coupled with bad habits, like masking jealousy as affection, not being honest with your partner, having a vengeful mindset, and encouraging unfaithfulness, it makes for an undesirable dating experience.
Like I said, I am all for people living their lives to make them happy, but beyond encouraging this poisonous mindset lies the real problem with millennial dating culture: harboring love when there is no commitment. In the midst of all the casual dating, strong bonds inevitably bloom sometimes, but serious feelings don’t fit in the small box of casual relationships.
These behaviors can result in psychological turmoil. Of course, unstable relationships have always existed, and even before the millennial generation was born, unhealthy relationships have resulted in addictive behaviors. Traditionally, this results from one or more parties acting controlling, isolating their partners, and completely depending on them. Though the growing trend in independence actively works to combat these negative behaviors, being too independent can result in addictive relationships in other ways.
When fear of commitment leads to containing a strong connection in a casual environment, it results in an awkward balancing game: start a casual relationship, develop strong feelings, and when it gets overwhelming, pull back before it gets too serious — until you start missing each other. Then go back to fostering a strong connection, until it gets too strong … Over and over again.
These unhealthy patterns develop and can continue for months, even years. Fueled by the addiction to be with that person, it leads to denial that anything is wrong. This leaves no room for either member of the couple to be happy and can lead to anxiety and insecurity. In extreme cases, unhealthy patterns in relationships can stimulate depression in one or both parties.
Though the rules for relationships are ever changing, recognizing unhealthy relationships is always important. Millennials may not be wrong to prioritize their individual happiness over engaging in a relationship. They say you can’t truly love someone else until you learn to love yourself, after all — but perhaps it’s necessary to balance that with letting yourself be open to commitment if you find yourself in a place that merits it.