Despite my generally independent nature, I've been in "serious relationships" for much of my young adulthood. Once I turned 25, however, something changed. I know that's still young, but it was the first time I had really felt like an adult, and it felt....fabulous. Things started coming together in my life, I was no longer so lost as to what the (short term) future might hold, and a career I really loved and could imagine lasting longterm began to materialize. I was climbing Maslow's heirarchy of needs toward self-actualization. Now, I'm 26 and have spent almost 8 months as a single person and an adult. I've learned more about people and relationships than I would have thought possible in such a relatively short amount of time.
Over the past 8 months, I've been astonished to discover how immature a vast number of people are when it comes to relationships. I'm talking ADULTS - people at least ten years older than me. They're just as confused and insecure as many of my peers! My peers are busy worrying about what they'll do with their lives or if they'll meet "the one," while the next generation and beyond is busy worrying about their unreasonable ex wives and whether their kids will ever be happy/get into the right schools/stay out of trouble. It's been quite fascinating to study the human animal.
The primary thing I've discovered, about both 20 somethings and 30 somethings, and 40 somethings, and even 50 somethings, is that they're totally off-base with what I believe a "relationship" is. To illustrate my point, I'll share three recent conversations that totally astonished me:
1 - A 21 year old female:
Her: Tom and I broke up.
Me: Oh, I'm so sorry. Good thing it only went on for a couple months!
Her: Actually, I'm really struggling. I'm just so hurt and confused.
Me: Um.....::awkward silence::
Her: Well, at least we never slept together.
Me: I have to go.
THAT WAS NOT A RELATIONSHIP. THREE MONTHS, NO SEX? That was hanging out, getting to know each other, enjoying each others company. Why would you ever call yourself "boyfriend and girlfriend" when you could just have fun and not be so worried about labels?
2 - A 43 year old male:
Him: My ex girlfriend is at the other end of the bar. It's awkward; she's still really upset.
Me: Oh, wow, that's hard! How long did you date?
Him: Ehh, about three months.
Me: Um...::awkward silence::
THAT WAS NOT A RELATIONSHIP. She could not POSSIBLY have gotten to know him so well that she was EVER in love with him, let alone STILL in love with him. These people are too old to be so shallow.
3 - A 50 year old male:
Him: (about a mutual acquaintance I had mentioned) Oh, yeah, I actually dated her for a while!
Me: (teasingly) Oh, she's hot! Bet she looks great naked....
Him: I actually never saw her naked.
Me: Um....::awkward silence::
THAT WAS NOT A RELATIONSHIP. Why would you say you dated? You just went out a few times, and that was that. It's not even worth mentioning. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with hanging out for three months and not having sex, if anything I'm pretty conservative about that, but don't label it as anything. It's way too casual for that.
My conclusion? It's time to stop labeling things. Just go out, get some drinks, laugh, and stop worrying about labels and attachments. If something serious is meant to happen, it will.
On the flip side, it seems like marriage is NOT taken seriously enough. Casual dating shouldn't be so serious, but if you decide to marry, it's time to be committed. To illustrate the lack of commitment I've observed, I have another couple conversations to share:
1 - A 39 year old MARRIED male:
Him: When I sleep with women, especially young ones, they immediately get attached.
2 - A 38 year old single male:
Him: Most of the women I meet are either crazy or married. But they all tell me their husband doesn't care what they do.
My conclusion? Relationships are confusing, and hard, and people get married when they shouldn't. Can't we all have a little more fun dating and not take ourselves so seriously?