As a seasoned licensed therapist, I can tell you that relationships change over time and with society. For millennials it means wanting a Facebook relationship status that everyone will recognize, like, and comment on. They want couple photos on Instagram, along with both people looking happy and “in-vogue.” They want someone to come home to and who is there for them, but they don’t necessarily understand the work behind creating a relationship. This is a generation that grew up with Snapchat and sexting, and texting is the preferred communication style. It’s no surprise that the number one problem they have in relationship counseling is communication. They exhaust their fingers with texting, but find it difficult to express feelings one-on-one.
You may have a millennial friend or a child who talks about their dating world. Terms such as “bread crumbing” (stringing someone along until something better comes around) or “ghosting,” (coming on strong when you first meet someone and then disappearing after they become interested). There’s also “haunting” (watching and liking your ex’s posts but never commenting). As summer reunions approach, you may hear about “cuffing,” (finding a suitable person to take home to appease family). Another one, called “cushioning” (flirting online when they get bored or dissatisfied with their current partner), isn’t really new to this generation although millennials can do it on social media.
Social media has had an incredible influence on the millennials and their relationships. However, millennial parents have also contributed to the difficulty their children face in establishing and maintaining a real relationship. Well-meaning parents may have tried to protect their children by never arguing in front of them or allowing them to see the sacrifices and compromises they made for their spouse and family. They raised their children to be happy instead of focusing on the importance of being resilient and accountable. Relationships require commitment and sacrifice without recognition or awards.
Millennials may be failing at relationships, but they also have incredible creativity. They’re innovative and empathetic, and they are more motivated to work towards a cause than a paycheck. I have high hopes for them in relationships, but they will have to re-prioritize where they invest their time and attention. Here are a few suggestions that can help them.
They need to move on from thinking they can order a soul mate from a dating app.
They need to invest as much time in face-to-face conversation as they do writing and rewriting their social media profiles.
They need to stop texting and start talking…with eye contact.
They need to plan and execute a real date instead of a Netflix hang out.
They need to understand that deep intimate connections are not made in Facebook posts or shared anywhere. They’re between two people and that’s what makes a relationship sacred and trusted.
Technology with social media helps us communicate more effectively and with more diversity. However, with that privilege comes a responsibility to set boundaries for yourself, your priorities, and your relationships. Relationships need a media break; couples need to touch, talk, and listen. Take time for the people you love. You can’t post or “like” genuine human interaction; it is verbal and non-verbal. Being present is the most important quality for keeping a relationship alive.