Heartbreak. It ain’t what it used to be. Seems like a weird thing to say, but you can call me convinced after reading this recent article from Time. Here are five parts of modern life that affect the dynamics of heartbreak:
People are getting married later
According to the statistics, over 50% of Americans aged 25-34 have never been married, but the majority hope to wed one day. This suggests that many of the people in this age group are still working towards that goal of love – as opposed to my parents’ generation, where the norm was to marry in one’s early twenties.
There are a few ways that this affects heartbreak. For one, there is not as much support for a working young professional as there would be for someone still living at home, where others are around to show them a bit of love. As well, heartbreak later in life is likely to bring on the fear that you’ll never find the right person, or perhaps a bitterness that leads to giving up – rather than the optimism of starting again.
More relationships and partners
Another point of difference to modern heartbreak is that there’s more of it. Think about it – people are getting married later, meaning that naturally there’s more time to have and end multiple relationships. It also means that not everyone expects long-term commitment in their partners as they might not be looking for “the one” just yet.
Things were simpler in the generations past. My parents have never experienced heartbreak, having had no long-term relationships before each other. And yet looking at my married and single friends – most of them have at least one awful breakup to their names. Is this a good or bad thing? I certainly appreciate never having had my heart broken, and feel very lucky in that way. I like that I’m not bringing that kind of baggage into my current relationship, and it would be ideal for your spouse not to have that either. But the fact is that life isn’t perfect, and heartbreak certainly does teach valuable lessons should you decide to take them.
The pressures of professional life
Being aged 25-34 and dealing with heartbreak means that you have to take professional life into account. The first big change between our generation and generations past? It’d have to be that that nowadays, women are working and are highly career-oriented, not just waiting to settle down – and therefore not as open to a relationship.
For some, professional life could be a deterrent for getting into a relationship in the first place, because life is busy and there doesn’t seem to be space to fit in another person (plus casual relationships are now common and unfortunately, accepted). And it could also bring about the end of a relationship, if one person puts their career above everything else.
Sex and cohabitation
Here’s something that’s changed everything: sex before marriage as an accepted thing. This has altered the dynamic of heartbreak on a physical level (the act releases bonding hormones, which connects you more deeply to the other person) and on an emotional level (because of the level of intimacy shared) – meaning a higher level of attachment, and so an even more difficult breakup. People may claim that they can sleep around without getting feelings involved, but that’s just not how it works.
Another point on this has to do with unmarried couples moving in together. This living arrangement comes with more expectation of commitment and a life together, and if the relationship ends, it’s likely that the pain would be more. The same can be said of long, drawn-out relationships that span over years and then come to an end.
It’s harder to meet and stick with the right person
This is one point that my mother and I often discussed when I was single. Mum thinks I’m picky, but I genuinely think it’s harder to find a good man these days – meaning you might have to “kiss a few frogs” and endure a few heartaches before finding the right person. Though to be fair, a longer wait is definitely worth it for the right person.
In the past, it was enough to find a good guy from a good family, who had the same values, who you enjoyed being with. These days, there are so many relationship-harming influences to be aware of – pornography, unhealthy messages in the media and cultural mentalities, not to mention social media and dating apps which give you too many options as well as more opportunities to be unfaithful.
As for sticking to the right person once they’ve been found, our culture doesn’t make this easy. For one, we live in a time that values feelings above all else, telling us that without ever-present passionate emotions there is no love (wrong – choosing to love, rather than just feeling it, is when real, sacrificing love starts). We’re also taught to be selfish and put ourselves first, which is never going to go hand-in-hand with the self-giving that defines love.
What do you think? Are there any other ways that heartbreak is different these days?