Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Changing Nature of Romantic Relationships

Over the past few weeks, I have been able to count - at least - 4 people who went from being in a romantic relationship to single. One of these individuals had even, up to fairly recently, been planning to get married! All these break-ups made me wonder whether many people are finding it increasingly hard to work through certain problems in a relationship and to simply move on in search of something better. Could it also be that more and more people are less willing to commit themselves to long relationships in order to enjoy a higher degree of personal freedom?

In the absence of any scientific studies close at hand, it is hard to come up with any statistics about this issue. Rather than focusing on how prevalent such trends are, I would prefer to analyse the reasons underlying the aforementioned phenomena.

As more importance is given to the individual in the Western world, it could seem only natural for many people to dedicate more time and energy to themselves rather than to caring about others. Consequently, if a partner develops an addiction to something which is harming the relationship, it might seem better for certain individuals to just dump the partner instead of trying to help out in various ways.

The use and development of communications technology and the introduction of countless social networking sites appears to have fuelled the belief that a better partner could just be a mouse-click or an email away. Given the temptation and the ease to look for an "easier" relationship, many people are probably finding it less difficult to ditch a partner when confronted with certain problems.

The Internet has also made it considerably easier for thousands of human beings to obtain sexual pleasure without going through the process of getting involved in a lengthy romantic relationship. Such sites also allow people to go in search of those specific things which really turn them on. A Glamour article (December, 2009) that analysed the issue of women who have sex with people they meet via the Internet mentioned a website whereby "users select what they're into: one-on-one sex, discreet relationship, erotic chat/email/phone fantasies or group sex. Forget waiting until the third date; forget dating altogether. Most users on these sites just want sex, and they're fuelling a booming trend" (p. 162).

At this stage, what could be said about the future? Will there be more people who prefer to just hop from one fling or short-term relationship to another without even bothering about the type of commitment that is associated with marriage? Will there be a huge increase in the number of individuals who are over 35 and single? Will there be more loneliness as a result of a growing tendency to just be with someone for a brief spell of flirting and sexual activity? One final question: assuming that a person has only had casual sexual and short-term relationships over the course of his/her lifetime, how many of those individuals would come to visit that person when he/she is fairly old and perhaps dying from an incurable illness?