On the train ride back to Seattle, I finished reading a book that I borrowed from my friend Tim, called Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari. I’m a fan of Aziz and shortly before I left Los Angeles, I had a lengthy discussion with Tim about dating in 2018 and how different it is living in the digital age. He let me borrow the book and I had been reading it the last couple of weeks.
Aziz partnered with psychologists, researchers, and conducted many group interviews with people in their 20s and people in their 80s. I laughed out loud on many occasions reading the book and there are several things I found interesting. I highly recommend you read it, but in the meantime, here are some excerpts that I thought I’d share:
- Throughout time, people got married out of necessity; for example, having children available to help on the farm. When Aziz talked with women in their 80s, they said they got married because it was the only way to get out of their parent’s house. It wasn’t acceptable for women to live on their own so at age 18-19 years old, they got married – only to discover that they were now controlled by their husbands. In today’s culture, women can and do live on our own all time. We have jobs and are successful in our own right. We no longer need to get married to move out of the house. I’m happy to be alive in a time when I can live on my own, that’s for sure.
- The options we now have for partners has expanded from people living on our street or small town, to the entire world. This has really given us decision fatigue and too many options in most cases. We’ve gone from “I need to find a partner for necessity” to “I don’t need anyone, but I’d like someone. They should be my “soulmate””. We now look for partners who complete us in everything – which might not actually exist. I think that’s a pretty tall order to live up to.
- The amount of cheating in marriages is astronomically high. Aziz stated that “According to the national representative survey data, in the United States 20 to 40 percent of heterosexual married men and 25 percent of heterosexual married women will have at least one extramarital affair during their lifetime”. It doesn’t make marriage very appealing.
- We have a fear of settling down. Aziz says “When the opportunity to settle down presents itself, the glamour of the single life and all the potential options loom over our heads. The continuing fear many singles expressed in our interviews was that by getting into a serious relationship, they weren’t settling down but settling. In today’s climate many people are plagued by what we will call “the upgrade problem”. Singles constantly wonder whether there is a better match, an upgrade.” He goes on to say it’s even harder in large cities where you can walk around and see beautiful people all around. Or you can see all the beautiful people on Instagram and wonder if they’re a perfect match. He says, “Yes, you have someone great, but are you sure they’re the greatest?” I definitely saw this phenomenon in Los Angeles – I never felt like I was good enough because men are surrounded by beautiful women and I always got the sense they wanted to see what else is out there.
- When people are falling in love, there is a chemical reaction throughout the body. It increases cortisol and dopamine, and you’re basically not thinking straight because it gives you a high similar to that of drugs. But it can only last up to two years – at which point your brain balances itself out so it can resume normal life. The passionate love then turns into companionate love. This is a love similar to what you feel for family members. It’s a sudden and dramatic drop from passionate love to companionate love and when this happens, many people think they must be with the wrong person because the passion fades. But it’s chemistry and it will happen. You can read more about it here.
- In Japan, they have a crisis in which young people are not getting married or having children, and have no interest in having sex. It’s gotten so bad that the government has intervened and spends money hosting events for young people to meet (and hopefully get married and have kids). That just seems crazy to me. But is the rest of the world soon to follow?
- Over a third of marriages are couples who met online. Where once it was seen as a place for the desperate to meet, it’s now very common. It has surpassed people meeting through school or church.
The book was both hilarious and informative. It is hard dating in today’s world. No other time in history have we been afforded so many opportunities and options in life – including in our dating life.
Compared to when I was in my 20s, the dating scene changed dramatically since I re-joined it after my divorce. When I was dating in my early 20s, we didn’t have Facebook, Instagram, or smart phones. In the last year, I’ve discovered the cruelty of online dating. Ghosting (where someone just disappears out of nowhere) is incredibly common. I’ve deactivated accounts I had on OKCupid, and Coffee Meets Bagel a couple of times. But it’s really hard meeting people who are single and interested in dating when you’re in your late 30s. So, I inevitably end up back on the sites.
After reading the book, it helped me to feel like I wasn’t alone. People all over the world are experiencing this shift in dating – the “soulmate search”. It’s not easy but I still have hope that a partner is out there, going through the same headache I’m going through and hoping to meet someone who will get him off of these sites.