Break-up Culture and 21st Century Relationships

“Perfect love means to love the one through whom one became unhappy”

-Søren Kierkegaard

I‘ve never written about relationships on my blog before.

I’d never consider myself an “expert” or even slightly skilled at the art of maintaining a relationship, nor have I found that many of us are. Therefore, I’ve never ventured into the realm of talking about romance and its dwellings.

However, after almost 10 years in the dating scene, I’m going to take a stab at what I perceive to be one of the most difficult times for romance in our human existence.

It is the era of break-ups and divorce. A time where people “marry for love”, yet more than 50 percent of first marriages end up in divorce, and break-ups happen like cash withdrawals at ATM machines, I still think it is important to value love and relationships.

Fear and Other Drugs

Love can be wonderful and utterly terrifying.

What? You mean I have to put my heart out there for someone and give them the opportunity to potentially ruin me for months? Scar me? Mess me up?….Or who knows….maybe love me?

Yeah….I’ve learned the hard way that you kind of have to. There is a lot of fear associated with love,  especially when it comes to Millennials. The staggering number of break-ups, divorce, and despair that we have experienced growing up has left us a tiny bit terrified of the L word. As a child of divorce and young parenthood, I can attest that when I first started dating–and still to this day–the thought of opening my feelings up to someone was met with trepidation.

The break-up culture of the 21st century is not helping.

When we meet someone for the first time we are seduced by all the wonderful things this person has to bring on to our lives. We are infatuated and addicted to everything  they have to provide. Soon after though, we start discovering their flaws, we fight, and we find that it’s not all “la vie on rose” like Edith Piaf promised.

Love is like a drug. Fear is like a drug too. That’s why break-ups are oftentimes promoted rather than problem-solving; it is severing a wound that can potentially become infected.

Although breaking up and closing a tie with a relationship can sometimes be the best option (if someone is abusing you, leave that relationship and never look back), for the most part, relationship issues can be resolved with proper communication and trust building. This can be daunting, but the only way to truly understand and form lasting relationships in general is to lay it all out on the table (yes, be vulnerable, so scary) and talk about it.

After several years in the dating world, having experiences that range from long-term, short-term, flings, and “it’s complicated,” I can attest to the fear of talking and expressing how I feel. To be honest, until my current relationship, I had no idea how to communicate with my significant other.  I had to put my fear aside and gain courage from vulnerability. It turns out that issues I had blown out of proportion in my head were actually very simple nuances that could’ve been resolved by talking about them earlier. There’s so much time and arguments you can save simply by expressing how you feel. Who wouldda thunk it?

You, Me and We Time

Millennials are the kings and queens of individuality.

We strive for a more unified world, but we have been coined as “selfish” because we tend to put our interests first. This can be a blessing or a wrench in our relationships, since we tend to have some issues in balancing out the differences between “you, me, and we” time.

  • You Time*
    • My boyfriend and I often argue about “neediness” when it comes to his personal time. It is a very common struggle between women and men, as one partner seeks space and the other seeks attention.
      As John Gray explains in his famous book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, men require “cave time” in order to recharge their batteries and be their full selves. In Venus-land, women require attention and affirmations to feel complete. This is a very common struggle for couples if they don’t recognize the importance of “you” time. Although I love spending time with my significant other and sometimes want to just snuggle with him, I recognize that “you” time eventually correlates to “we” time, since creating space for our individuality later creates space for our relationship. As individuals, we require space to nurture and thrive in our ways, making ourselves happy on our own to be able to then make our partners happy. Respect your partner’s time and need for space and better rapport is sure to rise.
  • Me Time
    • The most important person in your life is *drum roll, please*–YOURSELF! The love that we feel or create for ourselves is unique and can only be expressed on our own. If we don’t make time to do the things which make us happy, how can we expect someone to come and do it for us? It’s absurd. This doesn’t mean that you can’t love your partner. It just means do not depend on them for your happiness–build your own.
      One of the greatest fears of establishing and nurturing relationships is that of losing ourselves in the process. All of us have had break-ups at one point or another in our lives where we invested way too much of ourselves and ended up MORE hurt than we should have. This tends to happen when we dive head-first into becoming a unit and forget about ourselves. When I first met my sweetheart, both of us talked about the importance of “me” time. I remember we both agreed that in order for our relationship to thrive, we needed to each have our own lives, to then build a life where we could grow together. It is easier said than done,  there is so much temptation to simply gravitate to the feel-good comfort of your relationship, but remember to nurture your own so that you can have some together. Do activities that you love and cultivate your spirit a little bit every day.
  • We Time
    • Finally, we arrive at the unit.  As I explained previously, it is important to cultivate individuality to form a better relationship. “We” time is where a lot of our love and good experiences grow. When both partners bring something to the table to share with each other, the time spent together is priceless. Is it always a field of roses? Probably not. And hey, even roses can give you allergies if you smell them long enough. However,  taking time to spend together in sharing and not depending makes all the difference. If more of our relationships were based on building each other up,  spending time together would be a blissful connection.

Break-Up Culture and The Other Fish in the Sea

I wish advice came with a sensitivity capsule or disclosure “Beware, person is asking with their heart.”

As a person who asks for advice and guidance, I can tell you that sometimes I wish I hadn’t asked for it. Many times, actually. It seems that every time you ask for relationship advice, the most prominent answer is “Break-up and find someone else, girl. It’s not worth it to work on any relationship. “

The worst part is that I actually followed that advice quite a lot. I’ve never regretted my separations, but in some cases, I’ve realized after-the-fact that problem-solving might have been a better first option.

In the case of a relationship where both parties care for each other, telling someone to “dump” their partner and find another, is like telling them that every person in this world has a replacement, and anyone who doesn’t conform to this idea of “my way or the highway” is garbage.

However, as much as people may want to believe that, I’d like to think that we all have our unique set of characteristics and feelings that make us attuned to our partners. Sure, you can find thousands and millions of men and women in the world, but can you make it work out with one? Just one? Can you try? Do you have the guts to take that person for the good AND the bad, not just the parts that are convenient to you?

Whenever I give advice to my friends on their relationship problems, I always try to give them positive advice. I’ve never (no matter how much I disliked the guy or girl) told anyone to break up. Why? I’m going to put it to you this way, which is something I recently realized on a trip to IKEA.

IKEA has a wide selection of cups and mugs. You could spend all day in the damn place if you wanted to, picking and choosing between the different colors, shapes, sizes, you name it. Suddenly, you find one cup you like, one that makes you feel warm, comfy, it feels good in your hands. It’s your cup. It’s your choice. It is the one that you want for YOU. Maybe once you take it home it feels too hot or too cold, but with a mug mitt you can make it work.  Do you throw away every cup that is not heat resistant? Probably not.

In short, relationships are hard. Whoever said that with the right person it’s “easy” is bullshitting you. Whoever said that going around until you find someone is key, is bullshitting you.  If you’re unhappy and are dating an onion instead of a person, then leave. But the truth is, no one is perfect–that includes you. No one is going to meet your needs 100% of the time. You need to put 90% and then let someone give you their best 10%. You need to make yourself happy first, find your value,  then bring someone into your life that will share happiness with you. But for Pete’s sake, before you buy into this culture where break ups and divorces are as common as getting your teeth cleaned, try it out.

*For the purpose of this article, I will refer to “you” as my partner (or yours). 

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