I Do? Apparently Not For Many Young Women

I wonder if it’s possible to plan out how, when, and where you will meet up with your soulmate, assuming that there is at least one person out there with whom you are destined to have a long-term relationship. I hope it’s true, because that is how many 20-something year old women are playing out their lives in this day and age.

Many young women, especially those who go to college, see their 20’s as a period for striving to get to the top of their field, and they don’t want to be held back by a guy. Surveys reveal that most of these women don’t plan on tying the knot until their late 20’s or early 30’s, or maybe never. They want to focus their time and energies on academic and career goals, and not be distracted by what they perceive as the burdens and obligations of a relationship.

This line of thinking makes sense to me after watching them grow up in a highly pressurized culture. Girls learn right from the start that the standard is to be perfect: in academics, sports, activities, college resumes, social standing, and looks. The expectation to be perfect pushes them to become highly competitive, aggressive, ambitious, and focused, and it also results in a ton of angst, stress, and feelings of being out of balance. It’s just never enough.

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College logically then becomes another leg of the race, this time to gather top grades, credentials, and the perfect internship to ensure them acquiring a top level job upon graduation. So women continue to put their nose to the grindstone, eschewing relationships for the quicker and less tedious hookups that provide low investment and low risk. Even this pattern has begun in childhood, with so much time spent with electronic connection in lieu of real, face-to-face communications. You can maintain constant connection, but you often miss out on closer relationships and intimacy.

My generation has a piss-poor track record when it comes to lasting marriages, so maybe this new pattern will in the long run result in healthier marriages. But here’s my worry for young women: I don’t believe you can plan love like you can a career. And if your nose is constantly to the grindstone, there’s a good chance you may miss out on connecting with “the one” because of being so hyper-focused on other things. Girls have been conditioned through online social networking sites and texting to always be seeking something better and more interesting and exciting. They are accustomed to switching people off and moving onto the next connection, looking for the next thrill. I wonder if this pattern results in them believing that even with romantic relationships, it’s okay to casually move on because certainly someone better will come along. But are they missing out on the reality that relationships build, and go through ups and downs, and that these times bring the richness and intimacy so many young women seem to lack today. Hookups are such a dismal concession to real love.

I don’t have the definitive answer to this phenomenon, but it’s worth questioning what’s occurring in a conscious way vs. just going along with the culture and what you’ve been conditioned to think. And it will take some time off the treadmill of relentless striving to have some quiet time for reflection and soul searching. I hope young women give themselves the gift of that kind of solitude to figure out what’s right for them.


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