How to Have a Successful Long-Term Relationship Is the Most Pressing Issue of Our Time, Part 1

The following post is the first of a series of posts on modern American dating and young people’s inability to form lasting attachments that potentially lead to marriage.

Remember when dating was fun and relatively easy to do? Remember when it was viewed as a step toward a committed relationship or even marriage?

Tell that to anyone under 40, and they’ll look at you like you have three heads.

Over the past week there have been numerous articles—here and here and here, for instance—outlining the problems of modern dating.

According to the one in the Wall Street Journal, Generation Z, most of whom are currently college-age, is “uniquely bad at dating.” The men and women of this generation are less independent, less resilient and more sheltered than previous generations, it says—and these factors make this generation “romantically challenged.”

That may very well be true, but it’s hardly the end of the conversation.

There are numerous factors at play that explain why men and women under 40 can’t sustain love, or why they can’t manage to get married and build a life together. In my next few posts, I will outline those reasons and offer solutions for how parents and educators can help young people correct what I personally consider to be the most pressing issue of our time.

The first and most obvious is that Generation Z, as well as the Millennials who preceded them, have been given zero guidance and encouragement when it comes to building a relationship with the opposite sex. Women in particular have been explicitly and repeatedly told to do just the opposite: postpone marriage as long as possible, while enjoying the supposed benefits of commitment-free sex, and make a career the center of their lives.

Given this cultural script, why wouldn’t we expect dating to die and relationships to fail? We specifically moved women away from this goal. It’s not their fault—it’s the fault of the adults who failed them.

If a woman’s professional life is considered the #1 most important thing, there’s no reason to date in the traditional sense of the word. The purpose of dating is to determine whether or not the other person is a match, potentially for life. Why go through all the rigamarole if marriage isn’t on your radar? Might as well hookup until you’re ready to settle down.

That’s the dumbest plan I’ve ever heard. The perils of casual sex are manifold, as I’ve written about over and over and over and over again.

One comment from that same Wall Street Journal article by a 50-something woman named Marie perfectly sums up what’s happened with sex and relationships over the past half-century:

“My parents’ generation: dating, marriage, sex.

My generation: dating, sex, marriage.

Now: sex, dating, marriage (maybe).”

She’s right: that’s exactly where we are. In the December 2018 cover story for The Atlantic, author Kate Julian wrote a lengthy essay on the trend of young people putting relationships on the back burner.

That may sound like a problem for the modern generation to worry about, but in fact it’s a problem we should all worry about. Almost all of America’s social ills and public policy stem from the health and well-being of relationship and family formation. When that breaks down, everything else does, too. Ergo, the root of America’s gravest social problems is marriage and family breakdown.

And where did that breakdown begin? Fifty years ago, with feminism.

It was this generation of Baby Boomer women that failed at love. It was this generation that taught their daughters to be resentful of men and marriage. It was this generation that told young women sex was no big thing. It was this generation of women who told their daughters and their students to suppress their desire for marriage and to instead focus on getting degree upon degree and make work the center of their lives.

Not only does this message go completely counter to women’s natural instincts, it destroys any possibility of relationship formation. Indeed, nothing good has come from this plan—not for children or for families, not even for women themselves. The research has been done: Modern women are far less happy than their mothers and grandmothers were.

No social ill we address in this country matters until we address the complete destruction of marriage and family formation. A woman named Christina asked the perfect question on my Facebook page:

“Feminism has ruined women. The question is: Are things too far gone to be fixed?”

I say no. What say you?

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne is an author, a coach, and a podcast host committed to helping women let go of cultural beliefs that undermine their happiness in life and in love.