Shame and Indifference in the Hookup Era

Sunday’s New York Times ran an interesting article about the end of traditional dating in the so-called millennial generation. It confirmed what I’ve been hearing from my younger clients for some time now — that men and women in their early twenties tend to socialize in groups and engage in a lot of casual sex. In my youth, we used to talk about the “three-date rule”: to wait before having sex in a budding relationship promotes respect and raises the odds that it will lead to something long-term. In the current generation, according to this article, dating itself has become obsolete.

The authors offer several explanations. Primary blame goes to the “hookup culture,” where spontaneous, commitment-free sex is common. Many millennials have never been on a real date and have little idea how traditional courtship works. Another obstacle is the financial commitment involved in dinner-and-a-movie: during an economic downturn when good jobs are scarce, young men don’t want to invest limited funds on someone they don’t know. The article goes on to discuss the emotional risks involved:

“Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of ‘asynchronous communication,’ as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.”

In other words, the current hookup culture and socializing in groups allows young people, especially men, to avoid the experience of rejection. They rarely express authentic interest or desire. Rather than a direct invitation, these young men will text or send a Twitter message such as “Is anything fun going on tonight?” Even less expressive are the terse, last-minute messages “Hey” or “‘Sup?” When I recall the agony of asking girls out on dates — shaky voice as I practiced my invitation, sweaty palm on the telephone while I mustered the courage — I can certainly understand why young men would prefer expressions of casual indifference to putting their ego on the line. The prospect of rejection threatens to arouse shame and a sense of unworthiness.

In recent months as I’ve refined my thoughts about shame for my next book, I’ve come to believe that the experience of “unrequited love” lies at the heart of it. What I refer to as basic or core shame takes root in the early mother-infant relationship. We come into this world pre-wired for relationships: through complex vocal and facial interactions, babies seek to engage their mothers, to elicit their interest and affection, ultimately to love them and feel loved in return. In my view, expressions of love and interest that meet with indifference produce feelings of shame. Here’s the quote from Anna Karenina that finally crystallized it for me: “Kitty looked into his face, which was so close to her own, and long afterwards — for several years after — that look, full of love, to which he made no response, cut her to the heart with an agony of shame.”

By socializing in groups and rarely expressing direct, unequivocal interest, young men can avoid the experience of shame. By defusing desire within a group context, lack of response from one particular person matters little. If having sex tends to be a spontaneous event, you invest little of yourself in longing for it, run no risk of disappointment. The young man from this NYT story who casually texted a girl each Thursday night — “hey babe, what are you up to this weekend?” — made sure he never felt the shame of desire-meets-indifference.

These days, so much of our behavior strikes me as “shame management.” My young male clients often appear indifferent, or possibly supercilious, when beneath the surface, they’re guarding themselves against the possibility of shame. It extends beyond dating to the realm of friendship: if not reciprocated, an expression of interest or desire for contact might also lead to shame. It’s not just the men, either. My young female clients also long for “affiliation,” feel shame when the group messaging before a social event leaves them out, or respond with (defensive) rage if they feel rejected. Maybe it’s because I’m looking for it, but shame seems to be everywhere.

So I read this article and see a generation that makes defensive use of modern technology to avoid shame experiences, with the result that emotional contact of any depth is increasingly rare. We all long for connection: our genetic inheritance primes us for relationships where we can know and be known, love and be loved. Engaging in those relationships involves risk; it means opening ourselves to the possibility of unrequited love and the prospect of shame. But If our social life is geered toward shame-avoidance, if we play it safe and take refuge in casual sex or indifference, how will we ever develop emotional relationships of any depth or meaning? For all the humor in this article, the social life it portrays feels very lonely to me.

Joe is the author and the owner of AfterPsychotherapy.com, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.

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69 Responses to Shame and Indifference in the Hookup Era

  1. Outsider says:

    I’m reading this post while I’m listening to an NPR story about 20-somethings who are termed “nones.” They are not affiliated to any particular religion or to any political party. They seem to eschew connection to most things. I’m not sure what that means, but it seems that it extends well beyond issues of shame.

    • Warren says:

      Exactly so. These social relations are generically termed post modern sensibilities. Populists champion their freedom, but truly, what freedom do they bring. What it does do, is set the individual as a blank canvas. This is useful for two reasons. When people do not identify in cultural groupings i.e. politics et al, there is little organised resistance to political events. But mostly, the lack of identification leaves each human subject open to co-modification in every aspect of their lives. If a person is unattached to any societal identification, then we can be sold products and ideologies about who we are as an individual, and buy commodities and ideologies to articulate that identity. But, they don’t want us to hold fast to any authentic identity, because they want to usher in a new craze so that we can associate ourselves with it, and buy into another round or commodities and ideologies to articulate that association. Rousseau saw this happening around the time of the industrial revolution, the intensification of capitalism since then has also intensified the saturation of the human subject and their subjectivities as a commodity.

  2. YOHAMI says:

    It also offers plausible deniability. And basically, men are doing this now because it suits women better.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Please say more. I’m not sure what you mean.

      • YOHAMI says:

        If you send vague texts, you not only avoid rejection, but also avoid putting the girl on the spot.

        For many reasons, girls like to avoid any responsibility and accountability when it comes to hooking up and courtship. Girls also prefer indirect or contextualized communication, or, “hints” instead of direct overt communication. Plus girls prefer when the magic “just happens” (which usually means someone else is doing the work to make them happen, but that’s a different subject). And girls want to be swept out of their feet. And most want dominant men and dont want to be asked for approval or instructions. But whatever the case, they dont want to be put on the spot. Whatever happens, they dont want to be held responsible.

        So if you call her and say “hey I met you last night I like you let’s go on a date” she has to respond yes or no immediately. She’s put on the spot.

        If you text with imprecise invitations “sup” “hey Im gonna watch a movie wanna come?” there’s no spot, she has no accountability.

        If you invite her to “hang around” which at the end of the night involves some drinks, dance, and sex, for she this stuff just happened in the spark of the moment. She didnt need to think of it, she could have just changed her mind in the middle of it, there’s an ample ground for improvisation and being in the moment, because the situation is open ended.

        If you tell her “hey I like you let’s go on a date, grab a few drinks and then go back to your place and have sex”, she’s probably going to say no.

        Covert, vague courtship works better than direct overt courtship.

        Usually women excel and covert vague communication while men suck at it.

        If men are switching to vagueness and covert is because it favors their chances with women. This is not a men’s based issue. Most of us would prefer to just state, “hey you, sex/love, now”, and be done.

        While girls thrive in the emotional uncertainty, as long as things just happen and they dont have to make hard choices.

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          This is so interesting. It makes me feel like an old man, completely out of touch with youth. You sound like you know what you’re talking about.

        • F.A. says:

          I think there’s some truth to this guy’s statements, but the interpretation of women’s behaviour is off. I actually don’t know what is meant by “avoiding responsibility and accountability.” It seems an awfully negative way of characterizing a person’s very natural desire to have some choices about what she does in an evening and not to make big commitments to someone she doesn’t know.

          Frankly if an attractive guy I had not had sex with and did not know well texted me to say “let’s go out and have a few drinks and then have sex”, I would be scared to say yes — because I’m afraid of an ugly scene, or worse, if I back out of the sex. Rape is a real fear for women. I’ve had enough men hassle me at bars when I didn’t promise them anything (or let them buy me anything that might create a “debt”); I shudder to think what they would have done if I had.

          All this PUA stuff seems like a very complicated way to deal with simple information: most women don’t need men for money any more, so we choose sexual partners we find sexually attractive; we want to share decision-making; we don’t want to be assaulted.

          Oh, and like men, some of us are bad people and most of us do inconsiderate things from time to time. This PUA stuff strikes me as an attempt to avoid the helpless feeling of rejection through (illusory) control, cracking the Grand Unified Code of Women, but there is no such code.

          • YOHAMI says:

            “very natural desire to have some choices about what she does in an evening and not to make big commitments to someone she doesn’t know.”

            Yup. At the same time, SOMEONE has to set the direction while you keep your choices open, and someone has to make commitments while you remain uncommited.

            So if the guy frees you from making hard choices and taking commitments on little information… while he makes such choices and etc with the same little information… are you following?

            He needs to lead, and you´ll follow, as long as it suits you and it feels good. But he’s taking the decisions and creating the setup, building the wave, so to speak. He’s doing the work. That’s why he can send vague text. You dont need to know the whole plan: you´d prefer not to have to decide or compromise just yet. But he’ll do it.

            • F.A. says:

              “Yup. At the same time, SOMEONE has to set the direction while you keep your choices open, and someone has to make commitments while you remain uncommited.”

              I disagree. If I agree to meet him at such-and-such a time and place then we can each leave it open where we will go and what we will do next. There is no need for him to plan or commit to a specific itinerary. I have had plenty of outings with family, friends, dates, where we simply hung out and did what seemed like a good idea at the time. I don’t accept that all those people were secretly pulling strings while I basked in my indecision.

              And what “hard choices” are you talking about? It’s a few hours in the company of a person you like. If the choices involved in such a simple outing are hard for you, perhaps you are dating the wrong people.

              • Dolma Beck says:

                Hey you, sex/ love now..
                Grand Unified Code of Women. Great stuff. Coming across old posts, 5am Australian est.. And walked into this one..male/ female. The eternal mystery. Or I hope it still has some mystery.

        • Jacqui says:

          You sound like you’re subtly putting all the blame on women. Many women don’t like it when they turn a man down and he responds negatively and makes them feel they have done something wrong. You need to look at both sides before assigning blame.

      • Nice to see Yohami here. Hey man, your blog rules!

        I’m an NLP trainer. I’ve studied extensively the subject of toxic shame as exposed by Ricky Raw at The Rawness, where I first heard of it, John Bradshaw, Shari Schreiber and well, now this great Joseph Burgo guy too. I run a 2-day workshop on developing an inconditional love for your own identity.

        Also I’m a pick-up artist. I was a member of the original ASF forum, since 2004, way even before Neil Strauss and Mystery released their materials. I’ve taught seduction workshops in Spain to a moderate success.

        And yes, I have lived with toxic shame for the majority of my life until I could identify it and reverse it with NLP.

        I agree with Yohami in the fact that this is what modern women expect. The role of the provider is gone, you are not going to convince a girl by investing in her, your best bet is to arouse her by acting with confidence and aloofness, a series of masculine traits often lumped together by the generic label of “alpha”.

        Investing in a girl is counterproductive. Even if you would gladly face rejection (noob PUAs are repeatedly told that it’s a number game and that you should develop a thick skin for rejection), the truth is that over-investing in a girl actually *minimizes* your chances of getting intimacy with her.

        As Roosh Vorek bluntly points out, it’s way way easier to see a girl again if you bang her the first night than if you take her digits to call her during the week. The second procedure almost guarantees a flake.

        This is reality. It’s harsh and politically incorrect, but the western world works this way. Just ask any guy used to go out and meet girls and they will confirm. Rejecting reality usually ends up in disappointment.

        However, as I’ve been studying toxic shame and helping people using NLP and Ericksonian Hypnosis, I’ve identified a pattern of many pick-up-artists and PUA wanabees burdened by shame.

        Why is this? Because they don’t think they can be attractive by who they ARE (identity level), so they think they can be attractive by DOING (behavior level). Typical mindset of a shame-based person.

        Thus, they resort to all series of tactics and hacks to DO what they think will be attractive to girsl. And as such, most PUAs should consider changing at the identity level and stop using “sarging” as a pacifier. It can become an addiction to feed shame-based narcissism as well (I’ve been down that dirty road too).

        However, the behaviors themselves, such tactics and hacks, are typically modelled after natural seducers’ behaviors. People who are naturally attractive and behave in a proper way that is naturally attractive to girls.

        And they do those things because they work. And they work because it’s what girls respond to. And nowaday they respond only to sexual arousal because in the modern world the provider role does not offer anything to women that they can’t get by themselves. Investing in a girl yields no interest.

        Absolutely recommended: “Relational Equity” by Rollo Tomassi: http://rationalmale.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/relational-equity/

        By the way, please don’t read this as a criticism of women. I like women. I love women. I enjoy and revel in the company of women, but I love them by their true nature, not by what society tells them how they should be. Thus, I offer them what they really want, they respond accordingly and are happier by such interchange. The world is how it is, you can choose righteousness or success, but not both.

      • Timothy says:

        I’m not sure what the author of the comment meant by plausible deniability suits women better, although I’ve found plausible deniability helps men push the boundaries of friendship while retaining an alibi.

        For instance, when the guy asks the girl in the NY Times on a date on Friday night then texts her that night with, “Hey, I’m at Pub & Kitchen, want to meet up for a drink or whatever?” he has nothing to lose. When it comes to online dating, this has it’s advantages. You’re meeting in public and surrounded by friends. You are more likely to be yourself and not auditioning for your date. The other advantage is you’re already with your friends. The burden of missing out is on the girl, not the guy.

        I believe this shift has a lot more to do with mobile phones than a shift in actual human behavior. Before mobile phones, you would be a fool to propose last minute plans. However with mobile phones, last minute plans become a casual, less pressure invitation to meet up.

        A lot of this mentality is familiar to everything I read within the seduction community five years ago. If a man wants to bed a woman, he doesn’t have to buy her a drink. In fact buying her a drink will make her more suspicious that he wants her to reciprocate.

        • catlady says:

          I was going to comment on this interesting post, but after reading this thread I realized I was coming from completely the wrong angle, one involving the assumption that women are people. So sorry, so female, so old. Carry on.

          • F.A. says:

            Amen, Catlady. It bothers me that Dr. Burgo doesn’t appear to see how dehumanizing these guys’ comments are.

            • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

              I do find them dehumanizing but I was curious to see how people would respond to them.

              • Dolma Beck says:

                Men.. Surely, bravado in the face of what the f… Am I supposed to be, now?
                “Men no longer need to be providers”. I assume, no longer protectors , too?
                Doesn’t matter how far women move, away from needing men to provide (really not wanting them to dominate), That role for men, surely is needed- once a woman becomes pregnant. Breast feeds, stays with her young.. No wonder, so many parents go into panic, once this situation occurs.
                Of course, the culture rips us away from these, gentle , soft times.. Where the organic could come into play. Where the man, stands strong and clear, protecting and providing for his woman, for his child.
                As I have gotten into my sixties, looking back on my youth in the 70s. All that explosive female energy. Rightly, throwing off a lot of bullshit that had evolved in western culture..
                Some of it though, not that well thought thru.. No difference between the sexes/ blah blah blah..
                Capitalism, as it does,
                Using clear human movement- and turning it to sludge.. Now, we have a situation, where women can’t choose( easily), to be with their young.. Of course, now- the men help. And many of them , do a great job..
                I’ve given birth to six children. And for those first few yrs after birth/ to have a man there, that saw his role, as provider and protector-
                Yeah well. A man was there.. But I was trying to run from the work too.. Because to rear a child, esp for those first few yrs. as other parents know- is very very intense work..
                And it can come, as a big shock- because, culturally we have gone so far away from looking after that most important area of our humanity. Our time, with our small children..
                So all this bravado these guys are expressing- confusion- and I for one, am
                Sorry I didn’t understand,
                In my feminist mind- that there are differences, that men and women, need to acknowledge that difference.. So that time- rearing of our young, Is done with great care. Of course, having six children- a tad extreme. Grant you that. And more than two people are needed, to rear our young.
                Rather than look to each other/ find blame/ fault.. Understand how culture moves us away from the organic truths- and pull back, what is useful and needed.

  3. Amanda says:

    ” For all the humor in this article, the social life it portrays feels very lonely to me. ”

    It does to me, too, Joe. “Girls,” is the perfect example of how some parts of our youth culture have changed. When I watch “Girls,” –which just won a Golden Globe for Best Television Series, Comedy or Musical– I think how un-funny it is, how lonely the characters seem and how disconnected they are.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      “Girls” has been on my radar for a while but I haven’t yet seen it. I’m even more curious about it now.

      • Chris Plumb says:

        Being and educator, I can say that parts of show “Girls” are spot on, and other aspects seem more NY-centric. The basic sadness (and talking openly about suicide when things don’t work out) is what I find the most alarming.

        Nice to see a medical professional seconding what I have long been suspecting. Good article.

  4. Calli says:

    I’m in my early 20′s and I’m a bit confused about the whole dating thing myself. I’ve only been on one date in my life. In my parents day it was acceptable to date multiple people at once; there wasn’t a stigma attached. Today. I would feel weird dating multiple guys at the same time. It would give me a reputation as being ‘loose’. In high school, a girl and guy would get to know one another as friends, start dating and automatically be girlfriend and boyfriend. With everything moving at such a fast pace nowadays, people staying in college longer for higher degrees and starting families later in life, the ‘rules’ and how to setup boundaries in a relationship are complicated and sort of touch and go. Not a lot of my peers seem to date with marriage in mind. It’s more of ‘I have needs. They need to be met. You are just a object for fulfillment until I plan to settle down much later in life’.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      That seems like an acceptable arrangement if everybody is operating on the same assumption. I wonder, though, if it ever feels lonely, to be an “object of fulfillment.”

    • margarets says:

      Dating multiple people did not mean sleeping with multiple people. That’s why it was more acceptable. It was assumed that you would wait to have sex at least until you were certain the relationship was leading to marriage.

  5. adrian.d says:

    There is a lot more in this article than just technology and avoidance of shame: economics, girls that are “hard to read”, knowing “how to get out of hookup culture”, and ambivalence and uncertainty in general. Also check out the comments, at least the NYT picks. Quotes:
    “Good riddance to the old dating culture. How many healthy, long-term, and happy relationships have resulted from it?”
    “Dating is an American obsession.”
    “I’m not sure, here, why traditional American dating is held up on a pedestal — its possible loss lamented. Nor why the phone call is (…).”

    I would say that it’s not so much the current ways of meeting people and hinting at interest that are defensive than the old-school American-style dating process of the 20th century that was offensive (and glorified unhealthy narcissism). The current ways are much more progressive and natural. Unrequited love, spotted early with less investment, stings less, and what’s wrong with that?

    The problem is not a “defensive use of modern technologies”, the problem is how to be open to meaningful, deep relationships in the first place. In my opinion it goes way beyond shame and reaches the spheres of “culture” and “priorities in life”.

    • Jul says:

      I agree with Adrian here that not all is bad about the end of traditional dating. I grew up and still live in Germany, and have always perceived “traditional dating” as an American obsession. So many rules to observe…. I had some long-term relationships and am happily married now, all without ever having to ask myself the question “Is this a date?”. Hanging out in groups can be useful, because it provides an opportunity to check out a potential love interest`s behaviour towards others. What I find unacceptable in the current culture is the last-minute planning, sloppy messaging, casual sex and the general lack of respect for each other. One of the best sources of information on hookup-culture and how to deal with it if one is looking for a serious relationship is http://www.hookingupsmart.com, by the way. They also analyse episodes of “Girls” every once in a while.

  6. Evan says:

    Hi Joseph, I’m from Australia where American dating hasn’t existed (I’m glad to say).

    I’m wondering if hookup culture functions as a preliminary to courtship.

    When sexual mores were stricter people could get married while knowing little about each other. This put a lot of emphasis on being in love and also on building a relationship after the ceremony. These two things could be in tension.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Hi Evan, I wonder the same thing. Young people do continue to get married, after all. I’m too old to know how it actually works, how the hookup evolves toward marriage. Maybe a younger reader might explain it.

  7. Gordon says:

    We stay in touch but stay out of reach.

  8. Graceful Swallow says:

    The article also mentions that economic circumstances have now changed such that most women in big cities in their 20s and 30s out earn their male peers. It goes on to state, “income inequality, or superiority, for women muddles the old, male dominated dating structure. . . it’s hard to read a woman exactly these days . . . [young men] are worried that they might offend women by dating the old fashioned way.” The conclusion that women are in a “superior” position because of their higher incomes seems to create a one up one down dynamic where shame can easily show up. The article infers that women are in the driver’s seat but the unacknowledged piece is that they are also reluctant to take the risks and personal responsibility associated with their new position. Hmmm . . .

    Males have long been socialized to be the “breadwinners” and valued for their financial and professional success and worth. I wonder how this reversal of fortunes may trigger shame for many young men.

    Second, the article offers a subtle tone of contempt for 20th century dating as a “male dominated structure” and lays more of the blame for dating difficulties on young men. What would a “female dominated structure” of courtship look like? From my recent dating experience, our culture and many women still expect men to take the assertive posture despite women’s “demands” for equality in relationships. This means an expectation that the man initiate, plan, and pay for the date and do other “gentlemanly” things like holding doors, buying flowers, letting the woman order first, etc. This seems to be a mixed message. Women desire equal but also preferential treatment. In the end, perhaps young men’s reluctance to engage in traditional courtship is a form of healthy resistance and self-care.

  9. Yes, the three date rule and the anxiety of asking for the first date. When I was rejected it the girls always seemed to be able to do so without making me feel inferior. Maybe these days they’ ve lost the knack of letting down gently. Probably it was worse for those girls who were waiting for me to call. There used to be a two-day custom, so one didn’t seem to eager and to make sure that she remembered who the amusing guy she met at the party was.
    Where would much of Western Art be without the accelerating heart beat, breathlessness, the exquisite pain and the knowledge that you love and are loved in return? Anxiety and stress, certainly. Shame? I never felt any.

  10. Smommy Dearest says:

    Hi Joe,

    My stepson half-jokingly chose to call me ‘Smother,’ in response to his dad’s insistence that Miss Cindy wasn’t appropriate after we married. Six years later I’m still Smom to a now 18 year old sson, two sdaughters, ages 16 and 13 and my own 14 year old daughter. All the kids live with us full time, 3 are in High School and 1 in Middle School.

    Keeping up-to-date with the kids technological environment has been difficult enough. My daughter insists my new phone is wasted on me and she’s right. I don’t text much–just call, check email and consult the packed family calendar I usually forget to sync. We’ve not provided cell phones for any of the kids, instead waiting until they could pay for their own. No computers in bedrooms either; we have two in public/family rooms and one roaming laptop. But iPods and playstations and DSs provide the kids with internet access to skype or social websites, mooting the need for a phone. A loss of electronic devices or privileges simply motivates the kids to go to the library and use computers there to message their friends.

    A friend told me her toddler talks to and touches the television expecting it to interact with her, getting angry when the t.v. doesn’t respond like an iPhone. Brave new world? How strange it seems to me!

    I’m only 46 and it amazes me how foreign the teenage landscape is. It saddens me that hook-up culture is the social millieu our son and daughters will have to navigate. We’ve recently watched Pretty in Pink with our girls, who found in farcical. Easy A was a good movie that gave us plenty to talk about. The NY Times article refers to young adults without acknowledging that minors are living in that same social universe where casual sex, ennui and indifference are too often the norm. Having a High School Sweetheart would be dangerously counter-culture for the kids we’re raising and they point to shows like ‘Girls’ to help educate my husband and I in the ways of the modern world. Yikes!

    Thoroughly enjoy your blog Joe; thanks for writing!

  11. Indeed, shame is at the heart of the “hook-up culture”… for women as well as men. These 20-somethings were raised by the last of the Boomers, who rebelled against the trappings of traditional courtship in favor of Free Love. Relationships involve power. Why should women wait for men to ask them out on a date? Does the person who pays for the date have the right to expect “a little something in return”? Who decides how the relationship develops? There are no clear answers to these questions in a non-traditional relationship.

    Does the article say that these young men and women do not develop committed relationships at all, or was it merely focusing on the “non-dating” phenomenon? What do the family dynamics of these young adults look like? Perhaps what they’re avoiding isn’t necessarily shame, but any of a number of painful, difficult situations they observed when they were children. Divorce, absent parents, marital discord, domestic violence… these would certainly influence one’s attitude about romantic relationships. Perhaps 20-somethings are skeptical about love.

    Thank you for your insightful examination of this subject. It certainly reminds me of my own experiences of romantic relationships when I was a 20-something, as well as what I observe in my own children’s relationships with romantic partners.

    • dd says:

      Good afternoon, i feel sorry for all these young generations who seems to hide their desire to love and be loved behind a fear of really connecting with others. This “hook up” new way of doing dating, because it comes down to dating anyway. Spending time with someone you wish to know is “dating”. Seems to be just a disguise for a; i want a date with you but will pretend i don’t just in case…becoming a mature person involve taking risk. In our day life we go trough not being liked or understood or rejected by someone to different degrees and reasons. That is not something new, it happened when we were growing up, in the family, at school and on the work field.

      So what people may called “hook up” or “free love” is nothing to me then “fast food love” that gives a person a fix, but does not feed the heart and soul. Also i can understand that most young people these days have growned in a one child family or one child and one parent family at some point. So i believe that for instance being underexposed to normal sibling conflict, fighting for your place and attention, learning to grow self confidence and eventually stand up for yourself, makes such a person more vulnerable to rejection…shame and using sides ways to obtain some affection and sex gratification without intimacy and any further development. Really instead of felling protected by doing so, does’t it feels like being worthless. Wanting to pursue a love relationship means taking risks going out there and show up for what you stand. Not easy for everybody. But how rewarding.

      I believe we all have the same needs, security, love…being older or younger does not make a difference. Hiding behind a smart phone or computer or indifference does not seems like it is going to get no one no were. It seems like it is very stressful and deceitful.

      I may be old fashion, but god i love real love.
      (But i have been told by men that women don’t give a dam anymore, I think it is getting no one no were.)

  12. Sandy Mitchell says:

    Hi Joseph,
    A friend and I discovered your blog a while back and we both find it very resonant with our lives and ideas re: therapy, etc. We’re both older adults who have recognized how much shame has impacted our growth and personal development, and we’ve both observed that for the most part the psychologies and therapies we consulted in the past were woefully under-informed about the ubiquity of shame dynamics in human relations generally, and in the therapeutic setting specifically!
    I need to ponder what you’ve said in this specific post re: dating, but for now I’ll just say that what you’ve written feels correct to me. Perhaps I’ll have more to say about that later…

    My introduction to the idea that shame might be the central problematic issue in my life began with me finding an article titled “Shame and Social Control” in the ITAA Journal back in 1975. While the article immediately riveted my attention, when I attempted to share it with my (very first) therapist, she brushed it aside as nothing new. She couldn’t have been more wrong, as it turned out that she knew almost nothing about shame and refused to explore it with me. I couldn’t find anything more about shame, and gradually it receded into the background…

    Until, in 1985, I discovered Gershen Kaufman’s seminal book, “Shame: The Power of Caring.” That book started me on a journey of trying to understand shame dynamics that continues to this day. Lo these many years later it still seems to be mostly not very well understood within the world of therapy and certainly not in the larger social discourse. So when I find someone like you writing about it so eloquently, I sit up and take notice.

    I’ve just printed off several of posts re: shame (and the comments too, I love seeing what other people think about these issues) to read and ponder, and will comment further later. You might be interested in checking out the Affect Psychology Facebook page that is hosted by my friend Dr. Brian Lynch, as shame is frequently discussed there.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I’m immersing myself in affect theory right now, going to the primary source (Tomkins) as well as his followers (Nathanson). It surprises me, too, how few professionals seem to understand the importance of shame.

  13. jonathan reddish says:

    i sense the apathy in the youth comes from the pathetic society in which we live.. a stew of depression and narcissism makes a pessimistic child. no wonder they are un affiliated, i doubt they want any of this world as their own.

  14. Jah Nonymous says:

    To me, this discussion is much ado about nothing. The straw man is the concept of “traditional dating.” Was there ever a time when the only way young people got together was through traditional dating? I doubt it.

    Traditional dating is the realm of grown-ups and their more isolated lives — for example, the match.com scene. There aren’t many high-schoolers and college students on those websites because — thanks largely to the logistics of academic environments — the average younger single person perpetually is surrounded by dozens more potential partners than the average adult single… so there is less of a need for a younger person to take social risk early in a relationship by asking a virtual stranger on a date.

    Instead, the younger person has the luxury of feeling things out in less formal settings before risking rejection by asking to take the relationship to a more formal level. It’s just that the question is less likely to be “can I take you to dinner and a movie?” because nowadays it’s more common that the two people are well past that get-to-know-you stage. So now the big question is more likely to be something like “so are we boyfriend and girlfriend?” or even “I love you… do you love me?”

  15. David says:

    Do you think that my generation (the 20 somethings) feels shame more intensely than past generations, or are we simply masking our shame with technological tools that weren’t available to our parents and grandparents?

  16. F.A. says:

    The economic explanation strikes me as a red herring; dinner and a movie may be expensive, but it costs less than $10 to treat someone to coffee, less than $20 to buy a round of drinks, and every town has cheap entertainment of some kind.

    It has been my observation, as one of the older “millennials” (early 30s now), that a lot of people in my generation, with my socioeconomic background (professional middle class), fear strong emotions and strong attachments. To be openly passionate about anything or anyone is seen as a loss of face. I suspect, as you do, that it’s connected with a fear of vulnerability, of opening oneself up to public failure and pain.

    That said, I’m reluctant to believe that there has been that rapid a change; certainly if you watch movies from 20 years ago you see lots of depictions of young people just “hanging out” and hooking up, and my experience also suggests that the number of people fully participating in “hookup culture” (having lots of short-term, no-status sexual relationships) is fairly small. I do wonder if, just as each generation thinks it’s the first one to discover sex, each generation thinks it was the last one to love.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Interesting. Because I live in a college town, with friends who teach at the local universities, I hear a lot about the hookup culture and perhaps I’ve over-generalized. On the other hand, I also hear it from my sons (18 and 21). Seems pretty common to me but maybe I’m wrong.

      • F.A. says:

        I do think it’s an overgeneralization. I certainly have met most of the men I’ve dated seriously through friendships, group dates, rather than a more formal process (though that’s changing some as I get older). That part is true. I guess what I’d question more is the level of promiscuity assumed. My experience is that these “hangouts” rarely lead to sex, a couple will circle around each other chatting and flirting for a long time, and when they do hook up it tends to spark a relationship that lasts a while. I certainly always knew people who were cycling through partners much faster than that, but I wouldn’t say it was the majority.

  17. RC says:

    Great article. I work at a college and so see this culture A LOT. Shame feels intolerable, especially if you don’t have a lot of self confidence and/or self esteem, and a lot of these kids don’t. I too remember ther terror of asking girls out. It was awful. And getting rejected or dumped is very, very difficult, especially when you have no one to talk to about it.

    I personally also experienced difficulty is opening myself to real commitment, which not only generates shame, but also a lot of guilt…guilt for not seeming to be able to do what at least a part of me would like to be able to do: have a real intimate relationship.

    In talking to my colleagues who counsel out students, a lot of kids are experiencing the same thing in the current generation.

  18. margarets says:

    One theory is that the new non-dating reality is linked to late-stage capitalism.

    Capitalism is all about short-term mutually exploitative relationships, i.e. what can you do for me today? Contrast that with the previous feudal system, where each person had a definite, lifelong role in their community. Marriage and family life were the last holdovers of the feudal era, and because capitalists needed more workers and consumers to get born and raised to keep the system going, the institution of marriage was supported and maintained. You can look to pop culture for all the propaganda about the superiority of that way of life. E.g. Leave it to Beaver.

    Now, with global markets and technology etc, capitalism doesn’t really need marriage any more, so it is no longer supporting it. E.g. how many men make an income sufficient to raise a family anymore? It takes TWO incomes in most cases, and good luck finding adequate childcare. It doesn’t have to be like this, but the people who have the power to change it have other priorities.

    And what has the pop culture (propaganda) been telling us for years now? That being single and having a family of friends, rather than actual relatives, is normal and preferable and a lot less hassle than actually figuring out relationships. Friends, Sex in the City – these are just the biggies. You can find a kajillion other examples just by paying closer attention. Dear god, what does the popularity of Two and Half Men say about where we’re at?

    Like I said, it’s a theory. No doubt many will disagree. But it’s worth thinking over.

    Personally, I find that people do have a short-term what’s-in-it-for-me attitude to socializing in general. Forget just hanging out and talking – you better be offering them a good time. Or, they see the occasion as an opportunity to get free therapy, and ALL they do is talk – about themselves. Few really know how to have a conversation any more.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I certainly agree with your final points about the end of conversation. And I know that you’ll get a lot of support from reader Warren, who takes the same view as you about capitalism.

    • Dolma Beck says:

      Yes. Margaret. Have always felt capitalism just appropriated feminist positions, ie: ” we’d like the opportunity to get out to work too, guys. Need some help to have that happen. If we choose to.. ”
      Well, now, 40 odd yrs later.. As you said, one wage can no longer support a family. Or buy a house.
      Same with closing down of ” mental” hospitals. Came from an explosion of much new and different thinking about mental illness. Not all of much use, in retrospect. But deep questioning of the causes of mental illness. Social structures creating mad minds etc..
      Evolved into closing down these awlful places, but what is the situation all these yrs later? Therapy is no longer bothered with as the main form of healing,
      Just drugs. And many people deeply isolated in the community. And all that valuable land those hospitals sat on, sold at a nice profit.
      Capitalism , follows the money.

  19. J says:

    What I find to be unfair about this conversation is that if you ask girls why they don’t ask men out, despite all the advances towards gender equality on our society, they will tell you that they are terrified of the rejection. In deciding whether to invest in an entrepreneur, we often look at whether they sold anything as a kid, because the experience of selling hardens people to rejection, and anyone with a new idea will face rejection over and over again, potentially for years, until the idea sticks. The people who can brush off this kind of serial rejection without losing sight of their goal are almost inevitably men. Indeed I never cease to be surprised when women ask guys, how can you deal with the fear of rejection when you ask someone out? (Answer: it’s just how life is when you’re a guy).

    Society has always been wired to avoid shame. The era of “picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date” lasted approximately 60 years, from the post-WWII rise in affluence of the US to the mid-2000s pervasiveness of mobile phones. There is nothing traditional – or universal – about it. In other countries where household phones never became a universal technology, text messages have been the primary medium of courtship for years. Arranged marriages, discreetly negotiated behind the scenes to avoid anyone finding out about a rejected proposal, were far more effective at minimizing shame than text messages or group dates.

    The more things change …

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Excellent points about how society has always been wired to avoid shame, and that there’s nothing necessarily “traditional” about the last 60 years. Thanks.

  20. Deborah says:

    Don’t know if anyone noticed the NYT piece on arranged marriages, chiefly among first-generation immigrants from Asia/Southeast Asia (Korea, India …). The article implied that such marriages enjoy the same chance of success as the 20th century American “love” marriage, and suggested interesting reasons for this.

    I’ve lived for more than 30 years in an “in-between” (viz. between East and West) European country where arranged/ semi-arranged marriages continue to be practiced, though now it’s done very discreetly by the parents (or other relations or close friends who know the young people well) to avoid the “matchmaker” stigma.

    The 23-year-old has just moved to start a job in a large East Coast city with a sizable community from the country where she was born and raised. Somehow, I find the prospect of colleagues from this community making the effort to help her meet boys with whom she shares cultural and ethical values (and language) a comforting thought in these exceedingly unanchored times.

  21. Lydia Tucker says:

    As a young 20-something in college, I have found myself disgusted with the hook-up culture I’ve both witnessed and been victim of. I have never been in a serious relationship but have had many initiations of interest from guys who have made it clear that they want un-boundaried, non-committed sexual experiences. And yes, it is often started by “hey, what’s up” and I’ve had to actually make a serious effort to show them what I require as a young woman-which often times shocks me because it seems like so little to want a date, or even something as simple as a coffee date so I can at least know a little something about him before jumping into bed. I wonder too if this trend is contributory to the growing statistics that show a delay in average age of marriage, let alone those who refer to themselves as single. I wish for the sake of future generations that we could reclaim the experiences of falling in love, and old-fashioned courtship which in some cases for our parents and grandparents led to lasting, happy relationships.

    • catlady says:

      You know, I don’t think that this kind of behavior is limited to college or to “20-somethings” any more. I’m in my mid, er, late 30′s and I spent some time online dating a few years ago, and it was fairly depressing to get this kind of stuff from guys my age and older. Both the “hey what’s up” stuff you describe here, and the kind of tactics in the article (“oh hey, we’ve never met, but I’m hanging out in a bar with all my friends if you wanna come?” Like, seriously?) Shame avoidance: not limited to the younger generation!

    • alina says:

      ” wish for the sake of future generations that we could reclaim the experiences of falling in love, and old-fashioned courtship which in some cases for our parents and grandparents led to lasting, happy relationships.”

      You mean our parents who have a 50% divorce rate? :D No one is stopping you from falling in love – do you think that modern people aren’t in relationships or something? I’m a college student and lots of people I know are in relationships, including myself.

      • Lydia Tucker says:

        First, thanks for pointing out I can hope to fall in love someday instead of being treated like a sex object. And I never implied that there is a lack of relationships among our generation. I would dare to say that some are in relationships they shouldn’t be in because maybe they aren’t based on love at the core. But you know what? Maybe I have too high of standards. Maybe I’m a little more mature for my age than what I can see around me. Maybe I haven’t had enough healthy examples to discourage my pessimistic view. And regarding our parents’ generation’s divorce rate, you’re right. I’ll even say that my parents have a relationship that exemplifies the sad state of those statistics. But I would dare to say they had a better chance of making it 30+ years than many do today. It will be an interesting social experiment to observe over our lifetimes.

  22. Natalie says:

    As a high school teacher I have ample opportunity to see the lack of education and modeling in our society regarding healthy relationships as well as the consequences of the dissolution of so many marriages on today’s adolescents.

    I think that as people are much more able to live single lives, many simply choose to avoid the stress of pursuing long term relationships. And I think this is in part due to the fact that they lack the knowledge and skills to create healthy relationships.

    I agree with previous comments regarding the tendency towards mutually exploitative relationships in our society. People seem to have lost many basic common courtesies, including treating people with respect and consideration as well as the ability to collaborate and cooperate with others. Yes, the issues of shame, vulnerability and fear of rejection are pertinent, but they seem to have become more important than the concept of pursuing the emotional support and intimacy offered by committed long term relationships. Perhaps the fact that relationships are challenging and require one to face their own weaknesses and personal development is simply this generation’s excuse?

    I also think that people neglect to consider the purpose of their relationships. As our society has changed and women entered the work force, the age of marriage was delayed. So the question becomes, what type of relationship is reasonable to pursue when/if you are not looking for a life long commitment? What is the level of intimacy, physically and emotionally? What is the level of commitment? What is the purpose of the relationship?
    How open are the people in the relationship about these issues?

    I tell my students that ideally both partners should have clear intentions about what they think makes a successful relationship and agree to pursue those intentions together. That way they stand a much better chance of having a relationship that is mutually rewarding than they do by simply “hooking up.”

  23. alina says:

    One big thing no one seems to have mentioned so far is religion. Young Americans are a lot less religious than our older counterparts, and a lot of taboos about sex come from religion. My grandmother and mother are devout Catholics and waited until marriage to have sex. My sisters and I are not religious at all and so we did not have this issue. I think the modern way of dating is far more natural and less formalized. It is closer to what our ancestors actually practiced before religion took over our lives. People can simply hang out and enjoy each others company without following a set of rules.

  24. Ethan says:

    Fantastic topic.

    I will apologize in advance for the long post :) I caught the tail end of this discussion.

    I am the hookup culture. I most definitely live it. I support it.

    After reading all of this–much of which I found amusingly inaccurate (or just amusing! :)), I’ve noticed a number of trends.

    First, is how negatively viewed the ‘hookup’ culture is, as though we are suffering from some interpersonal plight.

    Second, is how disconnected people are.

    Third, is the lack of perspective. What I see, an older generation that doesn’t understand the younger generation, and are rebounding at what exists–not considering WHY the hookup culture exists, what additional challenges we have, and what needs are being met that create a pervasive culture like this? Opinions of the ‘hookup’ culture, are almost universally negative.

    Fourth: I’ll invent a word: Generationalcentricity. Where there is a skewed perspective that ones own history is superior to the history of others, with which we simply don’t understand. I don’t think this response is a rational one: I think what I see is that those who feel their own identity in terms of what a relationship is (or should be), is being threatened, and without understanding the current ‘culture’, a conclusion is made that best suits what feels like an unsettling evolution of interpersonal relationships.

    Really, is it worse?
    I would like to note, for all of those considering themselves NOT in the hookup-culture: do you really think the “traditional” notions of quality and meaningful relationships is accurate? Because, I think it’s a little self-delusional to believe that conventional relationship paradigms are anything but successful.

    Look at divorce rates: In the 60’s divorce rates leaped upwards, and continued upwards until the mid 2000’s–where the divorce rate began to go DOWN. How is it, with the notion of quality relationships going “downhill”–couples are staying together, longer.

    I think it’s exceptionally obvious to the current culture–that the conventional relationship paradigms as defined by the parental generation, isn’t very effective. 55% of conventional marriages fail. Most relationships fail. The traditional relationship model, in my opinion, is as much a failure as it is a success. And yet, the hookup culture, is perceived to be a de-evolution of quality, meaninful relationships?

    And so what might contribute to the ‘hookup-culture’? How about considering that we’re a culture that is growing up seeing conventional relationships fail, constantly. Is the hookup culture really just a product of technology and convenience? I don’t think so at all–the hookup culture, like anything else that exists–is here because it meets the needs of people involved. The younger generation doesn’t want to get married and have committed relationships as much? Well, maybe it’s because we’ve all seen what a sham it is. We’re the products of broken families, a generation of diagnosed children. The current status is a natural product of influences–the disregard for conventional relationships is the result of the people who are in them who made them so unappealing.

    Responding to some quotes:

    Dr. Burgo,

    On conventional relationships:
    “3 date rule….promotes respect and raises the odds that it will lead to something long-term”

    And while I think it’s a nice notion (idealized), I don’t think human nature has changed at all in any recent history. This approach is an idealized veneer that sort of patronizes human nature. The hookup culture doesn’t want anything differently than the non hookup culture–it’s just that their methodologies have changed. The goals always remains the same.

    “economic downturn”
    It’s humorous to me that this is even believed to be a possibility by that article.

    The truth–is that what is currently happening is a natural evolution trending from the expression of human nature. The collective ego of another generation is trying to externalize something that is not egoically acceptable to them, and so rather than entertaining the reality of what is (or even taking responsibility for it)–the blame is directed towards external influences.

    I think this is a good example of collective denial of human nature. It’s human nature that is driving this–there is a clear liberal trend that continues since ALL of us were children. A trend that rejects, little by little, idealized relationships. Think of the strong archetypes that existed only 50 years ago in terms of gender roles. The rigid classification of what the role for men and women was, and how they ‘should’, behave, has been consistently eroding–to the point where gay marriage is permissible. Imagine the outrage if two black men wanted to get married in 1950’s, or heck, the 1980’s..wait, even today!–the erosion of values and meaningful relationships is often attributed to its existence–our shameful moral elasticity is to blame!

    “In other words, the current hookup culture and socializing in groups allows young people, especially men, to avoid the experience of rejection.”

    Is it really that it is avoided? Or just pushed into another arena? Is it possible that this generation faces an entirely new set of shame inducing experiences that you didn’t have?

    I can absolutely assure you–that, there are some new challenges. For one–everything is public. There is no ‘private dating’–your friends know, your teachers know, your family knows. Whatever you do, WILL be on facebook. I have 700 ‘friends’ eyeballing my every move. If a girl I’m with posts ‘At the movies with Ethan’–guess what? I just closed the door on 10 other options. My entire life is a public forum. If X girl posts that on facebook–the messages roll in “dude, what are you doing with her?!” another “I thought you were going to see that movie with me!”–then another is a passive aggressive quote referring to you indirectly as a status update. And when I talk about facebook, I might as well say ‘the internet’, because for lots of people–the internet, IS facebook.

    I could certainly go on.

    Warren,

    Identity formation is unavoidable. There is no lack of affiliation; all humans seek purpose to their existence and meaning for their lives-and as such, because there is a lack of conventional identification with what would be historically popular identity forming entities, it doesn’t mean they’re ‘blank slates’ or ‘open to co-modification’. Their identities exist, they just identify elsewhere. And when any given person feels that their identification is meaningful, or sufficient (unconsciously), they stop looking. What has happened is an identity shift, not an identity white-wash. The contemporary world offers countless NEW avenues for expression of interest, and identity formation–(even this web site)–and as a result, it may look like there is a collective disinterest in conventional in-groupings, but its not. For example, if you had 10 people who were given the choices of ice cream, vanilla and chocolate–you’d have a 50/50 split, and could presume there will be a stronger identification with each. Now take the same 10 people, and give them 500 choices. The result will be the appearance of no collective identity, yet all of the same identification still remains, only distributed.

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘authentic identity’.

    Yohami,

    I think you’re addressing the proverbial psychological-tip of the iceburg. I began writing a bit of a book about this, including the role the unconscious plays in it. Women need to have the PERCEPTION of the authenticity of an organic experience. That being said, it’s easy to generate a perception.

    “Covert, vague courtship works better than direct overt courtship.”.
    Amen. The courtship process must not be conscious. Conscious acknowledgement would force the female to accept her own undesirable behavior; much easier to project and deny.

    I could go on and on :) But I should stop. In summary: I’m surprised how off the mark much of the commentary is, and how biased the opinions are. The presumption is right/wrong is exceptionally rigid in terms of relationships and as such, the premises (such as economic factors) really miss the mark.

    Great discussion though!! :)

  25. Maria says:

    Interesting that Ethan only addresses points made by male contributors on this thread…as if female contributors are hardly worth any attention..

    Addressing other points on this thread: first, economic equality is a myth, all who buy into in please check out statistics, women still earn less, even in Western countries.
    Second is it possible that pornography may have influence on male attitudes to women? I agree there is a considerable lack of education about relationships for young people. Instead, porn is there for everyone to watch, the average age of boys coming across porn online for the first time is 11 or is it 9 now? Porn has never been so easily accessible as it is now. Also pornography becomes more and more about degrading women. And we wonder where these dehumanising attitudes and objectification come from? Plus we are constantly surrounded by images objectifying women, placing value on their beauty only, as if they are some pretty toys to play with and discard when bored. This is where teenagers learn from.

    I was a teenager in a post communist country. This was early 90s, no mobiles phones yet, not even internet. Not everyone had landline phones. Yet there was so much cynicism in the way teenage boys and young men were treating girls, lots of sexual violence and generally just treating girls as sexual objects. Around the same time, the country was flooded with video tapes with pornography. There was no controls to prevent teenagers and even kids from easily accessing it. I don’t think this change in attitudes is just a coincidence!

    Addressing another point., why do women not ask guys out? Because it does not bloody work! Men are still very threatened by women taking active approach. It seems that men only feel in control when they are the pursuer. i don’t ask men out not because I am afraid of rejection but because I never saw it work and lead to any long term relationships. What I find extremely annoying is that men moan about always having to be the ones to ask on a date and be faced with rejection, as if women have a choice. When women try and ask men out it leads to nothing and men just get scared. Dear men, either learn to appreciate a woman taking control or shut up about it already!

  26. Martyn says:

    Interesting development: there’s now an app for that:

    http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671768/bang-with-friends-the-beginning-of-a-sexual-revolution-on-facebook

    No need to ever feel directly rejected. Yay. Hmm.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Martyn, thanks for that link. To everyone else — check out the app. As Martyn said, no need to ever feel directly rejected. Although I suppose if nobody ever bangs you back so you connect, that could feel like some serious rejection.

  27. Louise says:

    I am in my mid 20′s and these are my interpretations on the current “dating scene”:
    1.The cultural climate has given young men easy access to casual sex with multiple partners. Technology may not have improved the quality of relationships, but it has given people a whole lot more exposure to the population. Therefore there’s less motivation to make it work with any one person as there’s a bazillion potential back up plans. I genuinely believe men act aloof because they are more indifferent (to an extent). The same applies to women, however generally young women prefer a different currency, which is the “attention” or admiration of men. It’s not as physical as pure sex, but is still very far off from geniune love. Ultimately people are being treated and treating others like groupies and fan boys. It’s the celebrity culture that has injected itself, creating microcosms of itself. Is anyone surprised considering we’re the first generation to have been so heavily baby sat by the idiot box?
    2. Push comes to shove. Humans need humanity and the superficial games become exhausting. A lot of more vulnerable girls and boys, who invested a lot of themselves in this process, get eaten up alive. They walk away believing they’re not good enough, having no sense of self and an underdeveloped value system. They dont know who they are, what they want or how to pick it out in others. They keep wasting time on alpha (same applies for both genders), trying to prove something to the world, instead of insightly and intelligently picking a lifelong partner.

    Relationships begin nowadays with 1.hooking up. Most of the time it doesn’t go anywhere because by chance you’ll most probably end up with someone who is emotionally unavailable. After months, even years of hooking up and showing up to events together, a codependant attachment can form. So romantic! This system allows for exploitation by some, but mostly the avoidance of rejection and break offs. I have not found these relationships to fare any better as they are usually based on physicality and can have power inequality from the emotional limitations that were earlier imposed by the dominant (more indifferent) partner. Mind you I have never started a relationship that way.

    So is it all doom? No way! I reckon turn off facebook, stop being your own paparazzi, and never ever settle for anything less then a genuine and open connection with someone (if you know how).

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You should write an article expressing this point of view. You sound observant, experienced and articulate.

  28. Hermes says:

    Er, not everything happens only in the U.S.A. (lol)
    Nothing wrong IMO with traditional dating. My parents did it, and they were married for close on 45 years (only marriage for them both). Same could be said for their friends. Mind you, I am betting that even back then a lot more went on during their dating than they might have revealed!
    Human nature has always been much the same.

    Fast forward to my generation. Certainly I recall traditional dating when at college. Courageous and self-confident men (half-kidding!) lifted the phone and asked you out, or approached you. This very moment I am just remembering one guy who asked his friend to approach me on his behalf, to which I smartly riposted that the guy would have to do his own asking….
    Fast forward a bit: I was introduced to my husband by a friend. How traditional is that lol! And no, it wasn’t centuries ago….

    I agree a lot with Nathalie’s post:
    “I think that as people are much more able to live single lives, many simply choose to avoid the stress of pursuing long term relationships. And I think this is in part due to the fact that they lack the knowledge and skills to create healthy relationships.”
    Agree to with what dd says:

    “Hiding behind a smart phone or computer or indifference does not seems like it is going to get no one no were. It seems like it is very stressful and deceitful. ”

    All of that being said I am amazed at how highly success and lucrative the wedding business is.
    Certainly over here people are marrying a bit later than our parents would have done (though I have to say my mother married at 34, Dad was 39), mainly because of years spent at college, then getting a foothold in the chosen profession, specialisation and so on, by which time the to-be-marrieds are 30 or 32 even.

    Finally just to add that not all conventional relationships/marriages are a “sham”. Such a remark does great disservice to the many people who are in honest, sincere and happily working relationships.

    Hermes

  29. Hermes says:

    WEll said, Louise:

    “So is it all doom? No way! I reckon turn off facebook, stop being your own paparazzi, and never ever settle for anything less then a genuine and open connection with someone (if you know how).”

    Particularly the “turn off facebook”.

  30. Linda says:

    Well, I thought your original topic was shame. I got bored of reading all the replies. My bad. Anyway, I like the idea of “shame management”. But it seems to be more about having sex. Is that all there is to life? I feel shame when I think of all the casual sex I had before I married my husband of 33 years. I thought all that casual sex was because I was sexually abused as a child. Is it different now? What changed? I have been studying pastoral counselling for several years part-time now. Are we all out of date?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I certainly feel out of date. I’m not sure what changed. I link it to the steady erosion of privacy and the pervasive sexual imagery in our culture. If you look at the cultural messaging, it does seem as if it’s all “about having sex.”

  31. Lynn says:

    There’s a long, detailed article at the NY Times that helps shed some light on the subject of women’s desire, arousal, and the role of narcissism. It’s quite enlightening given the male/female dynamic of some of the comments here. A warning, there’s some graphic scientific discussion of sexuality in case anyone’s squeamish.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/magazine/25desire-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

  32. 27yearoldvirgin says:

    All you have to do is try. I never has sex and have been asked by several 5+ women for relationships, Even went on dates with them for few weeks, I am a man and never once put out. They got bored and some threatened to date other men because waited to long to nail them.

    Still a virgin because I chose to be a virgin. :)

    I’m not lowering my standards anytime soon either, ya hear that women? hehe GL your going to need it! JK lol

    Now when women ask me I just tell them I’m gay its just easier lol. I want sex someday but I doubt I will ever meet relationship standards. I don’t want put the effort in so why should women?

    I wonder how many male bums get asked out just for being outside and outgoing lol.

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