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Daily Nation : February 17th 2014
DAILY NATION Monday February 17, 2014 RELATIONSHIPS Teaching Generation Y the basics of a strong relationship BY ANDREW REINER NYT I RECENTLY overheard two students talking in a dining hall at the university where I teach. “Yeah, I might get married, too,” one confided. “But not until I’m at least 30 and have a career.” Then she grinned. “Until then? I’m going to party it up.” This young woman was practi- cally following a script. An increasing number of studies show that many millennials want to marry - someday. Generation Y is postponing mar- riage until, on average, age 29 for men and 27 for women. College-educated millennials in particular view it as a “capstone” to their lives rather than as a “cornerstone,” according to a report whose sponsors include the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. Yet for all of their future designs on marriage, many of them may not get there. Their romance operandi —hooking up and hanging out — flouts the golden rule of what makes marriages and love work: emotional vulnerabilit “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection,” writes Brené Brown, a University of Houston researcher whose work focuses on the need for vulnerability and what happens when we desensitise ourselves to it. Given the way members of Genera tion Y have been conditioned, their seemingly blithe attitude about marriage, perhaps even about love, may become less of a boon and more of a bust. It’s no wonder, really, that many m lennials are in this predicament, often at no fault of their own. Their lifelong associations with love are a familiar soundtrack: Since early childhood the ears have been subjected to thumping messages in the popular culture that sex confers social cachet and, more than anything else, belongs front and centre in their identities. (Helloooo, Sex Week!) Then there’s the familiar lyrics from their parents – rants about why grades, internships and anything else that makes their résumés appear more extraordinary trump romantic relationships. And the constant bass line of social media, which, let’s face it, trivializes the complexity of romantic relationships. (One study out of the University of Missouri found that people in romantic relationships of three years or less who use Facebook more than once an hour are more likely to experience relational corrosion, including infidelity.) But wait a minute. Don’t we natu- rally become more emotionally mature by the time we’re ready to settle down in our 30s? Not as much anymore. Research led by social psychologist Sara H. Konrath at the University of Michigan has shown that college students’ self-described levels of empathy have declined since 1980, especially so in the past 10 years, as quantifiable levels of self-esteem and narcissism for counselling several times and our relationship would improve, only for it to go back to where we started since her heart was elsewhere. Pastor I could not go beyond sex and companionship regarding have skyrocketed. Add to this the hypercompetitive reflex that hooking up triggers (the peer pressure to take part in the hookup culture and then to be first to unhook) and the noncommittal mindset that hanging out breeds. The result is a generation that’s terrified of, and clueless about, the ABCs of romantic intimacy. In The End of Sex: How Hookup Cul- ture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, Donna Freitas chronicles the ways in which this trend is creating the first generation in history that has no idea how to court a potential partner, let alone find the language to do so. If this fear of vulnerability began and ended with mere bumbling attempts at courtship, then all of this might seem harmless, charming even. But so much more is at stake. During class discussions, my students often admit to hoping that relationships will simply unfold through hooking up. “After ings that spring forth from oxytocin. This “love” hormone is released during orgasm, but it also floods the body and brain after hugging or affectionate touching. Yet we deny such molecular reactions at great peril, according to Dr Dean Ornish, founder of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and author of Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy. “I am not aware of any other factor in medicine that has a greater impact on our survival than the healing power of love and intimacy,” Ornish writes. “Not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery.” So, the question that has never needed asking before now looms large: How do we teach a generation how to love? As many of my own students have professed, they aren’t exactly seeing their ideal of love modelled at home or among friends. Some campus counselling centres have picked up his curiosity and frustration, ffering workshops on related opics, such as the one at the University of Kentucky on healthy dating, or at Duke University on “How to Be in Love.” Duke’s original eries featured four sessions, cluding surviving breakups, ognising toxic romance and erning between love and uation. A spinoff seminar will on relationship issues for en of colour. e time has arrived for programmes, says Theresa n, assistant director of the ling centre at the Univerinois, Urbana-Champaign. all,” one student recently said, “nobody wants to have The Talk,” the dreaded confrontation that clarifies romantic hopes and expectations. “You come off as too needy.” This fear sets up the dicey prece- dent Brown warns us about: “Dodging vulnerability cheats us of the chance to not just create intimacy, but also to make relationships work.” Then there’s the emotional fallout of hooking up. This kind of sexual intimacy inevitably leads to becoming “emotionally empty,” Freitas writes. “In gearing themselves up for sex, they must at the same time drain themselves of feeling.” This dynamic is about more than simply quelling nerves with “liquid courage” at college parties or clubs. It’s about swallowing back emotions that are perceived as annoying obstacles. And this can start a dangerous cycle. “We cannot selectively numb emo- tions,” Brown writes. “When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” We further desensitise ourselves to love when we stifle the bonding feel- what I got from the relationship, and I believe the two are mutual. In comparison, I gave her my time, attention, financial support (despite her having a stable, well-paying job) unconditional love, fare to work when she wasn’t ersees a staff of 20 underwho develop and lead the workshops. One, “College Dating: Uncovering the Dating Scene,” helps students learn essentials like how to ask someone out, what to do on a date and the many faces of relationships, including polyamory. When Benson says, “Students may not be learning the interpersonal skills to communicate face to face,” she may be couching this trend a bit too tentatively. That there is even a need for these workshops speaks volumes: The most elemental skills of romantic intimacy are going the way of cursive handwriting. Perhaps this is where college classrooms can step in. For this résumé-driven generation, schools would do well to add a grade-based seminar about love. The course could cross many academic disciplines: the biology of intimacy; the multicultural history of courtship; the psychology and sociology of vulnerability. Such a proposal may sound far- fetched. But this is an opportunity for colleges to walk the talk of their marketing messages, which tout developing not just the minds of students but the whole person. It’s time for students to feel the love. committed to. As a human being, I have my weaknesses but was very accommodative of her. But she never even once accepted any wrongdoing on her part. We were both great in the bed- room. She used to behave like she really loved me but in retrospect, I now realise she was just acting since her heart was with her brother in-law, with whom she started having an affair while living with her sister. This woman would not do any- thing for me. It was as if I didn’t have a woman in my life and was also a single father. I would go to market to buy stuff and give instructions to the house-help (whom she accused me of sleeping with). She didn’t even care about the welfare of my daughter. She would give money to house-helps to run away, and when we didn’t have a house-help, she would do nothing around the house. Imagine me washing my daugh- ter’s clothes as well as the utensils and also cooking, yet I had a woman in my house whom I was planning to marry. I am not saying that those were strictly her duties, but considering the situation, she should have done the lion’s share. The purpose of this letter is to ask you whether I did the right thing by ending the relationship. Two, in my future relation- ships, do I still do everything for my woman the way I did for this woman because I have come to believe I spoil them to the extent that they take advantage of my goodness. Three, this woman has been living with her sister, who didn’t know that she (my ex) was having an affair with her brother-in-law, and that they even had a child. Worse still, the affair started even before they got married because my ex’s daughter is older than her sister’s first born. The truth has now come out in the open. What will the two sisters do? And what about the husband who, in addition to these two, has another wife back in the village and several mistresses all over town. My ex is pushing for the man to marry her but their customs do not allow it. Meanwhile, her brother-in-law is avoiding the issue. From what I hear, the two sisters could easily harm each other fighting over the man. Finally, how much should a man provide for a woman who is working? What is fair, bearing in mind that the man provides the basics (food, shelter, education, medical). She called me names whenever I didn’t give her money to do her hair or didn’t allow her to use my cars. I never stopped providing anything I considered a basic need. Does providing equal true love and commitment? And must a man be so rough with a woman, to the extent of hitting her, to show love? She would tell me I was not man enough since I was always diplomatic even when she provoked me. Please advise me, the two sisters and this man who can’t zip up. Name withheld on request As I read through your mail, I using my car or if I wasn’t dropping her or picking her up. I paid her daughter’s school fees and placed them both under my medical cover. Pastor, I gave everything a responsible man could possibly give a woman he truly loves and is could feel a lot of pain and resentment towards your ex girlfriend and her brother in-law. I can only imagine what this would do to her sister. Sadly, I don’t think family and personal values are among the things she holds dear. Her desire is to get what she wants, however 5 she wants it. I empathise with her sister, who is being undermined by her own flesh and blood. I pray that her husband comes to his senses and considers what kind of pain this could inflict on her. This woman chose a path that is different from yours and the best way to avoid adding insult to injury is to do what you did. I pray that one day she will wake up and make things right. In addition, the choices people make have lasting consequences. Regarding her behaviour, if she does not change the way she is doing things, she will not only hurt herself, but many others as well. You have a right to build your own life based on the values you embrace, like integrity and respect. Do not let your future be determined by the failures of other people. When we serve others, our desire should be to do it the way God does for us. We don’t serve to get something in return. Love is a choice we make to serve others regardless of their choices. Therefore, the way you served her should not stand in the way of your being a better person. If you allow regret and pain to weigh you down, you will turn into a selfish person who will only bring unhappiness to himself. I pray that you take time to learn from the process. How did you define love then? Did you base your definition on “doing things to buy someone’s recognition” or did you love the way God loved by giving the best for us. Here is my advice as you make a move to heal and build new relationships in the future. First, I pray that you heal fully and not rush into another relationship. This could cloud your judgment. Two, do a better job next time by looking at character first, and not other factors. Great relationships are built where character comes first. Such character must be based on values such as faithfulness, trust, respect and empathy, among others. Third, be alert and avoid anything that could deceive you. Let others help you evaluate behaviour patterns of any future partner. Try and study their past and how it affects the way they live now. He hurts me so much Dear Pastor Kitoto, My name is Grace, and I am 23. I’m dating a man of 29. He claims to love me but keeps entertaining other women. Just the other day I found a text message from his ex on his phone; to my surprise, they still communicate. I got extremely angry with him. However, I am very honest with him. I do whatever I know will make him happy. I have never cheated on him but he makes me feel like taking revenge. We are not on good terms as we are not talking. I can’t bear the thought of him having another person in his life. Should I leave him? Please advise. Grace Hi, What I see here are signals that all is not well. If this man is a player, I suggest that the two of you deal with the issue. Discuss the values you both need to embrace. If you are not strong enough to avoid the influence, I can see you succumbing to the temptation to take revenge by breaking the very rules you are against him breaking. There is already so much bad blood in the relationship at an early stage that is already poisoning it.
February 16th 2014
February 18th 2014