Recently, a New York Times article caused quite the stir as it shed light on the casual “hookup culture” between men and women that has been occurring on college campuses for the last few years instead of the more typical and traditional dating rituals. In its examination of the trend, the article emphasized that it is actually the young women who are pushing for this non-commitment setup because they are too busy focusing on school work, extracurriculars, and, essentially, launching their careers. This article presents some bigger questions when the concept is viewed through a broader lens. Does this non-committal relationship strategy occur with women in their 20s even after college? Is our drive and our ambition causing us to put our relationships to the wayside? What is dating really like for women in their 20s?
From The New York Times:
Typical of elite universities today, Penn is filled with driven young women, many of whom aspire to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers or corporate executives like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg or Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer. Keenly attuned to what might give them a competitive edge, especially in a time of unsure job prospects and a shaky economy, many of them approach college as a race to acquire credentials: top grades, leadership positions in student organizations, sought-after internships. Their time out of class is filled with club meetings, sports practice and community-service projects.
These women said they saw building their résumés, not finding boyfriends (never mind husbands), as their main job at Penn. They envisioned their 20s as a period of unencumbered striving, when they might work at a bank in Hong Kong one year, then go to business school, then move to a corporate job in New York. The idea of lugging a relationship through all those transitions was hard for many to imagine. Almost universally, the women said they did not plan to marry until their late 20s or early 30s.
Any college graduate can tell you that your beliefs while you’re in school can drastically change and be completely different after college and once you have been in the real world for a bit. Do women in their 20s really think that a relationship could hinder their career progression? Is not being in a committed relationship part of the definition of being a successful 20-something woman?
Dylan Thrasher, relationship and love coach, and author of the book “How to Find and Create Lasting Love,” told Levo:
In essence, it’s not just careers that have brought women in their 20s to push off relationships, although there is something to be said for that, as there is no 9-5 anymore with corporate jobs, which more women are finding themselves in as they catapult to higher levels of bachelor’s and master’s degrees than their male counterparts. Long work hours, mixed in with other obligations of life (family, friends, pets, workouts, etc.) have created a time issue in which casual relationships work well (in the short-term anyway).
However, it’s a greater issue when it comes to a declining level of intimacy and empathy we have these days as a culture. It can be attributed to a combination of factors—social media/texting instead of phone calls and in-person time, media portrayal of such as normal and fun even—think movies such as “Friends with Benefits”, “No Strings Attached”, etc.—along with a changing of the social fabric of communities across the country. Role models in the form of happy, healthy loving families/couples are being replaced with peers and mentors all indulging in booty calls, friends with benefit situations, and other non-monogamous endeavors such as open relationships.
“Dating has changed drastically for today’s career women and unlike anytime before. Our lives are different and so are our wants in a partner,” Essence Magazine Relationships Editor Charreah K. Jackson said. People simply date differently today. Group dates are the norm, texts (versus phone calls) are all the rage, and checking your email on a date is barely considered a faux pas. All in all, it is simply not as formal a scene. “For centuries, the majority of marriages were of couples who grew up within 100 miles of each other, and much closer for many. Now with more people moving many times throughout their life and the continued growth of online dating, there are more couples from different backgrounds connecting and also more long-distance relationships,” Jackson said.
On average, men and women are getting married older today in comparison to years past, and there are logical reasons behind this decision. According to the authors of the report, “Knot Yet” by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia young people who finish their education, get established in their careers, and then get married are better off financially. Many of the young women and men examined in the study entered the workforce during one of the worst recessions our country has ever seen. They didn’t want to commit themselves to others until they were secure in their careers, which may have taken some time for some, but proved to be beneficial from a financial standpoint.
While it may seem like a popular trend, the putting off of serious relationships is not necessarily the same across the boards. A lot of dating habits depend on the city. In February, Huffington Post Women compiled a list of the 10 cities where women earn the most money. HuffPo also provided the list of cities with more female residents than male ones. The cities where women outnumber the men also happen to be the locations where women earn more money. The top earning city for women, Washington, D.C., came in at number two for cities with a higher population of women. Boston was also a top ten salary city for women, and was number three for cities with more women than men. New York also made it to both lists (it was number 14 for salaries). Based on this evidence, it’s likely that women in cities like D.C., Boston and New York may be approaching dating differently then say women in Birmingham, Alabama.
Jackson also told Levo, “Today, professional women (and men) are looking for a true partner to root each other on as they pursue their goals. Women aren’t waiting on some Prince Charming to bring them their dream life, but are taking the responsibility to create their own castle and hoping for a decent guy to help her build.”
But Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D, (aka “Dr. Romance”) psychotherapist and author of “Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage” feels that young women embrace differently than prior generations because of societal influences. She told Levo:
Many young women have grown up in divorced or single parent households, so they have little experience of what good marriages look like. Even if their own parents’ marriage is intact, they’re surrounded by peers whose parents (and they themselves) are having relationship disasters. The media has a lot of focus on celebrities whose relationships are dysfunctional, and reality TV thrives on bad relationships featuring emotionally immature and dysfunctional people. It’s no surprise, then, that young women are gun-shy. Where will they get their images of what functional relationships and healthy marriages look like? They will have to learn as they go, which means having a number of bad relationships before they figure out how to create a good one, and how to choose a good partner.
Women also often equate marriage with having children, so if they have careers, they want to wait and develop their careers first. Women are delaying marriage for their career, which is more important to younger women than to previous generations. Because of medical advances, they can postpone having a family, and they don’t worry about being too old to bear children—so they delay marriage, or they feel they can have children on their own.
Women may be putting their love life on the back burner, but maybe it is more a strategy than a choice. It’s not hard to understand that when you are so focused on your career, dating may not be the top priority. A committed relationship may be hard to pull off with a demanding work schedule, in addition to trying to exercise, spend time with family and friends, decorate your house, go to movies and, well, just live life. It might not actually be a power play for women to be more casual in their relationships, but instead just something that works for them at this point in their lives.
Have your own opinion about female relationship trends? Want to through your thoughts in the ring? Share with us in the comments!
Charreah Jackson is a mentor on Levo; ask her your own question about relationships as a Gen Y-er and how she feels about the unspoken rules of dating and social media.