A fear of commitment once meant a fear of getting married—nowadays it means a fear of all commitment.
Once upon a time people would meet, grab a drink, go out to dinner, exchange a kiss on the doorstep, and then, all things going well, enter into an exclusive relationship.
This was known as “dating” and was the only term used to describe a romantic relationship that was yet to be formalized with a ring.
These days things work a little differently.
You can be “hooking-up” with someone, casually seeing them, friends with benefits or dating. In the end, no one really knows where they stand.
This “hook-up” culture seems to be replacing the dating culture altogether.
Here are three possible reasons why (and why we should be concerned).
1. Attachment Theory.
The hook-up culture perpetuates what is known in psychology as Dismissive-Avoidant characteristics—which are strong feelings of independence and self-sufficiency, a lack of desire to form close relationships and a dismissive attitude towards the importance of emotional connection.
Ironically, these characteristics can me mistaken for confidence and are often seen as highly attractive by members of the opposite sex.
However, the key distinction is that these beliefs are developed as a defense mechanism to prevent a person from being hurt.
If this sounds like someone you are “seeing,” and you are hoping that they will change, the bad news is, they rarely do.
What is more likely is that they will string you along until you eventually realize that they aren’t going to come around.
Being burnt like this can, in many ways, lead to you developing the same attitudes. This can change how you approach relationships and even end up with you perpetuating the Dismissive-Avoidant cycle.
2. The Hollywood Storyline.
How many movies portray the same basic storyline of Mr. Right sweeping Mrs. Right off her feet in a whirlwind of passionate love?
The problem is that these movies always cut out before you get to see the end of the honeymoon phase.
Scarily, during this phase (known as infatuation) your brain is actually hooked on the same chemicals that many chronic drug users are addicted to. This is why we sometimes think “crazy” things when we are really into someone.
No matter what, this chemical high eventually wears off and, when it does, we experience somewhat of a comedown.
This is why we try to keep things casual—we are trying to stretch out the honeymoon, hoping to avoid the comedown.
However, keeping things casual doesn’t work, because it prevents us from building the foundations needed for a relationship to progress past the end of the honeymoon phase.
The only solution is to be open and honest about what you want from the relationship. If, after a few dates, the other person doesn’t want to be exclusive and you do—you are not compatible, simple as that.
It doesn’t matter if they give you flutters in your stomach—that’s just the infatuation talking.
If you refuse to move on you will eventually be left with someone who still doesn’t want to be exclusive.
3. The Pleasure Culture.
Building a relationship requires investing time, effort and money over a relatively long period. These investments are stable, ultimately building to become secure havens of happiness that can last a lifetime.
The hook-up culture, on the other hand, is a short term, risky investment scheme that promises large returns but practically guarantees long term unhappiness.
Unfortunately, many of us are drawn to the promises of immediate results, spurred on by our alcohol fueled impulsiveness.
These quick hits of pleasure can become so addictive that we end up depending on them to feel good. When this happens we are no longer willing to risk missing out on another hit of “hook-up pleasure” by being “tied into a relationship.”
This is a vicious cycle, one that is hard to break.
So, what hope do we have? A few questions we need to ask ourselves.
What do we want to achieve in a relationship? Do we want to be happy or do we want to be bound by the pursuit of happiness? What are we willing to risk to find this happiness? It is worth potentially getting hurt to find someone who makes us endlessly happy?
If happiness is really what we are after, we need to cut the crap—be open, honest and vulnerable, be willing to take a risk and be hurt, be willing to drop the Hollywood storyline and find Mr. or Mrs. suitable.
It may not be as romantic or poetic as what we see on TV, but at least it’s real.
Author: Garrick Transell
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Alin Florin/pixoto