Millennials and Love ft. Shannon Boodram
Love is an idea we can’t escape. The reason for which we were created is to love and be loved. It’s one thing to subscribe to this idea that love is all fairies and pixie dust. It's another thing to understand that, yes while love is beautiful and epic and sort of all-engulfing, there is a level of practicality one needs to have when they talk about love and relationships. Millennials have this pressure to be in a relationship at all times. Actually, I don’t know that that is something unique to the millennial experience so much as it is a part of the human experience. We've allowed ourselves to hold onto some old ideologies of what it means to love and what it means to express love without understanding that the world in which we live our day-to-day lives in has simply changed. There are a lot of Millennials who haven't been on formal dates before, but they still have meaningful romantic connections with other people. Your parents might translate the idea of romance to someone bringing flowers to their job while a millennial might hold a good morning text in that same regard. It doesn't mean that the good morning text is less romantic so much as it is a different means of expressing love.
When we talk about love as an institution, the idea of marriage has shifted immensely in the past 10 to 15 years. The Washington Post talks about the value Millennials place on marriage even though many of them are opting to get married later on. "Rather than see marriage as the first marker of adulthood as older generations have, Millennials seem to view matrimony as a sort of capstone achievement possibly only after having ticked off other increasingly elusive life goals. In the mind of the Millennial in order for you to get married, you need to have had a stable job you need to have some savings and have been able to pay down your debts." But these checkboxes cannot be checked off yet simple because these markers are becoming increasingly difficult to hit. In the Inquisitr, they unwrap this idea that Millennials are a generation that is incapable of loving someone else. During the Aspen Ideas Festival last year, there was a panel discussion in which they spoke about the decline of college dating. Now, this panel discussion was had by what they call "millennial experts," for which none of these experts were, in fact, Millennials themselves. In fact, in a Huffington Post article, they did a study where they surveyed 1000 US adults 355 of whom were between ages 18 and 30 about love. They found that Millennials were, in fact, hungry for romance and a third of the Millennials valued more romance in their relationship over more sex and more affection. So here we're seeing that all of these "millennial experts" writing and forming opinions about Millennials and their relationships with love are never from the perspective of the Millennial.
So in order to have a better handle on the way in which we deal with love and relationships, I decided to reach out to Shannon Boodram, a sex and love expert to Millennials and a certified sexologist who happens to fit the bill of an educated millennial who has spent her adult life educating herself and others about love, sex, and relationships. Shannon and I talk about love and what that means, the Internet, and what role it has played in our love lives and how we can go about developing healthy relationships with the people that we love.
What is love?
Love is a biological necessity. When you look at it that way versus looking at it as some magical thing you can say ok, when people who love us hurt us and we continue to stay with them it isn’t because we’re meant to, it’s because it's an addiction. That’s its job. [Love] is not discerning of who’s best for the job, it just knows once you attach to somebody the brain treats [that attachment] the same way it would any other thing that is dependent on for its survival.
From my perspective, I would say that it’s kind of difficult when you’re in the relationship to sort of train your brain to think that way because we’ve been conditioned to think otherwise.
It might be difficult—it’s kind of like there’s so much information about cigarettes. You know it has addictive qualities so when you start smoking we’re already aware that we may become addicted to cigarettes. Not because we’re meant to be with it but because it has nicotine in it and one of the properties of nicotine is that it’s addictive. So you should think the same way about love—even sex. During sex, there are bonding chemicals that are released, especially for women, during sex. And if you were aware of that it would give people a lot more discernment.
What can you say about the way we (Millennials) interact with one another on a romantic level?
What’s interesting about Millennials period is that most people are coming from a generation of broken marriages. With the previous generations, Baby Boomers or Generation X, over half of their marriages have failed. So then people grow up in a single parent household and/or they grow up going through a divorce. A lot of people are restructuring their idea of love and relationships and are looking for different sources of inspiration. That’s what’s so good about the Internet. It’s like pissing in the bucket. You just don’t know where things are going to go. You don’t know what people are going to gravitate towards. There are some Millennials like me who are really progressive when it comes to love and relationships because they’ve surrounded themselves with a certain community online and/or have found resources to educate them. Even have great parents, for example. And then there are other people who grew up really influenced by pop culture, which has become, in my opinion, a very porn influenced version of what love and sex is. Those individuals have poor communication skills. Poor expectation management and little imagination. I meet all different types of people who have different experiences but it depends on what you’ve saturated yourself with.
Going back to this sort of pop culture aspect of what you were saying, what role does the Internet play in the way we perceive love and deal with love in our day-to-day lives? The Internet is something that is not real, but it is, but it’s not. It’s kind of in every part of our lives as Millennials.
In total people consume up to 7 hours of content a day online, so that shapes your reality. That is a reality for you. You spend 7 hours a day at school or at work and then you spend 7 hours a day on this box that's going to shape your reality. It has a major influence on where people meet, how they meet, how they talk when they meet, and what they expect out of people when they meet them. So I think the Internet shapes peoples’ reality more than average IRL interactions do.
When people meet someone from online in person what is the expectation?
They’re expecting what they want out of that situation. There's a large article in Vanity Fair called The Dating Apocalypse that talks about how horrible it is these days, especially for women who are coerced into sex constantly. Men for whom that’s their only objective. Women who are let down constantly and settle into the hookup culture but what they really want is a sustainable, monogamous commitment. There’s every conceivable side. It really is the age of, what do you want? It’s never been less taboo to say, "yo here’s what I want." A lot of people still don’t give themselves the permission to do that, but that’s the right way to do the Internet. If you go on Google you say, "this is what I’m looking for." You go on your social media feed and say, "okay this is what I want to see." You choose who you want to see and what you want to follow. Curate your experiences and your choices and take ownership of that. Our dating life should really follow suit in that regard. Either you're expecting to control the ship, or you’re hoping that somebody has the best intentions for you.
As a clinical sexologist and love expert, I know you have recently started 1 on 1 advising on love/sex/relationships how are those going?
This is kind of what I love about Millennials. People are taking more control over their lives and everybody who I’ve spoken to is not the kind of person who would ever go and seek professional help. Just like anything else, if something is important to you, you would seek advice from people you’d thought had a handle on it. A lot of Millennials are more open to that. The usual consistent issue is that people are waiting for other people to fix their problems for them or address their insecurities for them versus taking care of it themselves.
It’s true because in every other facet of our lives we do it. We wouldn’t wait for our bosses to think that we deserve more money we would go and demand it.
According to Gary Chapman, there are 5 different love languages, 5 different ways people express their love for one another. Do you believe this to be true and if so how do we go about understanding what one another’s language is and how to learn to speak it?
Of course, I do. With all my heart. I believe in sex languages, I believe in love languages, I believe in text languages. What makes love languages fascinating is that it takes the pressure off of people. If you go to another country and you start speaking English no matter what beautiful stuff you have coming out of your mouth or what amazing things you have to offer them, they’re going to look at you like I don’t know what you’re saying lady and walk away and not respond how you want. And we wouldn’t take that personally. We would be like, "oh they don’t speak my language I guess." Same thing with love. If you speak gifts because you like gifts and the other person speaks in words of affirmation, you’re just showering them with gifts and they’re like, "I don’t speak this language though, I don’t understand."
It really is the age of, what do you want?
- Shan Boody
How do we go about learning each other's love languages?
The [love languages] website has a quiz that you can take and it's quite thorough. And when you do it with a mate it's fun. I’ve done it with a dude where I've read the questions out loud and at the end, we've talked about it. The important thing is once you’ve learned, to implement what you've learned.
In your experience have you seen any sort of dating issues and sex issues that black women in particular deal with?
What is different with women of color, and by in large anybody that has a large cultural background, is there’s a lot of opinions. There’s family, there’s religion. There’s cultural and societal. For the white woman, her sexuality is sort of vague. It gets to be whatever she wants it to be. Whereas for different ethnic groups, sexuality is very heavily defined. One way or the other.
How do we take steps to having healthier relationships?
I think even as we’re talking about love languages that it is becoming more of a common thing to learn about different forms of relationships. That’s kind of a new thing too. You know if you’d asked someone what is polyamory before they wouldn’t get it. Now people know what that is. I think it’s similar to finding your correct career. It’s about exposing yourself and educating yourself on the different options out there. If you grew up thinking doctor, nurse, secretary, or garbage person and you didn’t think about being a CEO of a car company those things weren’t an option for you. You never researched or invested any time in and you can expect to have a very limited career. I think it’s the same with love and relationships. If you learn and want to have honest discussions, you need to put yourself first. Part of finding that right job is figuring out what it is you want to do first.
People underestimate the value of self-love.
Oh lord! Self-love is the root of everything. Everything has to stem out of that place. One of the ideas that spiral out of self-love is self-advocacy. You can love yourself and know what you want and still have zero ideas of how to communicate that to others. A lot of women struggle with feeling like, "I’m selfish," versus "when I tell people what I want, I get what I want and I’m a better partner in giving them what they want." It’s a renewable energy. There’s no reason to give your life to somebody or give your body to somebody—give anything to anybody unless you are at the center of that. Advocate for yourself. Put what you want forward and be patient.
There’s a lot of compromising and a lot of settling going on.
Too much. Back in the day, you might have only 20 options. You went to school in Chatsworth, Connecticut and that’s all you knew. Now you can genuinely date someone in Australia if you wanted to. If you can connect with anybody in the world, why settle for just anybody?
Do you think settling comes out of fear of being alone?
Yeah. It comes out of fear of being alone. It comes out of people still pushing the idea of timing. Monogamy and timing. Or I have to be in a relationship period. The key to happiness is to manage expectation.