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We Place too much Value on Romantic Relationships

Are you in a relationship, or looking for love? In our society, looking for love has become a million dollar industry. There are dating apps, dating shows on TV, and magazines and books that tell us how to get a man, and keep him once you get him.

In a society where we are suffering from an epidemic of loneliness, it should come as no shock all the lengths that people will go to in order to get a partner. We think that finding someone to share our lives will give them meaning and purpose. To some extent that is true, and a good relationship can deeply enrich our lives.

The problem, though, with all the focus on romantic love, we begin to exclude other types of relationships that can be equally fulfilling parts of our lives. Family, friends, coworkers and more can provide us with great relationships too. People that we share our lives with in other capacities than just romantic partners can provide us with companionship as well.

By maintaining a wider social network, we will have additional support besides that of our partners. And if we are single, this can make a huge impact too. You don't need to have a partner to be happy.

According to Essence:

Women are doing for themselves and it’s changing the way the economy operates. Or at least that’s what a new report by Wells Fargo is suggesting. An outsized number of US women are unmarried, a record 52 percent as of 2021. This is the largest number ever according to the Census Bureau, who has been tracking Americans’ marital status since at least 1900. At that time 7 percent of surveyed women were single.

With fewer women becoming wives and mothers than ever, this leaves some young men feeling in despair about their dating prospects. But, even in partnered relationships, many men are still feeling lonely. So, it seems that single women aren't really responsible for men's loneliness at all.

According to CNN, this even extends into fatherhood:

What’s more, men in today’s society may view deep relationships as not masculine, thus further isolating themselves. Only 48% of men reported feeling satisfied with friendships, according to a May 2021 survey by the Survey Center on American Life, as previously reported by CNN. And 1 in 5 men said they had gotten emotional support from a friend in the past week, compared with 4 in 10 women.

It appears that single women take more time to prioritize their friendships with other women than men do to prioritize their friendships with other men. I can see how this happens to some degree, since my partner was a stay at home dad, and had an experience of feeling left out of the dialogue.

Since in the past many friendships formed from working together, the increasingly disconnected workplace can be contributing to a lack of close friendships.

According to The Mayo Clinic, here are some reasons why you should be prioritizing friendships in your life:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose

  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress

  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth

  • Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one

  • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

With people having fewer and fewer close friendships than in the past, this perhaps is what is leading the way with the heavy emphasis on dating and on the nuclear family that we see today. We don't have a village anymore. We try to find our community online through apps where you just swipe left or right. Or if we are partnered, we rely on our partners for all our emotional support, which can put a strain on the relationship.

It's time to start putting more emphasis on our friendships again, and taking time for a girls or guys night out even when it feels like we "don't have time." We have time for what we make time for. And making time for other people benefits everyone.

Finding ways to connect

Finding genuine ways to connect can feel difficult, and that's why so many people turn to apps. There is even an app called Peanut to help you meet mom friends! But men don't have a friendship app yet. Maybe it isn't macho enough? Or maybe they don't know what to call it.

Whatever the case, looking for in-person connection can be a huge benefit in our lives. Since our social interactions have become even more limited due to the pandemic, finding ways to reach back out is important. We may feel like it is weird at this point, but weird can be good.

Take some time to reach out to a friend this week, even if it is just to say Happy Holidays! You will be glad you did! The pool of people you already know can be a good basis for making deeper friendships, since we have already connected with these people in the past. There may be relationships we have neglected, and all it would take is a call to strike them back up.

If you don't have people in your circle of friends or family to reach out to, you can try to go to places you can meet someone new through a club or hobby.

Here are some recommendations from The Mayo Clinic:

  • Attend community events. Look for groups or clubs that gather around an interest or hobby you share. You may find these groups online, or they may be listed in the newspaper or on community bulletin boards. There are also many websites that help you connect with new friends in your neighborhood or city. Do a Google search using terms such as [your city] + social network, or [your neighborhood] + meet ups.

  • Volunteer. Offer your time or talents at a hospital, place of worship, museum, community center, charitable group or other organization. You can form strong connections when you work with people who have mutual interests.

  • Extend and accept invitations. Invite a friend to join you for coffee or lunch. When you're invited to a social gathering, say yes. Contact someone who recently invited you to an activity and return the favor.

  • Take up a new interest. Take a college or community education course to meet people who have similar interests. Join a class at a local gym, senior center or community fitness facility.

  • Join a faith community. Take advantage of special activities and get-to-know-you events for new members.

  • Take a walk. Grab your kids or pet and head outside. Chat with neighbors who are also out and about or head to a popular park and strike up conversations there.

With friendships like with romantic relationships, it can be hard to reach out, or to be the one who says "hi" first. We go to the park with our kids and are on our phones instead of casually chatting with other moms like we used to. Or we go jogging wearing headphones. We go through express checkout or have our groceries delivered.

The more we rely on convenience for basic things, the less we socialize because it is a natural part of our routine as it was back in the 90's and before that. So we need to be more intentional about saying "hi" to strangers, or calling our old friends. We don't just chat with strangers anymore, and it is hurting us socially. It is time we all get up from our technology and make time for real connection!


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