Over the weekend, I witnessed such a sweet moment between my grandparents that made me feel all mushy on the inside. Grandma was stirring her stew, under the lit-up kitchen hood. Grandpa looked at her and said, ‘Wow, you look so beautiful under that light!’ and as always, she pretended she didn’t hear him. He called out to her once more, ‘Come and sit here with me. You’ll look even prettier if you weren’t standing there, cooking.’ The only reaction he got from her was a glare. As much as she tried to hide it, I knew damn well she was feeling all mushy on the inside as well. She had better be. Because these days, men like Grandpa are a rare breed.
After over 50 years of marriage, Grandpa still treats Grandma like how he would have if he were trying to woo her. Looking at relationships today, everyone is afraid of commitment. Everyone wants their partner to love them wholeheartedly but is afraid to give their all. No one is ever willing to put the other person first. The world has turned into a blur of one-night stands, casual hookups and 4-month long relationships. We all ‘have a thing’ with someone but nobody dares to call it what it is. Love is the very being of our human nature, yet we’re afraid to love, and we tell ourselves that we have the right to be afraid. So we make excuses to avoid getting hurt, to avoid commitment and to avoid fully giving ourselves to someone else.
‘I want to focus on my career and be successful.’
Today’s world is more materialistic than ever. Rather than being satisfied with just getting by, we want so much more than we need. We work our behinds off to climb the corporate ladder so that those around us can look up and say, ‘Wow, he/she is so successful.’ And what determines success? The car(s) you drive, the clothes you wear, that latest Bottega bag you’re carrying and the places you dine at (which you tell everyone by checking in on Facebook and posting pictures of a tiny cube of meat on an oversized plate).
What happened to the time where success was measured by the happiness of your family? When Grandpa was thirty, he had a modest job, a decent house – nothing too large or fancy – with fruit trees in the garden, a simple sedan, a happy wife and four beautiful children. His wife spent her daytimes chatting up friends at the market and around town while the children were at school. When he returned home from work, they would all enjoy Grandma’s home-cooked dinner and then he would guide his children in their homework. Grandpa didn’t have much but he was successful.
It is amazing to have a goal and to want to work hard to achieve it. However, many of us use this as a reason to avoid taking relationships seriously because we don’t want to start a family and bear its commitments. Then it no longer is a reason but an excuse.
‘We can’t be fixed. We should break up.’
Our generation has it easy. Everything is handed to us. We don’t have to search a book for answers: we have Google; we don’t have to spin the dials on the telephone: we have touchscreens; we don’t even have to step out of home: we have delivery.
This has caused us to become so easily frustrated when we aren’t able to get what we want, so we give up and move on to the next without even putting in enough effort to try and improve the now.
This is why divorce is becoming more and more apparent. During Grandpa’s days, divorce was for when things really don’t work out – a last resort. Today, divorce is when we realize we don’t love our spouses as much as we thought we did and aren’t willing to make enough sacrifices – an easy option out.
Working towards fixing our relationships seems to be too much of an effort for our generation.
We don’t treasure our relationships enough to want to make sacrifices to keep it.
‘Getting married/having a family is too much of a burden.’
When we date someone without the intention to spend the rest of our lives with them, we never truly love them. We just want to be with them in the now, while looking around for a better person. When we intend to be with someone for life, we stop comparing them to others and we stop looking for others. Someone better may eventually come around, but what’s important is that we weren’t looking for them while with someone else. Once we start looking, we don’t have the right intentions when dating – it’s all in selfishness. And that ruins love for us.
When did having a family become a burden instead of a blessing? Now you would probably stop reading because I sound like a pro-life pastor speaking to a greying congregation. But really, think about it: is having someone to share your life with really a burden? I’m not talking about sharing food on a date or the petrol cost on a road trip. I’m talking about sharing the joy of looking at the face of a newborn that was created by you and the person you love, as well as the financial struggles of buying a house.
Maybe if we stopped looking at these as burdens and started seeing them as an honor and as something to look forward to, we might love better.
‘I need freedom and space.’
Personal space is one of the most important traits of a happy and long-lasting relationship. But was it really space you needed when you and that cute guy started texting while you and your boyfriend were on a break? Was it really freedom when you told your girlfriend you were going out ‘just for lunch’ with a girl who was clearly into you? We tend to use freedom and space as an excuse to flirt around and explore our options. My Chinese mother often uses this proverb (which sounds absurd when directly translated): Riding a cow while looking for a horse. It simply means, you make do with what you have while looking for something better. Our generation often settles for less, then leave our partner because we’re unsatisfied. Wouldn’t we have longer, better relationships if we didn’t just settle?
We have ‘a thing’ with someone just so we aren’t lonely. We get together even though we know very well that we won’t last very long. It has become acceptable to be in a relationship just because. And when we’ve found a better person, we use freedom – or the lack of – as an excuse to leave the relationship. If you can’t accept that freedom and space has to come with boundaries when you’re in a relationship, you shouldn’t be in one.
These acceptable reasons have become so loosely used that our generation has turned them into unacceptable excuses. Real relationships are hard to come by, and love is losing its value. Look within before jumping into something that should be more than casual. Don’t ruin love for the next person.