I grew up in a third world country, pre-Google, and with a rotary phone. I also played with real kids, climbed trees, rode my bicycle, played contact sports unsupervised, and learned how to kiss under a blackberry bush. To figure things out we had to make a trip to the library to look something up, talk to people who may know, trial and error, socially network in real time, have live conversations and look others in the face. The more people you knew, the more information and ideas you could get, the more help you’d have figuring things out and getting what you need. This was particularly helpful in the relationship domain. Not only did we constantly interrogate each other gathering intel on others, but every one of us was ready to volunteer what we knew about the guy or the girl one of us was about to start seeing. We had elders to dispense sage advice around every turn and any time. We had jokes about every kind of relationship situation. People told stories about and to each other all the time.
Fast forward thirty years. Most kids don’t grow up in the towns their parents grew up in. Many families move multiple times for jobs, or other reasons and wherever they go, they never stay long enough to make strong relationships and community. Most people don’t know their neighbors or are simply on “hello” terms. Single parenting is the norm. Kids entertain themselves with TV, tablets, and smartphones. Playing on the street with other kids until dark is no longer a thing. But you can learn how to kiss watching porn, or just a regular action movie with “nudity” rating.
At the same time, the world of relationships keeps getting more complicated. Losing real-life connections, friends, and community creates stress, anxiety, and confusion. As we pass through various stages of life, we no longer have the guidance and living examples of people close to us, friends or family. Work takes more time and life happens on weekends only.
I used to think things were not really that bad until I started getting strange questions from friends and clients. Questions like, “How should I ask someone out?” and “How do I know if we are a couple?” Or from folks more my age, “Is it bad that I just want to get laid and not be in a serious relationship?” Once a friend asked me for advice on how to talk to her husband about getting another guy in the mix. People seem confused about all sorts of relationship themes. Hell, even I am confused half the time. How do you know when to end a relationship, or if you should do it? How do you discuss sensitive topics? What to expect from a date? What to do after? Questions about dealing with in-laws, or one’s own parents. What is the right thing to do, when, and how of relationships seem to be frustrating lots of us.
Where do we turn for answers? Our parents may or may not be living and if they are, their generation lived under a different set of assumptions about gender roles, acceptable behavior, responsibilities, and worldview. Our grandparents? Worse! They can’t even understand purple hair. Friends? If you have them, are too busy working, and scratching their own heads on similar issues. Plus, recent research I read about and forgot to save in order to properly cite it here, found that in the last 10 years on average we’ve lost most of our friends an either have no one close to talk to or we have less than five such people. Meaning, we are lone rangers out there, braving the wild world of complicated existence. Also, meaning, we are more confused than ever – all three generations, X, Y, and Z. That’s a 60-year span of confusion.
Naturally, we turn to Google. Seriously! All of the above questions and lots of others have been Googled millions of times. So much so, that Google keeps track of the most googled relationship questions and puts out a statistic. The problem is, as my medical doctor once told me after I tried to proactively demonstrate my knowledge about my medical condition, that Google is not the equivalent of a medical degree. Neither is it the equivalent of real-life friendships where people who know you, listen to you and contribute to you figuring things out that would work for you. The difference is huge!
If you have no one you can talk to about your love life, family life, work life, and life in general, you have got to go out there and meet some people! Find them around the kinds of things you like doing, or would like to start doing – hiking, dancing, yoga, gaming, wine tasting, cooking, quilting, walking… Make some friends or you will forever suffer. If you are already in a relationship, and your significant other is your only social life, you are putting so much on this one person that he or she will go nuts trying to be it all for you. You will kill that relationship before you know it. If your partner doesn’t get tired of you, you will likely get tired of them.
Reconnect with old friends. At least Facebook is good for that. Make time to call someone you care about and chat them up. Whatever you decide to do, just don’t make Google your number one source of relationship information. You will spend hours reading shallow opinions of strangers, or geeky science, or straight up things that are wrong and harmful, but you won’t even know the difference. That same time could be spent making new acquaintances which could be cultivated into lifelong relationships.
Call me or someone like me if you need to talk things over, figure things out, sort through the confusion, and find a way to a better life. You just can’t Google your way through everything!