The Millennial Approach to Relationships


Do you ever wonder if the generation in which you were born might be affecting your relationship with your significant other? Does being a millennial determine how you relate to your partner, your spouse, the people you are attracted to, who you date?

With the passage of time, significant events, innovations, new parenting styles, social and economic changes … attitudes change. Beliefs change. It’s my belief that those changes are reflected in how we get along in romantic relationships, our satisfaction in our relationships, and what we want out of our relationships. I, for one, think about those things. Blame it on my role as a relationship therapist (grin).

So let’s pull off the cover on the subject of millennials and relationships and take a peek at what might be happening in your love life. If you were born sometime between the 1980s and the 2000s, I’m talking about you.


The Millennial Mindset – The Sky’s the Limit

Consider yourself in the majority. You’re considered the largest generational group today. The general consensus is you’re are a generation who has been brought up with a sense of entitlement. Your parents and society have told you that you can have anything, the sky’s the limit; That is not to say that your parents or anybody is going to give it to you, it’s just that you can reach for the stars and attain whatever you reach for. The people rooting for you have high hopes.

Growing up, millennials have learned to be free thinkers in a world with expanded options. You are exposed to an abundance of choices, from how you spend your time, to who you spend it with. You can choose your sexual preferences.


Living Life Fast

Not only are we living in a world of massive choices, it’s a fast-paced one. Many decisions are made instantly. We’re used to getting answers fast. We’re competing with others, for grades, salaries, status, achievement, as more people are entering the workforce with fewer jobs available and certain resources limited. That tends to make millennials more stressed and competitive in all aspects of their lives –  work, play, and personal pursuits included. Your lives are a balancing act: school, work, free time, friends, relationships.  And that includes maintaining an existing relationship, the pursuit of a relationship – or not pursuing one at all. Some say we are breeding a generation of neurotics and perfectionists.


Analysis Paralysis

So many choices can make a person feel giddy, like a kid in a candy store, but it can also be paralyzing. With the freedom of choice and so many choices to pick from, you can be anxious, indecisive, second-guess yourself. What if you choose and it’s not the right decision?

Being indecisive might be, in part, a compulsion for perfection. You tend to overthink your decisions, stress about them, and worry about the possibilities of what might have been if you zigged instead of zagged, chose this person instead of that person.


Attitudes About Relationships

I think millennials are more likely to put love up on a pedestal. Your tendency toward overachievement makes you an easy mark for the Prince Charming meets Cinderella fairy tale, the “happily ever after” love story.

Another reason for having an idealistic concept of love might be that millennials watched the mistakes of their parents. Half of you come from broken homes, your parents’ marriages ending in divorce. You don’t want to make the same mistakes so you look carefully at what went wrong and strive to make it work for you. Your desire for successful relationships is a good thing. It can make you more cautious and more realistic.

Millennials are open to breaking the rules held by previous generations. That can mean you might enjoy relationships with more than one partner at the same time. It can mean you want a non-monogamous relationship (“open relationship”) where both of you accept having sexual encounters outside the relationship.

Millennials may have a tendency to “hook up” rather than stick together. Because you are so consumed by your busy schedule and unlimited choices, some of you choose to avoid the emotional entanglement of a committed relationship and instead are drawn to a string of what the older generations used to call “one night stands.” You might look for brief encounters to meet your temporary emotional needs so that you can focus more on your professional goals – at least for the time being.

You are big fans of dating services. Online dating lets you choose from a lineup of partners based on their written profiles chosen from a menu of available men. What a timesaver. So you shop for relationships in a virtual environment. Why wait for that chance meeting of two available people in a real-life setting? Some dating sites even specialize in bringing people together just for fulfilling those impulsive sexual urges.

The nature of online dating has certainly made us lazier and pickier. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s trickier, for sure, sorting out who that person is that you’re texting on a website. Are they who they say they are? Are they telling the truth about their age, their hobbies, their profession? Are they misleading you about their intentions? Leave it to millennials to figure it out. You’re not easily fooled.


Technology and Relationships

Because you are balancing career with personal life, you may not have a lot of social time. Your job may keep you on the go, having to put in long hours and travel. Long-distance relationships are more common. So it’s only natural that you use technology to narrow the gap of physical distance. In the digital age, you are able to not only talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend on the phone but visit with them using apps like Facetime.

Technology can also be a relationship wrecker. For one thing, instant access is so addictive. Cell phone users are constantly glancing at their phones, not giving their full attention to the person they’re with. Digital communication encourages you to multitask and it may even contribute to the destruction of your relationship. Imagine having a quiet dinner with your partner or husband when suddenly up pops a flirtatious text message from someone you hooked up with in the past who you thought wasn’t interested? Or, maybe you’re on a date and a guy you’ve been waiting to hear back from makes contact. Do you want to stay with door #1 or open up door #2?


 Views on Marriage

With unlimited choices, a fear of making the wrong decision, a desire for things to be perfect, and the intense time pressures to address all aspects of our busy lives, millennials tend to put marriage on hold and tie the knot later in life.

And maybe it’s not a bad idea that while you’re trying to figure things out, you gravitate to “trial” relationships, not sealing the deal until you’ve had a chance to “take the car around the block” for a test drive. Extended dating, prolonged engagements, putting off marriage –or rejecting marriage – in favor of living together give you time to decide if you and your mate are a good fit.  Why not be realistic about the chance that a relationship might not work out in the long run?


Redefining Relationships

Maybe the most significant difference between relationships of the past and millennial relationships is the idea that there’s no one right way to have a relationship. One thing’s for sure: You’re not letting yourself be defined by expected, established ways of behaving – in or out of a relationship. You’re creating a relationship and a life that is uniquely your own … one that works for you.