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Swipe Left, Swipe Right: An Intergenerational Perspective on Relationships

Posted on: July 17th, 2019 by Hayim Herring No Comments


Swipe left, swipe right – these commands for dating apps symbolize vast generational changes in dating, marriage, and other intimate relationships. While I wrote about relationships in my recently published book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide, there were some topics that I couldn’t include because of space limitations. In this post, I’ll compare changes in dating, marriage, and relationships between now and only several decades ago*.


We’ve gone from singing “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” (lyrics from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof) to typing web addresses like Match.com, OK Cupid, Tinder, and Bumble (where “women make the first move”. That’s because, “As recently as 2009, researchers showed that most matches occurred through friends, family or happy accident. But by 2017… surveys found that online meeting was nearing the 50 percent mark” while only about 20% of couples met through friends.


Until relatively recently, interfaith and interracial marriage was taboo. Today, political differences can doom a relationship.


Marriage is still popular among those younger, but the median age today for a first marriage for men and women set an all-time high: 28 years for women, 30 years for men. Compare that with the time when Boomers started to marry: “In 1968, the typical American woman first married at age 21 and the typical American man first wed at 23”.


For Millennials and even GenXers, the most common religion is no religion at all”. That explains why wedding bells and church bells are not intertwined as they once were. For example, in 2009, over 40% of weddings were held in a house of worship. In 2017, only about 25% of weddings were. Marriage is a privatized, secular event and not a religious milestone followed by joining a faith-based community.


On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court struck down a state’s right to ban same-sex marriage. While support for same-sex marriage had been growing, the pace at which it has become accepted is amazing. In a Gallup Survey from 2018, 67% of Americans reported that they “think that same-sex marriage should be legally valid”.


These differences in dating, marriage, and other intimate relationships are windows into changed values and culture. Generations tend to stereotype each other and the subconscious images that we have of our closest relationships are deeply ingrained. The value of highlighting contrasts between dating and marriage is that they can help to decrease misunderstanding and increase empathy and communication across generations.


* For additional book-related posts on the impact of social media on the self and politics through an intergenerational lens visit my blog, http://hayimherring.com/blog/.




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