Is there such a thing as “modern love”?
I’m thinking of the way that our relationships are conducted today, as opposed to the way they were done in my grandparents’ day. My gut feeling is that there is a difference and it is quite profoundly different in many ways from the love of only a generation ago.
In the same way that there is a vein of impermanence that dominates modern living, I feel that same sense of fleetingness dominates our human emotions too. For example, we buy TVs, washing machines, mobile phones etc with the understanding that they are only going to last us for as long as it takes for the “next best thing” comes onto the market. We sign up to the idea that mobile phone contracts are to last for a maximum of two years and after that time the handset you have been using will be obsolete and will need upgrading just to stay “current”. Our TVs are only built to last for a couple of years until their insides wear out, or the screen size changes and you can expect to watch a football match in real-size, or HD becomes Super-HD, or YouTube and Google decide that it’s not good enough to be only able to access them from a phone, tablet, laptop or PC but your TV has got to have online access too. Gone are the days where you only replaced the TV either when a) the screen gets smashed by you playing football with your brother in the living room and you knock over the maiden onto it (I’m just throwing that out there, not that it ever happened to me and my brother….ahem….) or b) the rental shop has changed hands and they come out with new stock so they can charge you more for it (remember the days of having a coin slot on the back of your TV??). Today, a new TV is only expected to last as long as your mobile phone. Which isn’t saying much.
We have so many throwaway goods and items now too – bottled water in bottles designed to be used once; plastic bags for groceries; food packaging, takeaway cartons; clothes so trendy that after two times through the laundry they are considered “out of fashion”; all sorts of things.
It’s the same of jobs too. Once, not that long ago, it was not unexpected to be able to leave school, get an apprenticeship somewhere, go to work for the firm who trained you, work your way up the ladder and leave at the age of 65 with a golden handshake at the end of your service. It happened to my Dad who only retired 5 years ago, but he was an exception to the norm now. Now, kids leaving school can’t trust that the company they are apprenticed to will still be in business at the end of their training let alone when they reach retirement age. The blame isn’t all laid at the company’s door though. Far from it. People now chop and change path when the need arises and there is no such thing as a “career for life”, let alone a “job for life” as my Dad had. It is perfectly normal for someone to be a plumber for a couple of years, then a postman for a bit, maybe train as a computer technician or even classroom support assistant and then maybe turn to being a taxi driver for a while. It’s not uncommon, and it isn’t seen as unusual.
I myself have fallen into this type of situation – from office work to shop assistant to office work to pastoral work to unemployed – and I’m now considering my future back in the classroom in a couple of years time. When I went to my cousin’s wedding a couple of weeks ago I dreaded the question “So, what do you do?” because I didn’t know for the life of me how to answer it. There were people there who could say “I’m X”, or “I do Y” but I think if I had asked them a few years ago, or again in a few years from now, the answers might be very different.
It’s not unusual or wrong, it’s just the way we live our lives today.
So what about my initial question – is there really such a thing as “modern love”? And if there is, does it fit with the same pattern I’ve described above?
My feeling is that yes, there is such a thing as modern love and yes, sadly, it does fit the pattern I’ve described above.
I say sadly, because people who fall in and out of shallow, modern love probably won’t ever find the depth of love and respect our grandparents enjoyed. Maybe in this day of instant communication, the adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is very true. Modern living doesn’t give us enough room to think, grow and mature into our relationships and we are very much centred on the here and now, not the “down the road, tomorrow” that is necessary for true, deep love to flourish.
How many times have we seen huge weddings, with years of planning going into every detail, every nuance, every quirk to make it “unique” only to see the marriage itself last maybe a handful of years. I’ve seen it with friends, with work colleagues, with stories in the media (another sign of our times) and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is an inverse correlation with the amount of money and attention thrown at the wedding and the length of the consequent marriage. Perhaps my view is only based on anecdotal evidence, but it’s one of those things that strike me especially when we look at weddings of previous generations.
Our grandparents and great-grandparents got married after very short courtships and engagements, and generally weddings were very low-key affairs. A church, the family and friends, maybe a bit of a do at the local church hall, a honeymoon at the seaside and then it was down to business. Was it that “old fashioned love” was really more of a business arrangement than a love affair? Did people go into marriage with their eyes, minds and hearts full of something else that is not the same as they do today? Do we believe in more of a romantic type of love today, where in the past romance was only something a few could afford? Is it because back then, life was so hard that things had to last because once it was gone, it was gone? Do we have it too easy?
Easy come, easy go…the same as our phones, or TVs, or laptops, or cars, our friendships, our communication with each other. The easier it is to come by the easier it is to let it go. Why should we look after our equipment and repair our clothes when it’s easier and quicker to go any buy new ones when they wear out? Why should we work at our relationships when it’s easier and quicker to go and find a new partner when the old one doesn’t suit you any more?
Is it perhaps because we travel about more now, and moving out of an area and away from family is not uncommon? Thinking back to when there were short courtships and engagements, is it because people knew each other from when they were children because they live in the same areas their families came from? Doris knew Bobby from infant school so when they went to the pictures they knew each other already and it wasn’t long before they knew they could make a go of it.
Am I wrong? Or am I just facing middle-age and looking back at the glory days with rose tinted spectacles and thinking that perhaps modern life is just a bit too much for me? I’d love to hear what you think, especially you Uta. You have a different perspective on this sort of thing to me and I’ve love to hear what you think about it.