Ah, love. A lot has changed since the era of letterman jackets and “going steady.” Today those phrases seem arcane. Even the concept of marriage and relationships has shifted in the last few decades. Some assert that young people today have given up on love. Others claim that the very definition of love has changed.
Father Moon was quite optimistic about love’s prospects saying, “The flames of true love, fanned by the spring breezes of the twenty-first century, are spreading like wildfire across the earth,” (Pyeong Hwa Gyeong, 283).
I don’t buy into the assertion that any single generation has a monopoly on either cynicism or romanticism when it comes to love. The modern era, though, has certainly changed the landscape in terms of how we communicate and find love, and it presents certain challenges as well as advantages:
Pros: Innovations in technology have allowed us to stay connected in ways that were impossible before. We can Skype with loved ones across the globe. Text and email have made it possible to receive and send messages instantaneously, and social media opens up even more channels for communication. The internet age has also changed how people find love, with online dating sites popping up like weeds and drawing record numbers of participants. In countries like India, online sites have been a boon for arranged marriages, making it easier for young adults to have more control over the process and to survey a wider pool of possible candidates.
Cons: With so many channels and avenues of entertainment, we also have so many more ways to get distracted! Couples can easily fall into the trap of being connected with everyone else except each other. It’s often easier to watch a movie or browse facebook than it is to have a face-to-face conversation, but that intimate connection is essential to building and maintaining healthy relationships.
Pros: The internet has also made cross cultural love much easier. Our world is smaller than it was even a decade ago, with more access to travel and exposure to other cultures. More and more people find love in far-off places. In fact, according to census data in the US analyzed by the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, long-distance marriages increased by 23% between 2000 and 2005, and the trend continues to rise. The center estimated that roughly 3.6 million married people in the US lived apart for reasons other than marital discord. Advances in technology and travel have allowed love to blossom even across continents.
Cons: Long distance relationships and cross-cultural love is not easy. It takes a lot of communication and commitment and might even require a certain level of financial stability to maintain travel. If children are brought into the mix, the situation becomes even more complicated.
Pros: Though there are many places where religious and cultural norms still dictate how people live and love, in the modern-day United States, we are largely no longer bound by certain societal pressures. Women are seen as equal partners in a marriage, not a form of property, and men are taking on more responsibility in the home than ever before. In 2014, the number of stay-at-home dads in the US hit 1.4 million, double what it was ten years before. Women are encouraged to have careers and work outside of the home, and their worth is not solely tied to bearing children or cleaning house.
Cons: The trend towards independence still leaves a heavy burden on women. There is a myth of the “super-woman” who “has it all” and can balance career and family with ease. If this woman exists, I’ve never met her! More often than not, women in the US are forced to choose between career and family, or to stumble through the complicated juggling act. Outdated laws in parental leave and access to childcare prevent many from the “choice” that is so freely touted in modern society, and if you are a single parent, chances are even slimmer.
One thing is certain, the modern era presents both opportunity and challenges, but love itself, dare I say, hasn’t changed all that much. It is what Father Moon calls, “absolute, unchanging and eternal” (Cheong Seong Gyeong 386).
No matter our time or place, we know that to make a relationship work we must make love a priority in our lives. Love requires us to think of the needs of an other instead of just our own. Love is an action, something we practice, not just a fluttery feeling in our gut.
Amidst the hum of TV screens and text notifications, we might not always hear the echoes of the century-old verses, still recited at wedding ceremonies around the world:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 New International Version (NIV)
Our world will continue to change and evolve, and the generation that follows will no doubt have technologies we could have never imagined that will change the way they think and communicate. But love is a constant, whether it’s found across the street or a continent away, whether through a family engagement process or a website. As humans, we will always desire love, the strongest force in the universe.