Dear Wednesday: The Aftermath of “Emotional Unavailability” and the Trouble with Hookup Culture

For the month of December, the last month of the decade, the theme is Relationships. Shedding light on romantic relationships, family bonds, professional connections, and relationship with self. This is a special time of the year where many evaluate their lives and connections. May these Dear Wednesday blogs help you gain 20/20 clarity in your life as we enter a new decade. Be sure to share with a friend, become a member of our blog site, join our weekly emails, and comment your thoughts.

Dear Wednesday,

There is a huge elephant in the room. As I write this blog on the eve of Dear Wednesday, I recognize that dating in my generation and generations coming into solid adulthood is not the dating of old. As much as some would love to bring back many of the traditions from yesteryear – opening car doors, zero discussion on who’s paying, knowing your role, pulling out chairs, sitting on the couch simply conversing, sending love notes – the reality is that much of that has blown away like the leaves falling from the trees this season.

And, to define the elephant in the room: women of all backgrounds are getting caught in a cyclone of non-committal, polyamorous, overachieving, hypersexual men, who have adopted a philosophy that perhaps monogamy (commitment to one person) is just a construct, and not a lifestyle worth striving for anymore. Some don’t think it works.

Some men have professed and do genuinely believe that commitment to one person is outdated, antiquated, and frankly unfit for the times.

I’ve done my own qualitative research simply by living as a 30-something single woman who has had the un-pleasure of observing culture and having conversations with men - older, younger or my age - on the dating environment. If I step on anyone’s toes today, sorry not sorry, but it appears that the terms - “open relationship”, “looking for fwb” (friends with benefits), “polyamorous”, “open marriage”, “looking for fun”, “not looking for anything serious,” “sapiosexual”, “grown folk only”, “come over and chill”, “separated and lonely” – are part of the expansion efforts of the fast-growing hookup culture.

Let me spell it out:

This photo signifies hookup culture: Cheap and Caged

1. Financially: some don’t want to spend money, whether they have it or not to spend. Katy Perry famously sang a song called “You Can’t Afford Me”. In some cases handsome delights can’t afford it, but many times they don’t want to afford you financially and certainly not emotionally. They simply want to hangout cheaply. BYOB – Bring Your Own Body over to my place. Let that sink in.

2. Relationally: Failed marriages, highly-emotional relationships, troubled communication, ratio of single women to men, and poor examples of men who lead well and treat women well have not helped matters. The philosophy of “what you won’t do, another one will” sours the atmosphere and sets a stage of expendability. While women are not expendable, there’s a sense that if a woman does not at least try to get with the program, there are plenty who he can replace her with quickly. Thanks to dating apps, he can have another hookup within hours.

Swipe left or right 24/7

3. Sexually: Sex with someone new is like a new video game or a tech trinket. It’s the hottest and the best, until its not. Then, revisions must be made to stay on top of the latest trends. It’s difficult to keep the attention of someone who changes partners every few seasons, weeks or even days. To hope that person can be faithful is tall order when they’ve never had to be faithful or seen anyone around them stay committed for long. Remember that sometimes you’re not dealing with a classic cheater. You’re dealing with someone who does not value commitment and monogamy, period.

4. Mentally: He is just fine where he is, which is saying just enough to keep you on your toes, confused, emotionally vested, angry but still hopeful. Yes, you’ve just entered a mind game. The sick, twisted part is that you like it and hate it. You hate yourself for continuing to make yourself available. But you know and he definitely knows that he’s got you in his side pocket. He already scoped you out, tested you, and knew that your sweet, kind, giving (and perhaps mildly desperate) self was just what he wanted to add to his collection. Am I hitting a nerve yet?

The hookup culture, now more mainstream than ever, ensures that women spend more time managing when men will call/text/visit more than they manage their own lives and further their missions.

A guy once told me he was “emotionally unavailable”. I asked, “what does that mean?” Frankly, I don’t think he knew solidly. All signs led to wanting fun without commitment. He wanted time on his time but could not or would not consider a commitment or marriage in the long run. His words said one thing, while his actions said another. When I called him out on the imbalance of his words and actions, he wanted to refer to trouble of previous relationships. He put on a show to try to get what he wanted, however much he wanted, whenever he was in the mood.

Let’s not waste any time.

He was not emotionally unavailable. He was COMPLETELY unavailable except for what served his purpose. He was unavailable except for those who did not ask too many questions. He was unavailable and charming. But most importantly is that, whether or not he realized it, he was unavailable for himself as he juggled women, had to keep up with lies, and lived in the fictitious land he created where he was the great and powerful Oz. Don’t forget, that the Wizard of Oz was simply a man behind a machine trying to be seen as greater than what he truly was. The Wizard was smoke and mirrors, not reality.

Will the real person please stand up?

It was because of my own personal boundaries that I was able to leave him behind and stop wasting my own time. However, I realize that many women would have tried to wait it out, stay, and hope for him to change. That’s because the promise of “not yet, but maybe soon” where hollow words and temporary touch sound better than alone time on a cold night.

The trouble with hookup culture is the smoke and mirrors. There’s no depth. No lifegiving, awe-inspiring love. No intentionality. No romance. It’s a façade of good times and no drama. But it doesn’t deliver on its promise of easy, relaxed, non-pressure. There are empty, meaningless words used over and over to achieve a climactic end with various people. Both men and woman can not go deep in that place. There’s no powerful revelation there.

It’s puny. It’s the punk’s way out. There’s simply denial, drama, and disappointment. Those who say they are looking for fun are truly just trying to keep from having to face themselves in the mirror.

Those who claim polyamory say it because it sounds culturally-cool and cutting-edge, when they have little idea how to navigate what it entails. Those who post pictures online with their significant others looking for a third party to amp up their intimacy are playing a dangerous game with their relationships and with their lives. Those who are emotionally unavailable, but want their flavor of the month to be available, hot and ready are discounting relationships, emotions, and attachment. Yes, sex creates attachment and, when poorly managed, it creates nasty wounds and cycles that can take years to correct.

That’s the reality of hookup culture. It is a vicious cycle that dishonors the parties involved. It devalues the bonds of commitment. Hookup culture defaces the joy of discovering and deciding if a person is “the one”. It hurts. It breaks people. It disrespects. It brings people down. It burns out and leaves people cold and breathless and wanting – so they go searching again to fill the void.

As we enter a new decade, I want you to think extensively about your relationships, your values, your standards (recall my blog on Self-Sabotage). Ask yourself if you are contributing to the hookup culture. Ask yourself if you’ve felt betrayed by those who said they wanted you, but really wanted you +2 more on the side. Ask yourself how deep you allowed yourself to be with Sir Booty Call before he stopped returning your phone call. Ask yourself who you are when you say no to hookup requests to spend the night not-so-cleverly disguised as "popcorn and a movie". Determine where you stand and stop agreeing with insanity just because you feel like you’ll never find your forever love.

There is a certain rottenness seeping through our communities. It’s called settling. It’s called down for whatever. It’s called zero accountability. It’s called lack of commitment and following every temptation. But that’s not the end.

Back in the day, when the club lights came on, makeup and hair was everywhere. Clothes were sweaty and funky, and people were trying to shield their faces. When we dare to shed light in dark places, we can gain clarity so that we don’t continue to participate in vicious cycles. We gain clarity in the light so that we can definitively say no, with courage and conviction. Realize that it's ok to go home alone.

What happens when the lights come on?

A growing cultural norm does not have to be your norm. You can choose another way.

Until next Wednesday…

Dr. Joy

P.S. I know some will want to implicate the women that they've encountered into this discussion on the advancement of hookup culture. Some will say women were willing participants and even the aggressors. That is another outcome of the expanding hookup culture. Simply put, "If you can't beat em, join em". We adapt to survive. We get along to keep from being alone. Societal norms are rapidly changing and the negative connections and cycles affect everyone involved regardless of even the most clearly-defined intentions (i.e. "you knew what this was"). So before you launch into a story about the woman who did not want to commit, take some time for self-evaluation first. Then please feel free to comment.

Until next time, Be good to yourself and others!

Evaluate your relationships!

Check your thought life!

And, invest in opportunities that increase your quality of life.

Brought to you fresh every Wednesday by your DWL Lifestyle Strategists.

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This Dear Wednesday Letter was hand-crafted by Dr. Joy. Dr. Joy Well, mental health clinician, confidence catalyst, professor, and avid researcher is one of the quintessential experts on the connection between the mind, body, and immune system. Her doctoral work explored the experiences of women of color living with autoimmune diseases and how they function and experience the medical community and beyond. Once a shy, small-town girl with big dreams, Joy has found peace and purpose working with women of all ages to develop a fierce, faith-filled identity, personally and professionally. She is a clinician and entrepreneur in mental health private practice, seeing all ages, backgrounds, and genders. After working with and writing on relationships, she is adopting more relationship strategy work in 2020. In her spare time, she enjoys music, movies, writing, and getting into mischief with friends. You can find Dr. Joy on social media @captivatingjoy on Instagram and Twitter. She is @drjoywell on Facebook.

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