WHY do those who seek long-term partners seem to be finding it so difficult?

Over the past few years I have observed a pattern, reading and hearing comments from people in the up-to-35 age bracket that they cannot find partners. This view was reinforced around a dinner table recently, and I can’t easily identify the exact factors behind this situation. What has changed from 40 years ago?


There will always be some people who don’t need or want relationships that we might describe as permanent.


For those who do, why is it that the search is so difficult? And why is this the case when young people are using technology to socialise much more than previous generations, yet so many say they are not meeting the person with whom they want to spend the rest of their lives?

Today, young people have at their disposal all the traditional opportunities and venues of past generations for meeting partners; places of education, pubs, clubs – even the No.72 tram, in my case. Then take into account their access to computers, smartphones, various internet-enabled devices, dozens of dating portals, Facebook and Twitter. They seem constantly to be texting or talking on their mobile phones. Young people seem to be communicating and socialising more than ever.


On top of the electronic tools at their disposal, they go out for breakfast, coffee, lunch and dinner. They no longer seem to eat at home. So much so that we are now constructing flats and units without traditional kitchens as we used to know them – in favour of benchtop microwaves and toasters for the occasional cup of tea or a slice of toast. In speaking with my younger audience, a number of factors have been offered to me to better understand this massive change in social trends.

YOU’VE hit your mid-30s; you’re unmarried, what’s wrong with you? This is a question often asked by young people of themselves when they have not found their lifelong partner. It is also a question often asked or implied by parents of young adults as those parents face the realisation that grandchildren might not be forthcoming. EXPECTATIONS have changed. Forty years ago there was a community expectation that a person would get married, and that this would more often than not occur in their early to mid-20s. That expectation has now shifted 10 years back in time, to the mid-30s, but the pressure is still strong.


MORE young people want to travel while young. There is plenty of evidence to support this, made possible through the ease of online bookings and the lower cost of travel.


MANY young people, especially young women, want to pursue careers. This is the reality of better education and of changing community attitudes. Far more women than ever before work in pursuit of a career and personal fulfilment, for independence and for financial security. The view has also been expressed that in the case of men a partner can actually help an individual’s career.

CAREERS change more regularly and many feel they have not built up a sufficient asset base to commit to a permanent relationship. We are free agents of our time. Many people expect more of their jobs and are not prepared to commit to lasting partnerships.

THERE are more things to do today. Life today is a smorgasbord of work, sport, involvement in cultural interests and socialising. A “let’s try them all” approach is common among the young.

THE search for Mr or Ms Right. Are expectations today higher than they were 40 years ago? Back then, mutual love, affection, respect and enjoyment in each other’s company seemed to be the norm. Today it is as often about image, and the ability to provide the house, the car and all the modcons. SEXUAL compatibility. I can’t answer this with any authority, but I do not think sex was the biggest motivator for the establishment of long-term partnerships 40 years ago. If children were intended, certainly the overwhelming views of that time supported children born in wedlock.

From what I hear today, sex is not the sole motivation for a long-term relationship. It is companionship, being wanted and wanting someone else. Certainly many people seeking marriage or a relationship want children, but they are having trouble identifying Mr or Ms Right, with whom to have those children.

Today it seems you can have several partners with whom you can maintain friendly sexual relationships.

WITH all the social media tools available, young people are able to form an opinion of a person before they even meet, just by looking at their Facebook page. Often, these have been doctored to portray a particular image of the individual that is not real. Maybe, just maybe the increased access through social media is preventing people getting to know each other before forming an educated opinion.

People are socialising more and there are possibly too many options. It is increasingly harder to identify the person who stands out most as a prospective partner.

THE grass is always greener on the other side. The world is a smaller place than it was 40 years ago. Why should a person settle on a partner from down the street, from the same suburb, the same city, the same state or even from within Australia, when we are closer to people of the world? There are just so many choices and options. 

LOTS of couples today break up or get divorced. To be part of or a witness to these separations and the impact they have on the friends of young people, makes them more cautious about giving their heart away too easily. The result is that many young people are just waiting for that one special person to come along and knock them off their feet. Maybe they are expecting too much. Increasingly, young people are living in hope of the impossible dream, or finding an impossible partner.

PARTNERS compromise and threaten the independence of some young people. Today the young have plenty of time for friends, and lead busy lives. If a new partner, however, does not fit in to that established social circle then that lifestyle is over. There is no simple answer. Over the past 40 years of my life, social interaction has changed considerably. For better? For worse? I have no idea. I just want those members of our younger generation who want partners to find them.

 My life would not have been as rich on my own as it is with my partner and all that has resulted from that relationship. But then again maybe I am just a dinosaur! Beats me, I can’t explain it. Maybe you, dear readers, can help me understand.

(Author: Jeff Kennett. Source: Herald Sun, Friday, September 23, 2011)

Jeff Kennett is a former premier of Victoria

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One comment

  1. A rather thought provoking piece about a difficult issue of our times which does not have any clear-cut answers. It is difficult for people to meet, and just as difficult for them to stay together. Our modern world in its attempts to solve the problems of the past created new problems and complicated matters further, and it seems no one is truly happy or satisfied at where they are at, while the result appears to speak for itself. If anything we would suggest that having “friends with benefits” as it is called today, clouds our discernment and probably causes us to overlook the person who is mr or miss right because we are too preoccupied enjoying the “benefits” of another person’s “friendship”. Nevertheless it is a lamentable sign of the times and it is not confined to Western countries as some may assert, for the same things happen all over the world, from India to the Middle East, from Bolivia to Canada, from Congo to Mongolia. This phenomenon, the fickleness of modern relationships, does not discriminate between race or religion, but confronts all peoples with the gravest problem of all, loneliness. Many more things could be said, but it is best for a discussion article.

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