No App For That, Millennials Struggle With Love And Commitment

The yearning for a stable relationship is big, but the expectations for today's young adults are even bigger. And in the Internet age, the options always seem endless.

It's not you, it's me ...
It's not you, it's me ...
Fanny Jimenez


BERLIN â€" If you focus solely on yourself, you'll miss true love. This is the driving message of Michael Nast's book Generation Beziehungsunfähig ("A Generation Unable to Commit"), which has become a bestseller in Germany.

The generation in question â€" the so-called Millennials, or Generation Y, born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s â€" is plagued by that constant feeling that there's something better out there somewhere. And now, Nast's book seems to have hit a nerve. "A lot of people think they aren't capable of having a healthy relationship," he says.

Still, this concept of unconquerable self-absorption may be overstated. Scientists have shown that there is universal desire for a classic, stable partnership. Only the expectations, and the idea of what it should represent, have changed dramatically over generations.

Its purpose and place in life have changed too. People aren't in relationships anymore because it's comfortable. These days, it must have some added value. A partnership is something people invest in only if it's really worth it. Today's romantic relationships also suffer from a general mania about "optimization."

What do people want? The perfect partner. And the possibilities have become more than vast, thanks to the Internet. So in a world where the desire for partnership is unaltered, isn't it wrong to speak of an "inability to commit"?

Franz Never, head of the institute of Psychology at Germany's Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena, is skeptical. "People certainly are not incapable of committing," he says. "Everyone needs, and is looking for, an emotional anchor, someone they can hold on to, trust, someone who shares the good and the bad with them."

Statistics also undermine the notion of commitment troubles. For years, singles have comprised a minority of the population, between 20% and 25%. Even the incidence of divorce is falling. In 2005 the divorce rate was about 52%, but by 2014 it had dropped to 43%. Moreover, marriages generally last about three years longer than they did 20 years ago.

Still, some of the more recent data are not so rosy. The number of weddings has declined over the last 10 years, and the number of couples divorcing after their silver wedding anniversary has doubled over 20 years.

Strategic changes

What's the true story behind this supposed "inability to commit"? Benigna Gerisch, a professor of clinical psychology and psychoanalysis, has studied the phenomenon. What has changed is what Gerisch calls the "Susie principle." She has treated many women in the past who suffered from miserable lives as mistresses, depending on men who weren't available, often married â€" and who certainly didn't plan to change anything.

These loving, waiting, unhappy women are very rare today, Gerisch says. Today's Susie do become mistresses, if they want to. But the moment these women change their goals, they also change their strategy.

Among Gerisch’s patients today are depressed men who have been ditched by their mistresses because they found other available men, probably also better-looking and wealthier.

It's not you, it's us ... â€" Photo: Bart Booms

Eli Finkel's team of scientists from Northwestern University analyzed this evolution in their latest publication. They use Maslow's hierarchy of needs to explain human needs, in what order they have to be satisfied and where relationships fit into the mix.

The most fundamental needs are physiological ones like hunger. Once satisfied, people can move on to the next step â€" security. Economic security but also the need to live in a controllable and predictable world. Next are love and belonging, the wish to be loved and to be part of a group. Then there are more individual needs like the desire for prestige, respect, success. Atop Maslow's pyramid are self-actualization, personal growth, autonomy. Historically, the last two needs developed much later than the first ones â€" only once everything else was covered. Today it's a natural claim to satisfy those needs.

The consequence of such a perception of entitlement is that relationships have adopted an "all-or-nothing" status. That's especially true because the rise of the Internet and online dating have multiplied the number of potential candidates. Even if a partner satisfies all the current needs, there is another candidate at every corner, who is probably even more perfect.

"No matter if you want that or not, the pressure for efficiency and optimization is part of our everyday private and professional lives and we have to deal with it," Finkel says. "Many have adopted and internalized this cultural norm because it seems logical. Why wouldn't you want to improve and make progress?"

Psychologist Caryl Rusbult has developed a model of investment that helps predict whether a relationship will keep its non-binding character. It says that commitment depends on three factors: how happy someone is with his or her relationship, existence and availability of potential alternative partners, and readiness to integrate the partner into one's life. In the age of the Internet, says Rusbult's model, all three factors are influenced in a way that makes satisfying relationships much harder to build.

If you're in a relationship today and count on remaining there, you really have to want it. In general, people do want stable relationships. But there's a huge difference between what people say they want, and what they really want.

Michael Nast doesn't want to be eternally single. But right now he's so busy. There's the book tour, photo shoots. His job is his self-realization. His ex-girlfriend, on the other hand, says that everything that makes him good at his job was just deadly for their relationship.

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Protests against gasoline price hikes in Lebanon

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Wai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where leaked documents show how some countries are lobbying to change a key report on climate change, Moscow announces new full lockdown and the world's first robot artist is arrested over spying allegations. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt looks at the rapprochement between two leaders currently at odds with Europe: UK's BoJo and Turkey's Erdogan.

[*Bodo - India, Nepal and Bengal]


• Documents reveal countries lobbying against climate action: Leaked documents have revealed that some of the world's biggest fossil fuel and meat producing countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, are trying to water down a UN scientific report on climate change and pushing back on its recommendations for action, less than one month before the COP26 climate summit.

• COVID update: The city of Moscow plans to reintroduce lockdown measures next week, closing nearly all shops, bars and restaurants, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a nationwide seven-day workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to combat the country's record surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. Meanwhile, India has crossed the 1 billion vaccinations milestone.

• India and Nepal floods death toll passes 180: Devastating floods in Nepal and the two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Kerala have killed at least 180 people, following record-breaking rainfall.

• Barbados elects first ever president: Governor general Dame Sandra Mason has been elected as Barbados' first president as the Caribbean island prepares to become a republic after voting to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

• Trump to launch social media platform: After being banned from several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would launch his own app called TRUTH Social in a bid "to fight back against Big Tech." The app is scheduled for release early next year.

• Human remains found in hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance: Suspected human remains and items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park, more than one month after his disappearance. Laundrie was a person of interest in the murder of his fiancee Gabby Petito, who was found dead by strangulation last month.

• Artist robot detained in Egypt over spying fear: Ai-Da, the world's ultra-realistic robot artist, was detained for 10 days by authorities in Egypt where it was due to present its latest art works, over fears the robot was part of an espionage plot. Ai-Da was eventually cleared through customs, hours before the exhibition was due to start.


"Nine crimes and a tragedy," titles Brazilian daily Extra, after a report from Brazil's Senate concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro and his government had failed to act quickly to stop the deadly coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of crimes against humanity.


Erdogan and Boris Johnson: A new global power duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too, write Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung in German daily Die Welt.

🇹🇷🇬🇧 According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey. The country has long felt left out in the cold, at odds with the European Union over a number of issues. Yet now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting his sights on another country, which also wants to become more independent from Europe: the UK.

⚠️ Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel always argued for closer collaboration with Turkey. She never supported French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas about greater strategic autonomy for countries within the EU. But now that she's leaving office, Macron is keen to make the most of the power vacuum Merkel will leave behind. The prospect of France's growing influence is "not especially good news for Turkey," says Ian Lesser, vice president of the think tank German Marshall Fund.

🤝 At the UN summit in September, Erdogan had a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recently opened Turkish House in New York. Kalin says it was a "very good meeting" and that the two countries are "closely allied strategic partners." He says they plan to work together more closely on trade, but with a particular focus on defense. The groundwork for collaboration was already in place. Britain consistently supported Turkey's ambition to join the EU, and gave an ultimate proof of friendship after the failed coup in 2016.

➡️


"He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life."

— David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter, following the announcement that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders. Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin, is praised for his "immense personal bravery" in fighting Putin's regime. The European Parliament called for his immediate release from jail, as Russian authorities opened a new criminal case against the activist that could see him stay in jail for another decade.



Chinese video platform Youku is under fire after announcing it is launching a new variety show called in Mandarin Squid's Victory (Yóuyú de shènglì) on social media, through a poster that also bears striking similarities with the visual identity of Netflix's current South Korean hit series Squid Game. Youku apologized by saying it was just a "draft" poster.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Anyone want to guess Trump's first post on his upcoming social media platform...? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at!

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