Monday, February 26, 2018

Portrait of a Postmodern Relationship

A woman writes to Carolyn Hax about her daughter’s distressing life situation. Hax does not have an answer to this. She does not know what the mother should do. Neither do I.

Yet, we should ask ourselves how prevalent this modern relationship is. A successful young woman is living with her boyfriend. She is bright and personable; he is withdrawn and generally inert. She owns her home and he plays video games. She has a good job and he works occasionally. They do not communicate and obviously do not get along.

Sound familiar? Sound like the product of a culture that favors girls over boys, that encourages girls to be independent and autonomous and that tells boys to get in touch with their feminine sides. And also, a culture that tells girls that they should be so completely independent that they should never take advice.

Here’s the letter:

My daughter is in a relationship with her high school boyfriend. They are now living together in a different state with no relatives nearby. My daughter, 25, is a people person with a bubbly personality and makes friends easily. Her boyfriend does not. He prefers to stay home, work every now and then, and stay up all night playing video games online with other gamers.

She is a hard worker with a very well-paying job and owns her own home. However, she comes home to this situation.

In fact, when they are home together, there is no communication because he is doing his “own” thing while she just sits and becomes depressed. He tells her to go out with friends but she feels guilty and refuses.

This is the only boy she has ever dated and he is smothering her. I am going for a visit soon and want to talk to her about everything. Please advise me how to start the conversation without her thinking I want to control her life.

Carolyn Hax is not optimistic. Neither am I. The relationship in question is a product of a culture that is collapsing around us. We have played fast and loose with gender roles. We have brainwashed a generation or more of young people into thinking that women should be strong and empowered while men should not be breadwinners. And we told young women that they should never take advice from anyone. These young people are living the feminist dream.

How many similar relationships are out there? We know that more and more young men are spending more and more of their time playing video games. Most are in their parents' basement. Yet, a young man who is living off his girlfriend's work cannot feel good about himself. He cannot want to display his dereliction in public or even to face her. Unfortunately, he does not feel enough shame to change things. And she does not have enough sense to end things.


James said...

In a sense he's got it made and will continue this deal until it falls through, which it will, how is the question.

James said...

After thought: She has the worst of two worlds, the new feminism and the old way of being a wife/mother. She's caught in the old "mother him" deal and because of modern feminism won't or can't change or even ask for help.

Jack Fisher said...

Hard to assess this. We have only Mom's side of the story. As if she'd blame Daughter for anything, especially because Mom has to bear a lot of the blame.

Daughter chose Loser as a teenager. But it was Mom who taught (intentionally or otherwise) Daughter how to choose. While feminism is the usual speed bag, I look for more personable responsibility.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Unfortunately, he does not feel enough shame to change things.

I agree shame is an important issue here, and once someone has found a way to avoid his feelings of shame, staying in a dead-end relationship isn't going to save him.

Its easy to know what's going to happen, resentment in the daughter will win sooner or later.

OTOH, Jack's right we're only getting the mother's side. And we'd might like to know the relationship status of the mother and father. Who taught the daughter to have such low expectations?

Walt said...

The girl feels guilty; or, as the strong one, feels responsible for him; or, she's an emotional masochist; that, or the sex is really great