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Spoiled For Choice: The Generation That Dates Differently

Therapy is hot. Emotional intelligence is foreplay. Clearly communicated expectations and boundaries are the lube to Gen Z’s love life. Is it just me, or is it hot in here?

Gossip Girl, HBO ©

Gen Z is loving differently, taking old traditions and asking, "But, like, why?" We are questioning what it means to love well, and there is way more emphasis on creating healthy, consensual, and healing connections. We are, above all else, well-informed, and that has resulted in a ravenous curiosity. We are f**king around and finding out what actually works for us rather than squeezing ourselves into relationship dynamics that simply don’t fit. Gen Z is less afraid to explore their sexuality, and there is a hell of a lot less stigma around doing so. The constraints that potentially kept our parents’ love lives in "check" are no longer afforded the same authority. We are the most (admittedly) queer generation, yet with a fifth of us identifying as LGBT and interracial relationships are way less taboo and, at least as far as I’ve seen, the new normal.

One of the ways people are exploring alternative ways of loving is through polyamory. Intentionally non-monogamous dating is all the rage and not the same as simply keeping your options open. Dating in the classical sense usually involves seeing multiple people with the ultimate end goal of finding a singular, monogamous partner. While polyamory can take on many different forms and dynamics, the defining feature is intentionally maintaining multiple non-exclusive relationships indefinitely (often permanently). Relationships can go as deep or remain as casual as either party wants, and everyone involved is consenting and informed.

It seems like plenty of people within my dating pool have discovered that non-monogamy is the relationship dynamic of their dreams. Maybe I just have a type, but every other person I swipe past on the dating apps boasts the phrase “poly and partnered” or “open relationship” in their bio. For young people, open relationships wherein they commit romantically but are free to branch out sexually offer a chance to maintain a relationship while still exploring, traveling, and discovering themselves. Obviously, twenty-somethings didn’t invent non-monogamy, but they are certainly crushing on all sorts of alternative dating.

Gossip Girl, HBO ©

Our media is reflecting this interest in plural dating, with the throuple getting its time in the spotlight in shows like the Gossip Girl reboot, The Politician, and Elite. I’ve personally already been there, tried that with non-monogamy, and realized it wasn’t necessarily my jam— although I did learn a ton from the experience. Even those of us who prefer monogamy are taking notes from those who are actively deconstructing hetero-patriarchal romantic expectations. Lessons that carry over regardless of whether you have 5 partners or 1 include challenging controlling behaviors and questioning expectations of marriage and children as the default happy ending. Regardless of if it’s for you, it's just one of the many options Gen Z is exploring with gusto.

We are spoiled for choice. Especially in a big city, meet-cutes are abundant and easily manufactured with the help of a dating algorithm. Pretty much everything is on the table. We’re better connected than ever before and able to explore love that may not have felt as accessible to generations before. You can be monogamous, you can sleep with a ton of people with no need for romance, you can fall in love with two people, and they could fall in love with each other, as long as everyone is safe and consenting; it’s yours.


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