HONOLULU, September 6, 2016 – Never mind the apocalyptic woes of global climate change, international terrorism, or a market-killing currency collapse. For late-blooming GenXers and many older Millennials, the fear of being forever alone can be one of the most terrifying worries that plague younger single Americans today.
The frustrating quest for spiritual release from dating purgatory is a gateway few singles today seem capable of discovering on their own. As one who never accepts “impossible” as a final judgment, however, this columnist sought out the expertise of internationally renowned relationship guru and best-selling author Susan Winter for answers on how our single CDN readers can break through to love and romance in 2016.
It’s a tough assignment, though, even for Ms. Winter. Here are the cold, hard facts.
Over 107 million people aged 18 or older are single in the United States today, an estimated 63 percent of whom have never been married in their entire life. The age for a first marriage in America now averages out to the early 30s. More and more Americans are choosing to live alone than in prior generations, and for many, the ritual of courtship has devolved into a never-ending cycle of quixotic, failed relationships that never deliver a love that lasts.
Like the fictional Dr. Sam Beckett from the 1990s TV series “Quantum Leap,” it seems that many of America’s singles today find themselves driven by some unknown force as they frantically leap from relationship to relationship, “striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping that each leap will be the leap home.”
Which brings us back to Susan Winter. Highly sought after and featured on Oprah, the Today Show, Good Morning America, and countless other prestigious global outlets eager to tap her razor-sharp intuition and uncanny ability to decode the riddle of the human heart, Winter brings practical advice, heartwarming encouragement, and a dynamic, can-do attitude toward overcoming common relationship obstacles.
Offering a YouTube channel whose expansive library of short videos address every conceivable modern relationship issue, ranging from how to interpret text messages from former lovers, survive break-up drama threats, and even escape the black hole of the much-dreaded “I like you as a friend zone,” Winter also offers personalized advice that also allows clients to share their dating issues and find answers.
Winter emphasizes the vital importance of transparency as an unavoidable prerequisite for not only relationship success, but personal happiness. To be happy, she believes you have to be true to yourself and forthright with those you care about. But in today’s commitment-averse world of moonlight kisses that far too often cool in the warmth of the sun, telling a potential beloved you desire greater intimacy and connection with him or her could easily drive that special person away.
Fearing rejection, what is a person supposed to do? Winter reveals that the spiritual and emotional benefits of being true to yourself far outweigh the risk of losing someone who can’t handle the truth.
“Only an open heart,” Winter tells us, “can catalyze another heart’s opening. But the teaching of this is like pulling teeth with some individuals.”
Dr. Danny de Gracia: Susan, you have an incredible gift and talent for understanding human cognitive processes and the dynamics of modern relationships. Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got interested in what some might term the “science of love.”
Susan Winter: This is actually a late-life career choice. I originally came to NYC as an opera singer. Though I loved the work, I didn’t enjoy the day-to-day lifestyle. I shifted careers several times, from corporate spokeswoman to consultant, and then to financial news host of my own show on FNN, now CNBC.
I never anticipated becoming a writer and relationship expert. But my private life quickly became a public conversation when I found myself in love with a man twenty years younger than myself.
In the early 1990s, there were no books on this subject, no manuals to follow, and no one to guide me. Intensifying this drama, it all took place in a rural setting where I’d built a home to escape New York City crime.
Though I knew my relationship was different, I didn’t realize that “different” means “bad” to many folks. And by extension, that “I am bad.” The character defamation, gossip, and wild accusations circulating about me in my little community demanded that I dig deep to fortify myself just to get through each day.
I had two Susans: Susan, the observer of this cruel witch-hunt, who was searching for rational answers, and Susan the human, who was struggling to survive its daily impact.
I needed to find compassion, yet maintain my inner strength. I needed to decode the reasons for the choices made by those around me, while trying to understand the complexity of the cutting-edge partnership in which I found myself.
I realized that the answers we seek are rarely black and white. Humans are comprised of a fluid mixture of emotions. Yet, in studying the patterns of human behavior I saw all around me it became clear that much of our reactivity is fairly predictable – even in its grayness. I began to piece together a collection of thought-blueprints, personality types, and possible outcomes of corresponding behavior. This inner work helped me make sense of my world, and make sense of the actions of those around me.
Though immensely painful, this experience proved to be a supreme blessing. I realized that living our truth is vitally important. I’d never had to fight to defend my love before. I chose the pen rather than a sword. I felt I needed to speak up for all the couples that had suffered discrimination – for the sole crime of loving someone “inappropriate.”
“Only an open heart can catalyze another heart’s opening.”
DDG: One of the things that I’ve noticed is that the rise of the networked society and stellar leaps in technology over the last thirty years have really increased the bounds of human knowledge. But one thing that seems to have lagged is emotional intelligence, the competence and discernment in how people relate to one another. Your articles, books, and videos are basically about putting people back in touch with what’s most important, the bond that connects us. Do you think that in raising the next generation of children, Millennial parents should encourage their children to develop their emotional intelligence skills more?
Winter: Certainly, that would be optimal. But how can we ask a group of people to instill in their children the emotional discernment they themselves may lack?
Millennials have been equally blessed and cursed. One of the brightest and most creative generations to date, they’ve actively changed the landscape of what we know as “business.” Egalitarian and inclusive, they value emotional intelligence, while communicating via emojis and truncated text messages.
For all the merits technological advancement has brought us, human bonding is the one area that’s suffered the consequences of these gains. Interpersonal relationship skills have become increasingly difficult for those individuals who’ve known the comfort of one-way communication platforms.
In former generations, we’d come together with our friends and loved ones to share our experiences through interactive dialogue. Today, most of our sharing is done in monologue. We comment on Facebook. We send text messages to our friends. We shoot off an email to a colleague. The interconnected world of monologue output removes us from the heart and emotion of our communication. We’re able to respond if and when we like, measuring our words, and claiming, “I never got it” to the people we seek to avoid.
Though they live in a world of continual communication, Millennials are the generation that has struggled the hardest to find their way to meaningful connection. Fortunately, we place a high-value worth on the things we lack. I believe this talented generation will find their own process of correction, as parents. Independent of generational differences, all parents want a better world for their children.
In the midst of this cultural shift, there’s a bittersweet price we pay for our advancement. We often lose precious remnants of what we loved from a former time, while on route to creating newer vehicles of expansion.
Each generation has a need to counteract the perceived deficits of its previous generation. This constant cycling of new formulas amend “what is” to create a better “what will be.”
DDG: Today, one of the most difficult things for many people in not only America, but in Western countries is to find a spouse. The age that people are getting married for the first time is steadily increasing, and more and more people are living alone. Many people, especially among Generation X, tried earnestly to get married in their twenties but just didn’t make it. What would be your advice to older people who are seeking to find a mate?
Winter: I agree that it’s getting harder to find a mate for a rewarding relationship these days. As an evolving society, we expect far more from our partnerships – and partners – than we did in previous time periods.
Additionally, modern women have lost the impetus to find a man for reasons of social mobility and financial security. They have both, and by their own merit. With this need eliminated, women are getting pickier about their romantic choices. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. People are less willing to settle these days just to comply with social convention.
The marriages we see occurring later in life seem to render a longer shelf life. There’s been much research on this trend, and it appears that inner solidity combined with career stability creates a stronger foundation for lasting partnership.
My suggestion is to get very clear on the type of partnership you want. This enables you to articulate your end-goals to prospective partners. Also, get clear on your “must-haves” in terms of disposition, values, and character. These foundational elements will assist your partner selection process. By focusing on the internal qualities that you need and want in a mate, you’ll be better able to recognize that person when they show up in your life.
In the meantime, enjoy the life you have. Being single can be a valuable and rewarding experience when you invest in yourself and discover what you love. The more you add to your life when single, the more you’ll be able to add to your partnership when coupled.
“Though they live in a world of continual communication, Millennials are the generation that has struggled the hardest to find their way to meaningful connection.”