Are grandma and grandpa constantly asking when you’ll settle down and if you’ve met anyone lately? Letting you know they want to see your offspring in their lifetime? I feel. Add the aunts, uncles, cousins, and house pets and you’ve captured the day in the life of an average single millennial. Millennials get a bad rap for focusing on themselves, their careers, avoiding settling down, etc. In turn, millennials look to other generations, namely their grandparents, who seemed to have it so together. Married for 50+ years, still happy, never cheated or tempted by social media, the works.
But maybe they weren’t as perfect or happy as we think.
I spoke with Dr. Carmen McGuinness, a Board Certified Behavior Analysist and Acceptance and Commitment therapist, who shed of insight on the misunderstandings we have about our elders. And while we have a very Pleasantville outlook on our grandparents’ time, their relationships could’ve been more complicated than we think, even in recent years.
Dr. McGuinness suggests that while grandma and grandpa look happy as clams now, they perhaps weren’t always. While factors like attachment and sex can be turned on and off throughout the course of a relationship, there’s that inner personal connection that’s the glue:
“That’s the same thing you see when you see them walking along the beach hand-in-hand and you think, ‘Wow, that’s crazy look at that, they’ve gotta be 85.’ Having somebody else there to enjoy your cupcakes you just made, to light the candles after dark — whatever that shared thing it is you do, long after sex is gone, that’s the thing that makes us wonder, what the heck happened here?”
That inner personal bond, experiences only they have together, (among other things, depending on the relationship) is what holds grandma and grandpa together.
Even if they fought for decades prior.
“It might have been the most miserable 30 years before that, but when all of that stuff [sex, attachment] gets deactivated, it’s about being with another person.”
Our generations do have different mindsets, too. “Grandpa and grandpa were expected to marry for life,” she says. “We’re much more of a ‘me’ society… We understand it in a way our grandmothers did not, and maybe our mothers did but were ashamed of — but we’re not.”
So it doesn’t necessarily mean earlier generations had it more together than we did. But they accepted being with one person and eventually came to rely on that inner personal connection that life wouldn’t be the same without. Even if they couldn’t flipping stand each other at times. And because a lot of us are more focused on ourselves, maybe we aren’t giving ourselves opportunities to find those connections and let them grow for such long periods of time.