Navigating Modern Relationships: Dating, Friendships, and Boundaries for Gen Z Women
The modern relationship is hard to define because it often, purposefully, comes without a definition. Countless times now I’ve asked someone “are you two dating?” and gotten the response, “we haven’t defined it yet,” or some variation of “we don’t like labels.” They aren’t trying to be cryptic or difficult, or even attention-seeking: they just don’t have an answer for how their relationship should be defined because they don’t believe that it needs to be.
Situationships, friends with benefits, polyamorous relationships, or casual hookups through dating apps have increased in popularity over the past few years, and that is just to name the few dating styles that come with names. Loosely defined relationships are increasingly the norm, as people explore nontraditional forms of companionship in a judgment-free way.
Relational conflicts still need to be dealt with as they arise, but what kind of conflicts you encounter depends on what kind of relationship you have.
Modern-day relationships take many forms: polyamorous, asexual, aromantic. By enjoying someone’s company, but still maintaining your freedom, it's impossible not to see the appeal of a “no strings attached” arrangement.
Dating apps allow for meeting new people at the drop of a dime. The amount of time you spend getting to know each other is really up to you, but one conversation that needs to take place is the one about boundaries. Having the talk about personal preferences and exclusivity should happen sooner rather than later, leaving drama and miscommunication for movies and not your real life.
It’s important to understand, however, that while these relationships don’t always come with set definitions, they still, like all relationships, come with boundaries.
Media nowadays isn’t just sex positive but almost overwhelmingly sex positive at times, prioritizing consent and open communication when it comes to needs and, shockingly, wants. Women are finally being shamed less and a focus is now being placed on their pleasure. Shows like “Sex Education” take the “consent is sexy” motto to a whole new level.
Now, with the long overdue emphasis that is being placed on consent, the conversation around boundaries has never been easier.
Romantic and sexual relationships aren’t the only ones worthy of our attention. Friendships, while often taken for granted, need just as much care and focus as the other relationships in our lives.
Making friends in adulthood is famously hard to do. (Surrounding ourselves with likeminded people with whom we share common interests can feel like it has the same odds as winning the lottery). But finding friends in today’s world can be achieved through the same means that we use to find dates. Social media can isolate us from our friends but can also help us make them and dating apps can also be used when it comes to making platonic connections. The important thing is just to seek friends out wherever you can.
Gen Z has become somewhat of a chronically lonely generation. We spend our time on our phones and our laptops away from our peers, forming a self-made isolation that resulted in a cultural problem. Studies have found that the average Gen Z woman spends her evenings watching TV on her laptop, as opposed to out on the town.
The occasional night in is fine– especially if you lean more towards introversion– but too much downtime can result in feeling like you don’t have any meaningful relationships with those around you. You may feel like you have fun with your friends, but not that you have a shoulder to cry on when you need it most. Like with our romantic relationships, we need to be just as open and communicative with our friends, balancing our virtual lives with our real ones by knowing when to keep our distance and when to reach out. It is hard to take it too far when it comes to speaking to our friends, since it is not overstepping a boundary to check in on a friend.
If you’re unsure how much communicating your friend wants, that’s a question you should simply ask. That way you find the balance between stalking a friend and ignoring them, though try not to get offended by their answer.
Reminder: whether you’re looking to date or make friends, boundaries are the most important part of any relationship. Things can’t fall into place until boundaries are first established.