Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

The Hook Up Culture Leads To Emptiness And Pain

Love hangover

The landmark study by University of Texas sociology professor Norval Glenn and Elizabeth Marquardt, "Hooking Up, Hanging Out and Hoping For Mr. Right", reported that women in modern America  are given the choice of two extreme models of romantic heterosexual relationships: "hooking up'" or being "joined at the hip."The hook up, practiced by 40 percent of women in the study, is "friends with benefits," meaning casual sex without commitment.  The other common relationship is "joined at the hip," where a couple that doesn't know each other very  well commits to a sexual relationship and spends all their time together.

Author Dannah Gresh notes that the "hook up culture"  is no free lunch:

"What happens if you get caught up in the friends-with-benefits game and have multiple partners? What happens when the partners you've become addicted and bonded to are gone? You experience withdrawl symptoms in the emotional center of the brain."

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

It turns out that in the deep limbic system of the brain  the detailed romantic artifacts of odor, music, symbols and memory are stored. Gresh says that although many practitioners of the hook up culture claim they can have the mythological no-strings-attached relationship celebrated in the long-running sitcom "Seinfeld", it isn't possible. Physiology won't let us.

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead observed, "There is something in the new single woman's professed desire for marriage that runs against the official story of women's social progress." The physiological desire to bond permanently contradicts the political predicate taught in women's studies departments across the nation  that equates marriage with oppression. Women have been encouraged for half a century to behave promiscuously to destroy their "dog-like devotion to men." But denying our physiology that bonds us to another human being just leads to emptiness and pain. 


J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.


Subscribe to Repairing Relationships

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.