Relationships in 2019 and Beyond

An ever wider range of practices will be available and societally approved of.

Posted Dec 06, 2018

Pride-Flags, Deviant Art, CC 2.0
pan-sexual flag
Source: Pride-Flags, Deviant Art, CC 2.0

Today, I was pre-interviewed for an hour-long appearance this coming Tuesday on the BBC World Service’s program, The Real Story. The topic is the future of relationships.

The BBC contacted me because I had written a Psychology Today article: The Future of Relationships. That was written almost three years ago so I thought you might find it helpful if I describe my current thinking as I presented it to the BBC today.

The future of long-term relationships

Flexible marriage contracts. One-size-fits-all “''Til Death Do Us Part” marriage contracts will increasingly be replaced by a continuum of renewable marriage contracts that could last from one month to a lifetime.

The traditional heterosexual lifetime marriage contract will fall further out of favor because of women’s increasing financial independence from men, the decline in the kind of religiosity in which copulation without marriage is deemed sinful, and because of the anger many women are feeling toward men, deeming them privileged, oppressors, mansplainers, etc. Fewer women will want to marry a person of a gender they resent. Conversely, fewer men will want to wed a woman who harbors strong resentment of men.

More going solo.  More people will opt to have mainly casual relationships or to live long-term solo (Bella De Paulo's Living Single blog here on Psychology Today explores that in depth.)

Acceptance of marriage beyond LGBT. Acceptance of non-traditional marriage will, over time, extend beyond LGBT couples to triads or even larger groups.

Committed but living apart. There will be more committed couples living separately for part or all the time.

The future of sex

Greater sexual diversity. The norm of binary heterosexual monogamy will slowly give way to the full continuum: from asexuality to sex-centricity, from binary heterosexuality or homosexuality to pansexuality, from monogamy to polyamory.

Sex and Romance Robots. Quite functional sex robots already exist, appealing to women and men. For example, one company produces a RealDoll that appeals primarily to heterosexual men and a RealCock that appeals primarily to women and homosexual men. Sex robots are particularly useful to the physically and/or mentally disabled but these enjoy wider use.

Sex robots will become additionally appealing, perhaps even becoming more of a romance robot than a pure-sex robot as artificial intelligence enables them to perceive and respond to facial expressions, verbal tone, body language, and words. Already, an empathic robot, Pepper, exists. And Gartner VP of Research, Annette Zimmermann, said: “By 2022, your personal device will know more about your emotional state than your own family.” A next stage in the development of romantic robots could be that, unlike the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner that always says “yes,” a romance robot will sometimes disagree or propose alternatives. Few people want more than a casual relationship with a partner who’s just a yes-person. Yet another other potential use for romance robots is training: Many people complain of inept sexual partners. Romance robots could give a person feedback on which or his or her words and sexual behaviors make the romance robot happy or unhappy.

Increase in auto-eroticism. According to a 2017 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, between 1989 and 2014, sexual activity dropped despite the broader societal acceptance of sexuality and the popularity of websites that facilitate quick sex such as Tinder. Multiple factors are likely causal, for example, today's more stressful lives, broader availability, and acceptability of porn, more people taking medications with sexual side effects, and the aforementioned tension between the sexes. So, many people are addressing their sexual desires primarily with masturbation, porn, and/or sex workers. Further evidence of the trend toward autoeroticism exists, for example, in the growth in porn use (including extensive LGBT porn on major porn sites) the Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) movement, and the popular and expanding Grand Openings/Good Vibrations chain of stores.

The takeaway

From Adam-and-Eve to today, relationships have been core to human existence and I predict always will be. It may even be that, as ever more jobs are automated, many people will have more free time but limited income and thus will have more availability for and interest in relationships. In any case, I am optimistic that the increased choices in relationships and in sexuality as described in this article will, net, yield the world greater happiness.