Conservatives are constantly bemoaning the plummeting marriage rates. We often see marriage as a solution to various societal ills and are frustrated that it seems like so many young people are choosing not to marry. As someone who married young, and is still in my 20s, I’m in the position to observe what my friends and family members are going through in the dating world, and I’m so very thankful that I’m not in it! And Valentine’s Day only highlights the problems. 

People see Valentine’s Day in many different lights. For some, it’s a day to take a moment and celebrate their significant other. For others, they forgo the romance and celebrate their friendships (as women do with “Galentines”). For still others, it’s a stressful holiday where you can’t be left without a date. But the dating world these days is not for the faint of heart. 

Katrina Trinko, editor-in-chief at the Daily Signal, highlights what single men and women are up against these days:

It’s easy to blame everything on men, but it’s a societal problem that the dating world is treated by many as more of a game than a way to actually find a spouse. The issue is complex and hard to diagnose. 

We can blame cultural changes and technological advancements (like birth control and dating) for dramatically changing how both men and women approach sex and relationships. We’re reaping the consequences of those changes.  

We can blame women’s empowerment, and rise in the professional world, as a reason for women to delay marriage so that they can focus on their careers without the burden of children and family life.

We can blame the rise of porn, and how enslaved many men, in particular, have become to it. Not only does it change their expectations of what is reasonable and acceptable in a relationship (think the number of women who have been choked during sex), it further detaches sex from any real relationship with emotion and commitment. 

But the reality is that with this dating scene, we, as part of our society, have enabled it by treating each other so shamefully. We allow ourselves to be treated as disposable and view relationships as ways to satisfy our desires without acknowledging the work that is necessary for any lasting relationship.

Those of older generations suggest the old-fashioned ways of meeting someone at church, or work, or school. And those are still great, I was lucky enough to meet my husband in college. But those institutions aren’t as strong as they used to be. And while we’ve all heard the horrors of dating apps, sometimes that can work out too—especially considering all the different ones out there and how they cater differently to single individuals. 

I won’t pretend to have the solutions, I can only empathize with my friends and family members who are still fighting the good fight. But for those of us not in the dating world, we need to listen to those who are and understand that many really are trying to find a spouse. Families truly are the foundation of society. We need more of them in the U.S. (and globally), but we can’t solve everything by telling singles to “just get married.”

It’s a rough world out there so this Valentine’s Day, let’s give those singles some extra grace.