By Ashlyn Thomas, Staff Writer

If you’re a millennial sorting out the meaning of love in a culture of loveless hookups, you’re not alone. Hook up culture presents the chance for a ‘Hello-Goodbye’ exchange, one that isn’t really a relationship at all.  However, this generation is beginning to show a new shift toward healthy, commitment-filled relationships. The seemingly endless hooking up cycle continues to present daunting evidence that giving up sex for a higher ideal, long lasting commitment and love, is harder than expected.

Hook up culture has an image--an unspoken, vivid image of men and women using each other as pawns for self pleasure. Yet, we are told by our culture that we should be fine with this. In reality, this kind of love -- if love at at -- hurts.

Here are three ways for millennials to say no to hook up culture.

Realize love isn’t casual.

Hooking up leaves men and women feeling empty. An acquaintance asked if I thought love existed. She shared how trapped she felt in an unsatisfying relationship. Her boyfriend wanted intimate photos and weekend hookups, and all she wanted was to be loved. She wanted real love, but she was afraid to say no. She was caught in the hooking up cycle.

Contrary to what society led her to believe, love isn’t casual. There is only one kind of love, one of self-sacrifice and total giving. Like many in the hookup culture, men and women feel used, unsatisfied, and unloved.

Tip: Acknowledge your worth. Why do we deserve better than one night stands? We deserve better because we were made for more. We are intelligent people looking for fulfilling relationships. Love is a sharing of vulnerability, not objectivity. We desire to love and be loved--but the kind of love that lasts rejects the casual ideas culture has espoused. By realizing this, we can take the first steps in knowing that love gives and receives. Love is freely given.

Don’t be confused.

Hookup culture confuses us about intimacy. If love isn’t an overnight feel-good, and it isn’t long term, then what is love anyway? Simply, love is a gift of yourself to the other person, made freely and totally. Living in this culture, we see “Love” getting thrown around too freely. Clearly, society misinterprets the understanding of intimacy and friendship, thus giving rise to the confusion of sexuality. Because of the hook up culture, our generation has lost the understanding of the beautiful complimentarity between men and women. 

Tip: Understand what love is. Today, many people downplay the importance of spending time with married couples. By spending time with couples, we are privy in seeing the realistic happiness of a committed relationship.

Commit yourself to commitment.

Relationships seem contingent on getting what each other wants in the hookup culture. Previous generations have demonstrated that unstable relationships end in divorce. One young man said he preferred having a no-strings-attached relationship because he didn’t see the point in investing in a relationship he knew would fail. The problem, it seems, is that the moment we stop believing in commitment, or the challenge to commit fully, imperfect love means nothing in the world of “I Do.” Any form of commitment in a generation so influenced by instant gratification, is scarce.

Tip: Choose to commit by saying what you mean. In every relationship be honest and direct. Mean ‘I Love You’. When my parents first said “I love you” in the early beginnings of their relationship, my mother was the one who said it to my father. She tells me, “I wasn’t embarrassed. It just slipped out!” It’s okay to be raw and open. 

Join the conversation of love by saying no to a loveless relationship. Saying ‘no’ begins with us. Be a part of the solution for our generation to avow itself to the realizing of real love.