Reading NYT columnist Thomas Friedman’s recent Op-Ed piece “How We’ve Lost Our Moorings as a Society,” got me thinking about how the dating world is also losing its moorings.

In his article, Friedman talks about the loss of social, normative, and political guardrails, and how the things that once held us together–morals, values, civility, and respect—are failing us, and falling out of favor as people feel less compelled to do the right thing.

Friedman uses the loss of mangroves in nature as an analogy to prove his point. Mangroves, if you didn’t know, are “thickets of trees that often live underwater along tropical coastlines. They filter toxins and pollutants through their extensive roots, they provide buffers against giant waves set off by hurricanes and tsunamis, they create nurseries for young fish to safely mature because their cabled roots keep out large predators, and they literally help hold the shoreline in place,” as he explains.

We are the human mangroves

We can all see the mangrove analogy in our daily lives, whether it’s nastier neighbors, meaner people, or politicians thumbing their noses at the rule of law. When our elected leaders show utter disdain for institutions and contempt for common courtesy, you know we’re in trouble.

Which brings me to Donald Trump. Aside from being a terrible role model and a disgraceful human being, he’s killing my business. My whole coaching philosophy—not to mention my personal code of ethics–is to be a good person. Somehow, Trump wasn’t taught this like the rest of us.

You could say there’s a connection between the kind of behavior Trump is normalizing, and the harm it’s doing to the social contract. If Trump can be an a-hole without consequences, then we can all be a-holes without consequences; if he can get away with being a shameless, remorseless prick, then we all can get away with being shameless, remorseless pricks.

I believe the technical term for this is “Erosion of norms,” and the Eroder-In-Chief is Donald Trump. 

Let us remember this is the guy who ripped off his university, scammed his charity, mocked the disabled, called war vets “losers,”  bragged about grabbing women by the pussy–and still became president. He has since spread blatant lies, tried to overturn an election, overthrow democracy, and incite violence–all seemingly without losing a single vote.

This isn’t about politics, though. If this was Biden, I’d be just as pissed. Because it’s not which side of the aisle you sit, it’s where you stand on character and conscience.

“You see, shame used to be a mangrove, says Friedman. “It used to be that if you were a candidate for president of the United States and it was alleged–with a lot of evidence–that you falsified business records to cover up sex with a porn star right after your wife had given birth to a child, you would lower your head in shame, drop out of the race and hide under the bed. That shame mangrove has been completely uprooted by Trump.

In case there’s any confusion:

Civility is not political.

Decency is not political.

Respect is not political.

How does all this affect dating?

Because kindness is in short supply, and rudeness abounds, dating has become a hellscape. People ghost with impunity; they don’t care; there’s no accountability; everyone hides behind a screen; and because there’s millions of choices online, people have no incentive to commit. There’s always the bigger, better, deal.

 I could blame the toxicity of dating apps, but really, it’s the toxicity of the people who use them. P.S. For the record, dating apps aren’t off the hook here, I’ve got big problems with them, which I’ll save for another article.

The stories you hear are mind blowing. The dates are horrifying. The behavior is appalling. No wonder we can’t find love. We’ve lost our moral compass.

My job as a dating coach is to help singles find love, and to do that, I stress the importance of humanity, compassion, and the greater good. I always remind my clients that character matters, that decency is hot, and having principles is sexy. If you ask me, all singles should take a Hippocratic Oath of Dating to “First, Do No Harm,” then get laid. Joking, not joking.

Another part of my job is to give people hope, and to prove that love is out there, that it’s possible, that good people exist, and it’s worth the time and effort to meet them.

But do you know how hard it is to keep having faith and keep taking the high road when the system and society are rigged to crush your soul? Do you know how hard it is to keep one’s sanity and dignity in a dating world that’s lost its moral moorings?

If singles are chronically disillusioned and disrespected, there’s a good chance they’ll opt out and swipe left on dating altogether, which would be a boner killer–especially for me. I don’t want anyone giving up on love, it hurts my heart too much.

Dov Seidman, author of “How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything,” founder of the How Institute for Society and LRN (and a high school classmate of mine) is quoted in Friedman’s article and has this to say about shame (or what we used to know as shame):

“The reason people felt ashamed is that they felt fidelity to certain norms–so their cheeks would turn red when they knew they had fallen short. But in this kind of normless world we have entered, where societal, institutional and leadership norms are being eroded, no one has to feel shame anymore because no norm has been violated.”

We look to our leaders for guidance and virtue; it comes from the top down. But if our leaders don’t behave with any moral authority, we’re not only in deep shit as a society, we’re in deeper shit if we ever want to find love. When there’s no Golden Rule, or “Do unto others as you would do unto you,” good luck getting a date.

Since we can’t ever count on Trump to take the moral high ground, it’s on us to be better people and call out bad behavior. We need to stand up, speak up, find our moral compasses, and while we’re at it, we need to save the mangroves too.

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If you’re looking for more actionable dating advice (with some juicy dating stories and true confessions thrown in), check out my self-help memoir, “Done Being Single: A Late Bloomer’s Guide to Love,” available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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