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 described my current thinking as I presented it to the BBC today.
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: from one month to a lifetime.
The traditional heterosexual lifetime marriage contract will, in coming decades, decline because of the decline in religiosity in which copulation without marriage is deemed sinful, women’s increasing financial independence from men, and the anger many women are feeling toward men, deeming them privileged, oppressors, mansplainers, etc. Fewer women will want to marry people 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 having mainly casual relationships or to live long-term solo (Bella dePaulo’s Living Single blog here on Psychology Today explores this in depth) . Evidence of that exists in, for example, the growth in porn use including extensive LGBT poron on major porn sites the Men Going It Alone (MGTOW) movement, and the popular and expanding Grand Openings/Good Vibrations chain of stores.
Acceptance of marriage beyond LGBT. Acceptance of non-traditional marriage will extend beyond LGBT couples to triads or even larger groups.
Committed but living apart. There will be more committed couples living separately for part of all the time.
Greater sexual diversity. The norm of binary homosexual monogamy will increasingly give way to the full continuum from asexuality to sex-centricity, from binary heterosexuality or homosexuality to pansexuality, from monoamory to polyamory. That said, transgernderism is unlikely to remain as central to the sexuality discussion as it is today. I do think and hope that the “anything goes” standard won’t extend to children.
Sex and Romance Robots. Quite functional sex robots already exist, appealing to women and men, for example, one company produces a RealDoll (appealing primarily to heterosexual men and a RealCock (appealing primarily to women and homosexual men). Sex robots have been particularly useful to the physically and/or mentally disabled, although they 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, as well as 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 may be that, unlike the Roomba automatic vacuum cleaner that always says “yes”,” a romance robot will sometimes disagree or propose alternatives. Few people want more than a one-night stand with a partner who’s just a yes-person. Yet another other potential use for romance robots: Many people complain of inept sexual partners. Romance robots could conceivably let the person know what words and actions makes her/him happy or unhappy.
Increase in auto-eroticism. According to a 2017 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, between 1989 and 2014, sexual activity has 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, greater stress today, more people taking drugs with sexual side effects, the broader availability and acceptability of porn, and the aforementioned tension between the sexes: So, many people are addressing their sexual needs primarily with masturbation, porn, and/or sex workers.
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 so will have more time and interest in relationships. In any case, I am optimistic that the increased relationship choices for all people, as described in this article, will, net, yield the world greater happiness.