"The Majority Of Us Saw Dysfunctional Relationships Growing Up": This Artist Is Using Illustration To Help Break The Cycle Many Millennials Find Themselves In

    Illustrator Lainey Molnar has gained a following of over 1 million by sharing comics about dating, double standards in relationships, and learning to choose yourself. "When it comes to relationships, it's still very hard to swim against the stream. Women in straight relationships carry so much of the emotional labor, the unpaid domestic labor, and family logistics, while putting themselves last," she said.

    Recently, BuzzFeed spoke to illustrator Lainey Molnar, whose work has been applauded for perfectly capturing the chaos of womanhood, as well as gender relations and double standards in society. Among these drawings, the 33-year-old also tackles the reality of dating, love, and marriage, and it's relatable for anyone who's ever dipped a toe in the world of romance.

    When she first began posting during lockdown in 2020, Lainey's illustrations largely focused on her own life — namely the challenges she faced, leading up to an eventual showcase of the changes in how she viewed herself over time. Through her dating-themed comics, followers saw a juxtaposition between Laney's experiences as a single twentysomething solely focused on pleasing her partners first, to now, as a thirtysomething who puts herself first...

    ...as well as validating the experiences of all women across their lives by illustrating how they are complete, whole, and valuable, no matter what decisions they've made. Whether single or not, a parent or not, marriage or not, or having children or not.

    "Whether being single is a choice or a circumstance, it should never be treated as 'lack of,'" Lainey told BuzzFeed. "Society positions romantic relationships as a slice of the pizza of our lives and only by completing the pie can we be complete. But in reality, the entire pie is our glorious self and the joyful or purposeful things like work, relationships, or hobbies."

    As a self-described "black sheep," Lainey admits it can be hard to learn to center yourself as the main character of your own life, but that finding your self-worth is crucial if you want to involve other people in your story. 

    "When we know that we are inherently worthy of love, care, respect, loyalty, and effort just by existing...we won't be concerned with being liked."

    And that's why Lainey's work highlights inner growth — because she believes we're all capable of deciding what kind of relationship works best for us, even if you've never seen a stable one before. "As a millennial, we are the first generation in therapy, breaking generational traumas, and investing in self-healing with almost no references from our family trees," Lainey pointed out.

    "The majority of us saw dysfunctional romantic relationships at home (if any) and didn't really have tools to build healthy ones on our own; we only knew what we didn't want," the 33-year-old said. "So I believe a lot of us, not only this generation, but women between 20s–40s are going through a fascinating learning curve. We not only love ourselves better, set better boundaries, communicate better, but we consciously choose better partners and better relationships."

    Speaking from her own experience and evolution, she said, "I learned that having high standards isn't entitlement and there is no way I can miss out on something meant for me just by setting boundaries or saying no. 

    I consciously set the ideal level of dates, chivalry, connection, communication, emotional availability, effort, and consistency, and simply embody the person who takes nothing less. It's a work in progress, of course, because...I still sometimes latch onto potential over choosing myself, but now I know that we can have it all. We deserve it all. And we have to be kind enough to ourselves not to take less."

    Times are changing the way dating is viewed, as well as women's role within relationships, but according to Lainey and her illustrations, there is still work to be done.

    "Thankfully, there is a lot of empowering content out there, but when it comes to relationships, it's still very hard to swim against the stream. Women in straight relationships carry so much of the emotional labor, the unpaid domestic labor, and family logistics, while putting themselves last," she said.

    But "to build a society where healthy relationships are consistent, women need to be unburdened and treated as equals, and men need to be empowered to get in touch with their softer side," she said.

    "Competence in emotional stability, communication, and also housework, childcare, and domestic skills are not gendered, but required from both parties to build healthy and stable relationships."

    When considering the overall message she hopes followers and passersby gain from viewing her comics, it can be summed up in the following: "Date yourself first and foremost," Lainey said.

    "Learn how to love yourself unconditionally, take yourself on dates, show kindness and everything wonderful that you would want in a relationship to yourself," she said. "If or when you decide to open the door for someone else, have this relationship with yourself be what they measure up to."

    "But don't forget that we are all humans who make mistakes, who come with baggage, who struggle with relearning things, who make rash decisions sometimes. Forgive them and forgive yourself. And do not be afraid to love, it's worth it."

    If you want to see more of Lainey's thought-provoking illustrations, you can follow her on Instagram.