Ah, love, the ultimate quest. We know we need it, we are quite sure we want it, but so often, we can’t seem to get it. And when we do, it doesn’t always last. We are led to believe that love should be steadfast and unchanging, when in reality, how we define love and what we value in loving relationships changes over time, both as we move through our own lifetimes and as culture shifts and evolves around us.
Like many things that spark nostalgia, love, and the search for it, often has people saying things like “Back in my day …” or “When I was young and single …”. The stories always unfold about how much simpler and more straightforward it was in ‘the good old days’. This may be true, but values and priorities change. Gone are the days where the relationship “path” was simply meeting, settling down, and growing old together. Lots of people want something less traditional and less structured, others want the marriage and babies and white picket fence as fast as they can get them. It’s important in this era of ‘anything-goes’ that you know what it is you want from dating.
If anything, the progress in technology and evolving attitudes in culture should make it easier to find love these days. After all, we are more connected and communicative than ever. But is quantity enough, or is this a quality issue? It would seem that as we lean into the third decade, post-millenium, we should be aware of the current landscape and climate of modern love. So just how does one fan the flames of love in the 21st Century?
Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk
More than ever, people recognize communication as a non-negotiable, must-have in relationships. Like it or not, the intimacy that comes with dating, relationships and love requires you to express yourself and be a bit vulnerable. This means not only do you need to become comfortable with sharing yourself, you also need to do your best to articulate how and why you feel the way you do. Without both parties putting in effort to communicate effectively, even the most casual arrangements will become strained.
If you’re serious about finding and keeping love, you have to show up for it. What good is being articulate and communicative if you don’t do the leg work? That means getting out there and meeting people, saying yes to opportunities to connect, and examining what you’re offering, not just what you are looking for in another person. It sounds simple but being present and actively involved in the maintenance and experiences of a relationship is hard but rewarding work.
Work on Yourself
Go to therapy, if you can. That may sound trite and like a one-size-fits-all recommendation, but knowing yourself and unpacking some of the things inside yourself that hold you back will only make you a better partner and lover when you do make a great connection with someone. If you don’t have access or resources for sessions with a pro, consider other ways you can achieve a more calm, balanced and healthy life through things like nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, community/faith and education. Few things are more attractive than a potential partner who is committed to self improvement.
Embrace the Art of Conversation
In a world of texting and sexting, DM-ing and swiping left or right, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that at some point you really do need to talk to someone to get to know them. Since so much of our day-to-day social interaction is mediated through technology, it is refreshing and attractive to meet someone who is able to carry on an intelligent conversation and can actually listen. Be that person! Conversation is a give and take. Excel at both and you increase your relationship equity whether it’s an established connection, or you’re just starting out together.
Be a Multitasking Team Player
Whether you’re monogamous or polyamorous, the balance of time with a romantic partner is an important priority, and not just in terms of spending time together. It’s equally important to spend some time apart, to share interests but also have divergent interests, to have time and connections that are not just with your partner. In the beginning when the new relationship energy is really intense, it can be a challenge to strike the balance of Me Time vs. We Time. Talk to your partner about your needs for togetherness and try to understand theirs. This will make it easier to be supportive of one another without feeling obligated because you’ll have your own time as well. It may take some compromise to come to an understanding of what you both need and how to achieve it.
Know When to Walk Away
Not all love is good love, and not all love lasts. If you know what you want and need and you know you aren’t getting or giving it, it may be time to cut your losses and move on. It can be hard to choose being single when you have something established with someone, but settling is unfair to both of you. Talking through issues, taking a break, and seeing a counsellor together can all be good steps in the process of deciding if your connection has a future. If it doesn’t, have the grace to remove yourself from the relationship.
No matter the intensity or seriousness of your connection, the key to dating in this day and age is to fall back on the tried and true, but with a modern twist: communicate honestly, be an active member of your relationship from day one, practice self development, engage at more-than-surface level and establish the emotional balance you need in order to be your best self, for yourself, and whomever you’re dating.