I think relationships, how we treat them, and our overall expectations of them are a bit flawed in modern society. For one, there seems to be a weird stigma attached to those that are not in relationships. We sort of treat relationships as if one needs to be in one in order to have a fulfilling and happy life. Arguably, I think this expectation is a major problem with modern relationships. I often see statistics about the climbing divorce rates. Even amongst my friends, peers, and others I see online, there always seems to be a lack within their individual relationships. Speak to someone about their partner, and you often wonder why the person is even in a relationship to start. I’ve encountered many women who, at the first opportunity, chase the attention of other men. They flirt as if they aren’t in a relationship and even go out of their way to not reveal to other men that they are in a relationship. An observant bystander would assume that they’re either ashamed of their partner or they simply don’t respect him. It’s as if they’re seeking a huge rush of dopamine from being single but they don’t want to miss out on the security of being in a relationship.
Men are also guilty of this in their own way. If away from their wife or girlfriend, they try to get phone numbers to see if they “still got it”. An invitation to a club or bar with their friends becomes an excuse to dance sexually with other women with the hope that they don’t get caught. Even in conversation with other married men, sometimes they communicate as though their relationship is a prison sentence, rather than a happy and fulfilling experience. As a 28-year-old at the time of writing this article, these sentiments have been alarmingly consistent over the past decade. Very rarely do I find the married or unmarried couple that seems to genuinely enjoy each other’s company and value the other person solely for who they are. Something always seems to be missing...but what is it?
Are we doomed to grow apart from long-term partners?
Are people just easily bored after being in a relationship for several years?
Do we choose partners because it’s simply opportunistic or convenient?
Do we settle with a simple bond that evolves into a relationship?
Are relationships merely a source of consistent attention or consistent sex?
I have some thoughts about why we choose whoever we stick with. Before I get into it, I like to preface articles like these by saying:
You might be offended and my thoughts are subject to change. These are simply observations coupled with thoughts from reading a variety of different books, documentaries, and supplemental materials that relate to what I’m about to get into. However, there is nothing objective about what I plan on writing. This is purely speculative.
I’ll start with one issue that I think stands out to me the most in modern relationships: Most People are Very Insecure. I’m not sure if this will come as a surprise to anyone or if it’s blatantly obvious and perhaps I’m just catching on, but I tend to find that most people are very insecure with themselves. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that we, as humans, don’t necessarily seek truth or fulfillment directly. We seek validation almost always above all else. (For the record, I’m not suggesting that internally, we don’t want fulfillment. I’m suggesting that actively it seems like most people seek validation when, in reality, their lives might be optimized while in the active pursuit of fulfillment. My full synopsis of this will be explained in a later article but essentially, as humans, we’re repelled from seeking fulfillment actively because we understand that it comes with pain and discomfort which we, as humans, typically like to move away from. However, through the pain and discomfort comes the reward we truly seek. To simplify this, it’s similar to the idea of a person that wants to be in fantastic shape but refuses to exercise. Deep down, we understand that exercise is the path to our objective but it will require sacrifice, pain, and discomfort, so most of us avoid it. In exchange, we seek quick fixes like body cinchers, fat loss supplements, plastic surgery, etc, which will never truly fix our problems but we create a habit of believing they will help us). We like people confirming our beliefs and telling us what we want to hear even if we know, deep down, that it’s not the truth. I think this is a major reason why many people get into relationships. The sensation of love that we receive from another human being is an external force that can take the place of the love that we don’t necessarily have for ourselves. I think something similar takes place when we get pets. Pets are a means of receiving validation and love without much effort. As with anything, there is always a trade-off, in my opinion. Pets, unfortunately, show love to virtually all humans that they are most familiar with, so your love never truly feels earned. A pet doesn’t judge you based on your character as a human would.
A cat will love any human that consistently provides it with food and shelter. A dog will love any human that consistently provides it with consistent attention and that bonds with it. However, our pets can’t really love us for our unique values. A pet can’t love us for the weird shape of our nose, the quirky way we laugh, or our avant-garde fashion sense. However, on the flip side, our pets tend to love us almost unconditionally. One could virtually abuse an animal and they’ll still love us regardless. Meanwhile, humans aren’t so simple. While a human may take interest in a combination of external and internal factors, that same human may end up betraying us or hurting us. The reward with pets is lower and yet the risk is also low. The reward with humans can be extremely high but with that reward comes great risk. Personally, I see many people opt out of human relationships in favor of animal companionship because internally, they might be too afraid to take on such an emotional risk. Overall, I think the inability to bear such a risk is due to insecurity.
This article isn’t meant to dive into what it means to be secure. However, I think at its core, a secure person is able to handle rejections, failures, and the emotional roller coaster ride that comes from life while maintaining a mindset that everything will be okay in the end. They don’t need anyone to affirm it for them. They are capable of affirming it consistently for themselves. From what I gather, most people don’t have this self-affirmational ability. We constantly seek this affirmation from everyone else.
I think this desire to be validated has compounded recently with the popularity of social media. The sole purpose of the platform is to be validated for our individual existence. It makes everyone feel as though they are the star of a movie. Granted, I do believe that humans should see themselves as the star of their own movies. However, I think everyone should see themselves as the star of a movie they’d want to watch. Instead, I think society tries to be the star others would want to watch, which will create a feedback loop of more insecurity. What’s a remedy?
Personally, I think most people would live a more gratifying life by not entering into relationships until they are truly secure with themselves. Someone considering a relationship should be at a point in which they don’t need a relationship to feel amazing. The relationship itself should be an added bonus to an already flourishing life. The fulfillment should come first, followed by the relationship. I think most people tend to have it backward. They see the relationship as a means to fulfillment or happiness, which forces them to choose anyone that checks that emotional box. The downside comes when the relationship doesn’t bring that sought after completion. If your premise is that a relationship will bring fulfillment only for it to not bring fiulfillment, you’ll become unhappy. One would assume the unhappiness is due to an incongruent or poor choice in partner. However, I’d suggest that the unhappiness is due to the belief that a partner is required. Again, the individual should be secure first and then have a partner. Expecting the partner to bring fulfillment will lead to a neverending cycle of misery. In reality, no partner can ever be good enough if you’re expectation is too unreasonable.
One of the major influences of this mindset is modern society and this is my second issue with modern relationships. Most people are conditioned to believe that there’s something wrong with them if they don’t have a partner. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’ve had many situations in which you were talking to your parents or perhaps close friends and they’d bombard you with questions about your nonexistent relationship. When are you getting into a relationship? When are you going to bring home a nice young man?
When are you going to find a beautiful young girl? Will I ever have grandchildren?
How long are you going to wait?
Why doesn’t your generation date more?
When are you going to settle down? While I’m sure these questions are asked with good intentions and a caring heart, they are very harmful to individuals and to society as a whole. Effectively, it’s a projection of society’s expectations onto you. I think most people, when confronted with these expectations, simply give in to what society wants. Even those that don’t simply give in begin to question their decisions. What wasn’t an issue suddenly becomes an immediate issue.
While I do think that there are components of relationships that can be a bit time-sensitive, I think society tends to have a standard mold of how things should be that we place upon others. We force others into the mold. We don’t give anyone a chance to rearrange the mold to fit themselves. Collectively, we play a game of adapt or be an outcast. For this reason, I feel like many people get into low-quality relationships or they settle because, internally, they feel like they should. I’d posit that a healthy relationship should feel natural. You shouldn’t necessarily want a partner. You should be able to just meet someone that you click with when it comes to goals, values, and appearance. I’ve heard that love should be inconvenient. I think there’s merit to this.
I think the inconvenience arises because it jeopardizes your independent wellbeing. It’s inconvenient because you should be doing perfectly fine on your own with virtually no desire for a relationship. Then suddenly you meet someone that makes you feel a certain way and checks off many of your relationship requirements--too many of your relationship requirements. This ultimately clouds your judgment and distracts you from the independent journey that you were happily on because, in the process of trying to pull yourself away, you feel drawn back to the person you love. To me, this is a true form of attraction. It’s quite literal. It’s like a magnet. Even as you try to escape, you can’t help but get pulled in. Inherent in all of this are several criteria:
The Attraction can’t directly be wanted--As I mentioned above, this should be inconvenient. If you’re out actively looking for a relationship, there’s a desire to have a partner. Therefore, it’s not an inconvenience.
Your attraction needs to be about the individual--I think many are in love with the idea of a partner or the idea of love but not necessarily the individual. My belief is that there are traits so unique to the individual or just so attractive that they’re virtually irreplaceable (or at least you perceive it to be that way). I’ve encountered many people that get into relationships, break up, and within weeks or even days, they find a new partner. These people love the idea of love as if they’re watching a romantic movie about themselves. However, the reality is that they don’t truly love the individual. If the partner were to vanish, while they may feel sadness in their absence, they can easily feel the same emotions or something similar with someone else. The concept of being in a relationship is attractive to them, not necessarily the individual that they’re in a relationship with.
You have to enjoy your own company--I think this goes back slightly to the idea of people being insecure. If you’re satisfied with who you are on an individual level and you don’t need anyone else, this adds to a relationship feeling inconvenient. To an extent, desiring a relationship with someone should feel like you’re jeopardizing your relationship with yourself and you’re willing to take the risk because the opportunity is basically too good to pass up on.
I’d argue that most modern-day relationships aren’t healthy or built on a great foundation at all. I’d almost bet that most people don’t check one, let alone all 3 of these criteria. Most relationship stories I hear these days tend to follow a similar pattern of meeting someone at a party or online, having sex, and then making it official.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. However, I am suggesting that this manner of diving into a relationship could be based on a weak foundation. The foundation is an external, in-the-moment attraction, rather than an internal attraction towards the individual.
Again, I think our willingness to get into relationships so easily is because society strongly suggests that we could.
Overall, I think most modern relationships are pretty awful due to their individuals not quite being in a good place internally for a relationship. My ideal model of a relationship is one in which the two parts can make for a far greater whole. I tend to not see this with most relationships. Frequently, I find one party settles while the other one wins and dates someone a little bit or far out of their league. Initially, this seems fine but I think this has long-term consequences. Inevitably, one of the partners (or often both) begins to coast. They begin to get too comfortable in their relationship and take their partner for granted. They stop being the person that the partner was initially attracted you. Over time, the partner gets fed up and feels as though the other person isn’t meeting them on the same level. This leads to a split or an unsatisfying relationship that neither party wants to end because they’ve been in it for too long and they’re afraid of starting at square one. I think the reality is that one or both parties weren’t at a place where a relationship was right for them. Perhaps the female of the relationship was addicted to the idea of love and when her boyfriend stopped acting in a manner that she believed he should, she grew annoyed with him. In reality, he was always straightforward and true to who he was. She simply projected an ideal onto him that he couldn’t live up to. Suddenly, once the rose-colored glasses wore off, she found herself disappointed in the reality of the situation. Or perhaps a male in a relationship was drawn to the beauty of a female. Physically, she’s highly desirable but internally, she’s repulsive. Only after years of emotional and sometimes even physical abuse did the male finally take a look at his relationship and realize that he made a mistake. However, he’s unable to leave her because deep down, he doesn’t value himself enough and feels like he’ll never find a girl that looks like her again. Meanwhile, the female resents him for not living up to her expectations and for allowing her to walk all over him. She has security in the relationship and does still like some of the male’s characteristics but deep down she wants to split up with him.
I absolutely understand that relationships are extremely complicated and difficult. By no means am I claiming that I have any true answers to anyone’s relationship problems. These are just my observations and thoughts. I do sincerely believe that a relationship should be a type of bond in which both parties are greater together than they are apart. Conclusively, that is my premise of what a good relationship should be. Unfortunately, I rarely see that occurring in modern relationships which is why I don’t think modern relationships are that great.
But, as always, I’m curious to know your thoughts. What do you think a modern relationship should be like? Do you think many relationships these days are effective or ineffective? I’m always open to changing my mind or hearing new insights.