Relationships vary in their stories of “how we got together,” and yet it seems that we’re expecting some kind of instantaneous spark upon looking at our lover for the first time. Hollywood Rom-Coms have led us to believe that there needs to be some sort of immediate attraction and it's supposed to look and feel a certain way.
Hollywood has fed an idea about "The One," and so we feel disgruntled and unsatisfied if our relationship doesn't look like it does on TV. We forget that we only watch a snapshot of a relationship on the screen and that the trajectory of a longterm relationship in real life will inevitably look different.
Movies are only two hours long and designed to create drama and impact. It’s not as interesting to watch a slow build of respect and trust than to see someone trip and fall from a cliff after running from a twister, landing into the arms of their future husband and instantly falling in love. But to truly know someone, you need time and a willingness to see the person as they are, rather than who you want them to be.
To fall in love is fun, but to sustain love is hard work. The investment into a relationship through time and energy creates a bond between two individuals on an emotional level and the commitment of a relationship creates a psychological bond, which are needed to endure the ups and downs of the roller coaster of life.
No one can argue that dating has evolved over the past 50 years. Women are fighting more for their rights and expecting different things from their relationships and their lives. Additionally, technology has expanded the dating pool to a global level, which has increased potential matches, but also created other problems.
Mass Dating and The Paradox of Choice
Mass dating has proliferated in our societies due to technology and dating apps which allow us to sift through hundreds of people a day. We have become trained to the idea that there are endless options and if there are any problems in a relationship, we can find someone better.
This thought creates a lack of resiliency towards enduring the struggles of a relationship. In our instant gratification society, we are too eager to bypass the hard work in order to find pleasure and bliss as quickly as possible. We’ve lost touch with commitment and how it can help shape a relationship and a person.
Divorce rates are drastically high as the sanctity of marriage has been lost in a less reverent society. While I don’t think marriage is necessary to declare commitment to another individual, I do believe in the power of vowing to love someone. However, people seem to make the choice of marrying someone on a special day in a white dress and black tie and then forget that every day requires a new commitment and a new choice to love the person.
Unending commitment and the sacrosanct nature of marriage are no longer held together by the fear of religious condemnation, as more people are refuting outdated systems and adopting a more self-governed idea around life and previously systemized choices. Other than tax benefits, marriage has become less of an incentive to stay with someone for the rest of their lives.
Even though mass dating has become extremely accessible, people seem to be struggling more in regards to finding a good relationship—there is still great unhappiness with dating prospects and one's singleness. But maybe the problem lies in the fact that there are too many choices of partners to choose from.
The Paradox of Choice is a theory popularized by Barry Schwartz in his book, The Paradox of Choice—Why More is Less, arguing that having too many choices is inundating and creates anxiety and when a choice is made it feels unsatisfactory. In regards to dating and the paradox of choice, choosing a relationship may not feel fully satisfying because there are so many other options of partners, leaving us wondering if we picked the right person.
If something goes wrong in the relationship of if our partner isn’t perfect (by whatever various standards we have), we can easily leave the relationship in search of another. But if there is no lack in finding people to date, why are people still unhappily single?
The limitless options can prevent us from developing a relationship fully, fearing that we’re actually with the wrong person. Relationships require compromise and sacrifices that with our increased value on independence and self-reliance, we are seeing these selfless acts as less necessary.
Also, as equality is becoming more realized, there is no longer a socially-imposed financial reliance on a man. Women are creating successful careers and streams of income, making the impetus to marry no longer a means of survival.
Many more people are choosing to be single. People are no longer waiting outside the chapel to find a mate and get married as soon as possible. The cultural values and priorities have shifted, and therefore, so have the choices.
Now that women can choose to create a life and family on their own, they have choices. And in a world where toxic masculinity has been rampantly alienating women for centuries, there are a lot of women unwilling to settle for the old standard of oppression.
Feminism, Toxic Masculinity, and The Empowered Woman
We are currently in a spike of another women’s rights movement, this time initiated by the #MeToo Movement that proliferated on social media and news channels, alerting the world to injustice and violence against women by men in power. As toxic masculinity is being brought more and more to the surface, women are becoming even more empowered to embrace the single life.
Women are tired of gender roles and expectations, and even biology dictating their choices. Where women once saw giving birth to be the main goal in life, needing to happen in line with the biological clock, more women are opting to remain childless. Others are embarking on motherhood much later in life, waiting until after establishing their careers. And others women are even selecting sperm donors and choosing to raise children as single mothers.
With women becoming more empowered to no longer depend on men for survival—as it was before the last women’s movement, where the majority of women were resigned to become homemakers, women are becoming even closer to reaching equality. This shift has created an opening for change.
There is a call for men to step up and meet women equally. In the New Age spiritual community, men are slowly re-familiarizing themselves with their femininity and creating space for the flourishing of feminine energy.
As masculinity is an outward energy and femininity is receptive, men who have lost touch with their feminine energy have ventured outward with force and aggressiveness. Throughout time, women have been sold, bartered with, treated as property, raped, and exploited for men’s pleasure and gain. The shift that we are moving towards is eradicating the disempowering abuse and reclaiming women's physical and human rights.
Since women are working at a deficit, they are angry and hurt and are fighting for what is theirs. Men have fought each other for power, glory, and respect from the beginning of time. Now, women are fighting men for equality. However, men are not the enemy, toxic masculinity is.
As a woman who has endured sexual violence on multiple occasions, there was a period when I hated men. I was angry at the injustices inflicted upon me and I viewed every man as a threat and capable of the same kind of mistreatment. However, I am learning that men are also victims of violence and of the same cultural upbringing that led us to toxic masculinity. We are all affected and we all need to work together to harmonize the energies of the people and the planet.
Young boys need to be taught how to balance their masculine and feminine energy to create harmony and synthesize the two into becoming well-adjusted adults and spiritual beings. There is an increasing growth of men’s circles emerging as men have started to realize there are benefits of their masculine energy when harnessed, and they are finding the accountability and support with each other. It is becoming more acceptable for men to express and share their emotions, just as it has been expected of women.
Men are not the evil, toxic masculinity is. The imbalance of power and entitlement is. Ironically, most men do everything for women—they gain power, money, and prestige, in order to be desirable.
Women must learn not to accept the Neanderthal caveman behavior of men, and naturally, they will change. It’s the familiar concept seen in beginning economics: supply and demand. If women are not attracted to toxic men, (heterosexual) men will change themselves in order to become attractive to women. Not only is it economic psychology, it’s biology. We are wired to create relationships and mate.
Woman of dignity who demand men of integrity will naturally increase the supply. And to do this, women (and men) need to reestablish healthy relationships with themselves.
A Relationship Above Others
Studies have shown that married people or people in committed relationships are happier than their single counterparts. What’s interesting about this is that they have also showed that even spouses in an unhappy marriage are happier than someone not committed.
This finding proves that happiness and contentedness in life comes from our relationships. Now, you don’t have to get married to be happy, but if you often find pangs of loneliness and want someone who publicly vows to commit to you, maybe that’s the way to go. What’s important is that you are consistently cultivating healthy relationships with others—ideally a sustainable friendship or relationship that is committed.
Relationships are quickly becoming more and more unconventional these days as polyamory and open relationships are gaining news coverage through celebrities and a more unorthodox generation is taking center stage with new ideas to break antiquated social structures. Opting to be and stay single is seen as a choice, rather than a transition or affliction.
People are becoming more aware of a relationship that is crucial to harmonize before embarking on a romantic partnership: your relationship with yourself.
While earlier generations focused more outward—family, kids, spouse—Millennials are bringing to light that the most important relationship is your self-relationship. Since you are “stuck” or committed to yourself forever, it’s important to make sure you are happy with that relationship. This means pouring the same amount of love, care, and attention into self-love as you would into loving someone else.
As you’ll learn in pop psychology and personal development, all our problems come from within, meaning, if we change ourselves, we will watch the world around us change. We have power over our other relationships and our partners if we can discover and work on the ways in which we are resistant or disempowered (aka playing the victim).
Recognizing that our perception of a situation can change by a change in our attitude, is like providing us a magic wand and shipping us off to Hogwarts. You can literally change your idea about someone or something just by choosing to. There's magic in the power of intention. And intentional living can create much more peace in your life when used positively.
I love to use The Serenity Prayer (with my own additions), to remind me that I am both in control, and not, at the same time. It goes as follows:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, (other people and situations)
Courage to change the things I can, (my attitude and perception of this situation)
And wisdom to know the difference.
I like to get even more specific when it comes to situations and will fill in names.
Ultimately, it always ends the same way: I can only control myself—which is an incredibly empowering thing to realize. I can control how I look at a situation, a person, and a person's actions.
I do challenge my willingness the more emotionally charged a situation is and the more attached I am to an outcome. But, like the prayer goes, it takes courage to change ourselves.
Brittany Noelle Roa is an interdisciplinary artist with an MFA in Physical Theatre who uses her art and creativity to heal herself and others. She loves learning about health and wellness so she can optimize her human potential to live a full and happy life.