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4 Tips to Navigate Modern Romance

Cutting through the confusion of love and romance.

Love can be confusing. Sometimes, it can hurt, too. When you learn a bit about how to do it well, it can be one of life's great experiences. Over 11 years of writing, I have tried to cut through the confusion and mystery about love. So, if you are struggling to figure out love, or to love again after a setback, below are a few tips from my collection of posts that might help.

1. Understand that love is emotional and practical. When we love, it is understandable that we focus on our emotional experience. After all, love is a feeling, right? Love is also a practical relationship between partners, as they care for each other and meet each other's needs.

An individual's loving feelings of passion and companionship are connected to their partner's capacity and willingness to meet their needs within the relationship. Therefore, even when we feel like our love for someone is unconditional, our ability to have a healthy relationship with them is not.

Given that, it is important to consider how you feel about a partner and how they treat you, before deciding whether you are really in love with them. (See "Making Sense of Love and Romantic Relationships" and "Do You Believe in Unconditional Love?")

2. Realize that modern society does not always support love. I don't think it will shock anyone to learn that society is changing rapidly, or that many modern relationships don't seem to be as loving as what Grandpa and Grandma had. It is important to realize that there is a connection between the two.

As society changes, many of the structures and foundations that helped people find and keep love are being eroded. While newfound freedom may benefit some, it bewilders others—especially those looking for a more traditional relationship. It is important to realize that you will not find a traditional loving relationship by following modern relationship suggestions. Copying pornography, romance novels, or reality television will not lead you to happily ever after. Instead, if you want lasting love, consider following the traditions your grandparents did. (See "Modern Dating and Relationship Problems")

3. Be kind to yourself and others. Almost everyone is confused about dating and relating. It feels like social changes have put everyone in double-bind and often no-win situations. For example, women are expected to work and manage a home, play by their own rules, and not compromise, even as they seek a partner's love and support while men are supposed to be sexy and macho leaders, but compliant partners too. In essence, everyone is trying to do (and be) something that may be impossible. So, if someone has hurt your feelings amid all this chaos, please try to understand and be kind. It is likely that they are confused and hurting too.

If you have made mistakes stemming from ignorance and frustration, try to forgive yourself. Educate yourself, try to educate and connect with others who are open-minded, and give space to those who are still confused and frustrated space. (See "Why Women Can't Find a Good Man" and "Why Are Men Frustrated With Dating?")

4. Work through your own misconceptions and biases. Forgiveness will help you see past the general "battle of the sexes," double-talk, and nonsense. Yet, personal misconceptions and biases may linger. For example, you might believe that a partner must be a perfect "soul mate" from the start—rather than being imperfect person who can grow and improve over time. Or, perhaps you sell yourself short and chase after partners who neglect you. Maybe you get frustrated and hurt, and devalue or prejudge others in return. All of these misconceptions can lead to you miss out on healthy and loving relationships with a good partner. So, after you get through the social confusion described above, it is important that you clean out your own personal feelings and assumptions. Get back to the basics.

In essence, love is about finding someone with whom you feel both passion and companionship—and who has the capacity and willingness to meet your practical needs, too. Everything else is misconception or complication, which confuses the issue of love. (See "Why You Shouldn't Believe in Soul Mates" and "How Can I Find a Good Man or Woman?")

© 2022 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph..D. All rights reserved.

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