As courtship styles have changed with the times, “shopping” for a partner has made people more selective in the dating marketplace.
This has both drawbacks and benefits in terms of long-term happiness.
As divorce rates have climbed with the passing of the decades, it has become a common belief that being more thoughtful while looking for the “right one” will help diminish the chance of divorce.
In many ways -- in an effort to escape the mistakes we watched our parents, friends and teachers make -- we have unintentionally become a generation of commitment-phobes, who spend our 20s and early 30s looking to “find ourselves.”
Then, we spend our mid-to-late-30s rushing to find a partner, as we wake up with the realization that we aren’t getting any younger.
Sure, there are a lot of exceptions to this.
I am not here to call your commitment issues out or bring up the fact that some people can’t go two weeks without being in a relationship.
There are different strokes for different folks, and outliers in every equation.
However, this cultural trend has perpetuated a wave of fear and miscommunication that has undoubtedly infiltrated our dating pool.
Furthermore, it has caused mass confusion and hurt feelings in an attempt to find assuredness and control over our futures that we maybe can't have in the first place.
This begs the question: Is timing really what it’s about, or does the issue run a bit deeper?
The old adage about finding love “when you aren’t looking for it” seems to carry some weight nowadays.
There are so many articles about the things you need to do before you’re 30, the ways you need to know yourself before you know someone else and the kinds of partners you need to have before you find “the one.”
Are these things based on facts, or are they ways to soothe our anxieties on the seemingly never-ending quest to find a legitimate relationship, where two people like each other the same amount at the same time?
Time and time again, my friends have told me their relationships ended because both parties were “catching feelings.”
To me, this appears to be the most counter-intuitive thing I have ever heard.
Once a couple actually begins to experience a real and deep connection, they mutually decide to stop seeing each other because neither is “truly ready” to commit.
The problem with this mentality is both people preemptively throw away a good thing to see “what else is out there.”
Then, they wake up a few months (or years) later, ready for a relationship. They marry the wrong people because the timing is right.
The reality is this: Yes, of course learning to love yourself and be alone are immeasurably important facets of living a healthy and productive life.
But running away from a good thing because you wish you had found that good thing later in life is simply one of the most selfish and stupid decisions a person can make.
It will ultimately leave him or her unhappy as well.
Current dating culture has encouraged us to leave situations that aren’t really working for us, and that is wonderful.
It provides the masses time to seek out and create stronger bonds with people who have similar life goals, and gives them the opportunity to share happier lives together.
This is a great reason to make sure you are compatible with a person. End something that isn’t working, and really give that “catching feelings” thing a shot.
We do ourselves, our generation, our partners and our children the biggest disservice by allowing cultural norms to cause us to run in fear over the possibility of the real deal.
Here in New York City, my friends in their mid-to-late-20s often spout off things like, “I have four years until I'm 30, so I don’t need to fall in love now.”
The uncomfortable thing about this, for me, is I have a group of 30-something-year-old friends who will literally fall for just about anyone who passes them on the street, due to the fear of ending up alone.
The “I have all the time in the world” versus the “Where is my soulmate?” mentality seems to find its disconnect in the idea that it's OK to walk away from something because you're too young, but it's not OK once you feel like your time is running out.
So, how do we mediate this?
Well, maybe I'm asking for too much.
But we must take ownership of our lives, our emotions and the feelings of our partners and potential partners.
If you never care to find someone to spend your life with, fine. That is your prerogative.
But for the majority of people, this is not the case.
If your ultimate goal is a long-term partnership, it's time to soul search and see if you're running away for the wrong reasons.
If you are, don’t even begin to waste the time of people who are evolved enough to realize you can't fall in love on your own predetermined timeline.
Furthermore, when you find love -- no matter your age -- you should consider yourself lucky.