Let’s face it. It’s hard to find lifelong love.
And because it’s so hard, many of us are starting to think that maybe it’s not possible.
I’ve been thinking about this subject for a while now, both as a sociologist and as someone who recently got married.
For most of my twenties, I just wanted to have fun. My priorities were simple - career and travel. I was building my craft as a social scientist and living out my inner Peter Pan, visiting faraway countries in search of anthropological insights and epic parties.
Then, I entered my early thirties. I began to feel this growing need to “settle down.”
This whole notion of “settling down” sounded both comforting and frightening. I loved the idea of lifelong love, but had a lot of doubt on whether it actually existed in this day and age.
In my exploration of this issue, I uncovered four reasons why it’s so hard our generation to create and keep a meaningful romantic partnership.
1- Instant Gratification Culture
We’ve grown up in a culture that’s all about instant reward. Our brains love pleasure-inducing novelty and so much of our society feeds into that - including dating apps.
If the person you’re dating is not that exciting anymore, just open up Tinder to find your next fling. It’s easy to dispose of the current relationship and look for a new one once the thrill is gone. It can be an endless, and eventually, very tiring cycle.
The fact is that that we have universal human need for stable love and connection. Unfortunately, that’s a hard need to fulfill in world full of “quick fix” pleasure.
(For more on this topic, see the Vanity Fair article on “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse.”)
2- The Happily Ever After Myth
Let’s say you’ve done something really bold - like date someone for three months in a row. You’re head over heels in love, deep in that “everything is freaking amazing” stage.
You know this stage…it’s the focus of pretty much every rom-com out there. Boy meets girl, boy dates girl, boy marries girl, and they live “happily ever after.”
According to this myth, the ideal love relationship is about perfect compatibility - with no disagreement or compromise.
Believing in this myth translates into jumping ship as soon as conflict comes into the mix. “If it's work, maybe it's not meant to be,” or so goes the saying.
It’s unfortunate because that’s exactly when real depth and intimacy can emerge in a relationship.
When approached with skillful communication and compassion, conflict presents an opportunity to learn something meaningful and profound about ourselves and the person we love.
But without any roadmap on how to do that, it’s hard to move forward.
3- Divorced Parents
Let’s say you’ve been dating someone for a year or two (or five). You’ve been with each other through lots of life’s ups and downs. You’re probably living together.
At this point, the “M” word crops up.
The closest association we have with marriage is that of our parents. And, let’s get real, most of our parents weren’t so great at it.
Some of our parents divorced and remarried more than once. What’s interesting is that the research shows that if you didn’t get it right the first time, then you usually do not get it right the second or third time either.
For those of us with parents who are still married, you may perceive that they have what’s called an "empty shell" marriage where there’s no real love or connection anymore.
We’re afraid the same thing might happen to us...so why bother?
4 - Nowhere to Learn How to Love
Let’s say you’re ready. You know the odds of success and you ready to beat them.
You want the love, lifelong commitment, companionship, children, and financial stability. You want all the good stuff that comes along with being happily coupled, including:
- living longer (by four to eight years)
- having a stronger immune system (with a decreased chance of illness by 35 percent)
- and having a greater overall satisfaction of life. (From 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.)
So…how do you do it?
Most people just "wing it" because there is literally no training available to build the skills you need for lifelong love.
Think about how much help you’ve had to build your career through years of schooling and experience. And now think about how much help you’ve had to learn how to be an amazing partner for each other? Like none?
Contrary to what many may think, we are not “born” great partners and relationship skills are not intuitive. Most of us muddle our way through it, based on what we’ve picked up from our parents or friends, and hope for the best.
Without a roadmap to lifelong love, it’s easy to end up like a statistic.
It’s time for a new approach to love.
When it came time to marry the love of my life, I was determined to unlock the code of successful partnership. I put my sociologist skills to good use, researching every source for data on what the happiest couples do best.
What I’ve found is that truly epic couples are the “heroes” in today’s culture.
When you look at successful couples today, you’ll see that they view partnership as a courageous means for personal growth. They challenge and encourage each other to be the best possible version of themselves. They see their partner as teacher. They understand each others weaknesses and see their differences as strengths.
With this approach, I would like to introduce the official launch of Epic Couples. Our goal at Epic Couples is to inspire a new generation to experience the profound joy of lifelong transformation within a truly satisfying union.
If you are thinking about moving in together, getting engaged or married, or just want to take your partnership up a level, I highly recommend learning the core skills you need to bump up what I like to call your relationship intelligence, or your RQ.
Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing with you what I’ve learned from the top relationship experts, as well as from my own experience as a couples coach, on what you can do to prepare for a fulfilling lifelong partnership.
I am beyond excited to begin this journey with you.
Shannon Arvizu Hall