Why is dating so difficult in this day and age? I could say it’s only difficult for millennials, but I think dating is almost always tough, regardless of age. I mean, we have countless dating apps, we pay for companies to match us up with The One. We are well connected to the internet and, through that, millions of people all over the world. Transportation is easier (though not necessarily cheaper) and there are books and websites designed solely to help people learn how to find love. So what is the deal?
As it turns out there is no one easy answer. I have a few theories but none of them seem very convincing. I think people, at the end of it all, want the same thing: love, acceptance, and support. When I’m lying in bed at night and feeling particularly lonely, I imagine what it would be like to have someone by my side. What I want the most is love. It’s easy to start talking to someone, but when you get to the crossroads and you have to figure out if this is someone you could love and be with it becomes much more difficult to figure out what love actually is. To love and to be loved requires honesty and trust. It requires a sort of rawness and nakedness or vulnerability that is absolutely, without a doubt, terrifying and thrilling.
I think in our highly individualized society it’s difficult for some of us to think in units and puzzle pieces. It’s difficult to see how we impact others but so easy to see how others impact us. It’s so easy to think of all the ways you could get hurt by another person, but not many think about the pain that comes when hurting another person. Dating is scary as hell, that’s a big part of the struggle to “find” love.
Dating is difficult because all of the things we love about ourselves we hope others will love too, but only the people really looking can see all those quirks for what they are: beautiful. They may not be unique, or maybe they are, but to us they matter. The small things are what make a person and we spend all our time asking about favorite colors, who we voted for in the election, our stances on the legalization of pot, where we want to travel, and whether we’re a cat person or a dog person (or neither). These are all great things to share with a potential lover, but there are the things that aren’t vocally shared, the things that might only happen in the dark or when we are at our most vulnerable, so fleeting and subtle they’re often missed. How his eyes sparkle while he waits for you to laugh at his joke. How they touch the door frame of the third bedroom down the hall every time they pass. How she only eats her peanuts in groups of four. How he only cries in the bathroom with the shower head on. How they look at you before going to sleep and they think you’re already sleeping (but you aren't and the weight of their stare feels a lot like standing on the edge of a cliff). How you look at them when they’re driving and only their left-hand bounces to the song on the radio. How they say they hate rom-coms but you know they really love them. How he drinks seltzer excessively.
All of the little things, they build up. They pile and collide and fit together like pieces of a never-ending puzzle. It isn’t so much that they let you see these things, it’s that you start to notice them. And they start to notice yours' too. But nowadays we’re so busy looking at our phones or talking about politics or working or thinking about classes or sex or our cats or food and we miss the real person right in front of us at their most vulnerable state. Sometimes we’ve already got it in our heads that it’s not going to work out but there’s still that hope anyway. Falling in love isn’t supposed to be pleasant. It’s supposed to be scary. It’s supposed to be painful and exhilarating and risky. Love is a lot like surrendering to the base human need to be with someone and to be cared for and important. It’s surrendering to the possibility that your life will change in an instant, for better or worse. It's the loss of control. We are severely afraid of rejection, or putting it all on the line only for the line to snap. We are afraid we aren’t good enough, yet we wonder why nobody loves us. We are afraid to get real and personal and deep. Dating is so hard because we are scared. We want love so badly but that means trusting someone won’t hurt you and nothing in life is guaranteed to work out the way we want it to. To love is to surrender and for so many people, including myself, that is the most terrifying part of all of it.