Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is here to stay. Hearts and cupids abound, stores play cheesy love songs, restaurants advertise romantic dinner deals, and all sorts of cutesy couple merchandise are peddled by shops and online. Every time Valentine’s Day comes around, people automatically focus on romantic relationships or the lack of intimacy. Everyone is suddenly acutely aware of their relationship status - single, dating or married? With the advent of social media, a new term has also emerged: “It’s complicated”. In fact, the search for love or a significant other has become more nuanced, and complicated, over the years. Sexuality and gender are constantly evolving along with the “progressiveness” of the average person looking for love or being unhappy with what they already have. Boomers and Gen Z-ers have very different ideas about marriage, gender and courtship. Courtship seems archaic in the modern world. But certain social rituals and wooing tactics remain unchanged.

The First Flush

As we grow, we focus our feelings on specific objects, activities and people. We develop crushes, often as soon as we start interacting with other kids in school. We all remember our first crush. It’s our first foray into romance, after all. Were you in grade school or kindergarten? Was it the hair, the eyes or their laughter that made your heart skip a beat? Maybe you were being teased by other kids and saw the object of your affection in a different light. You swore you were in love, but looking back, of course, it was just puppy love or infatuation. It was pure and innocent, so crushes hold a special place in our hearts.

Love in the Fast Lane

Once we find a romantic prospect, we move on to dating. This is how we get to know each other. Before the Internet and apps became a thing, dating involved dinner, watching a movie or hanging out at the local park or any parking space providing the best view of a starry night. These days dating has gone digital. Relationships form even without meeting. Dates are set through dating profiles, catfishing abound...

Online dating can be exhilarating and adventurous, but there is a dark side to it. With the proliferation of dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Grinder, OkCupid etc., etc., the romance cycle is upended and some stages are simply skipped. Dating has been disrupted by tech-savvy and enterprising Millennials. Hence, the hook-up culture emerged. Forget about awkward dinners and movie dates, let’s skip to the good part and get intimate. After all, we’re headed there anyway. Some people don’t want a relationship, they just want to be physical. In this set up, emotions are set aside to fulfill natural urges. Some people thrive in these kinds of encounters, others specify that they’re not DTF.

Romancing Stranger Things

Naturally, the no-nonsense digitally aided speed “dating” world we’re in is bound to create a few complications here and there. Committed relationships are no longer sacred. The institution of marriage is viewed by some as an old-fashioned fad. Monogamy is boring, and biologically it may not make sense. It all depends on your beliefs. More and more people are coming out as polyamorous, throuples are a thing, and sexuality is fluid. A noob navigating the sea of romance will drown without a worldly love guru.

Catfishing is another contemporary phenomenon in the dating world. Scammers create the perfect profile to bait vulnerable users. The end game? Sometimes they mean to scam you for money, other times it can turn into something more sinister. It’s not just technologically challenged people who get tricked into these scams. Powerful, accomplished and educated women have fallen for romance scams. The yearning for an exciting foreign suitor, the thrill of being needed, being loved, feeling validated… these are the weaknesses criminals can exploit. No one is safe when approached with the right charm or promises of “happily ever after”. We all have our blind spots, especially when it comes to love.

Contract marriages, marriage for convenience, these schemes are becoming more and more rampant among people looking to gain citizenship in a foreign country. Sometimes they fall in love, but most times it’s strictly business.

Dreaming of Love

With so many of our goals centered on finding true and lasting love, such preoccupations are bound to seep into our subconscious and manifest in dreams. That’s why we often hear about the “man or woman of your dreams”. In dreams we conjure the ideal partner - attractive, smart, accomplished, etc. Dreaming is inextricably tied to our reality. It is the time when our consciousness is processing issues and concerns which we are consciously unaware or dismissive of, possibly repressed or even unknown to us. Instinct and precognition also come into play, so it is advisable to carefully record dream symbols for meanings and interpretations relevant to our lives.

What about our feelings? The man in your dreams? Is he the future for single girls or, if you’re married, does that mean you are looking for someone new? Depends, it’s really not a one-size-fits-all approach, although there are general patterns applicable to the common dreaming experiences. The richer the dream, the more specific interpretations arise. Sometimes our dreams can provide a clearer view of our priorities. We might think we prefer a mature lover in reality, but in dreams we often find a happy-go-lucky partner.

Come Into My Submission

Fetishes and sexual fantasies make up another layer of love and romance. We want to know what turns them on or if they can cater to our kinks. With the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, both in books and films, BDSM has gone mainstream. Asserting or surrendering your power is very much central to any more or less “normal” chat on dating apps or messengers that exist out there, don’t you think?. Someone’s willingness to respond accordingly becomes intertwined with someone’s pleasure. People with the urge to dominate someone’s will have their eyes set on Russian or North Korean brides soon to be available on Amazon.

For those with social anxiety or aversion to complications from “warm” human interactions, sex robots can be the key to satisfying their desires. Technology is racing to create realistic-looking robots made for the fulfillment of sexual desires without feeling too self-conscious or ashamed. Robots aside, this risky roleplay between the dominant and the submissive requires consent, safe words and other safety considerations to avoid sexual or other kinds of mishaps.

Love in the Age of Activism: Count me in

Apathy is no longer tolerated in the age of activism. Greta Thunberg has become the poster child of this woke generation. Even in choosing our partners, their personal philosophy and beliefs are considered and become grounds for rejection or acceptance. A vegetarian person may succumb to eating meat, or someone may become vegan, for the sake of a harmonious partnership. Similarly, at your bae’s first request you may begin thrifting instead of shopping, practice upcycling in your apartment building and cooking at home instead of eating out all the time.

Political affiliation could be another consideration when it comes to finding love. It may not come up during your first date, but later on, when you find out that they support Trump or they’re against same-sex marriage in broader perspective, this may become a deal breaker. Others may not even want to celebrate Valentine’s Day because they reject consumerism. These points of differences can cause strain in any relationship, so it is important to get to know your would-be life partner while you are still dating or testing the waters.

Finding Imperfect Love in An Imperfect World

It is perfectly normal to dream of the woman or man of your dreams. But after the fervor of Valentine’s Day dies down and after the honeymoon stage passes, you are left with the daily grind with your significant other. So, it is important that you find someone you actually like, even for their flaws and all.

Yes, it can be overwhelming to find your match in a sea of curated social media accounts. So, you make yourself appear perfect and desirable on your dating profile. You might also find others who seem perfect at first blush. But at the end of the day, it is the imperfections that make an individual unique and special. It is the dorky laugh, the laugh lines on their faces or the way they always seem to have a coffee stain on their shirt. There may be endless apps promising the perfect match, but our hearts ultimately decide whether a person is worth it.



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