Casual hook ups, serial dating, long term relationships, short marriages, no marriage… One of the hottest topics this year was the changing attitude towards romantic relationships. Time Magazine explored the evidence that millennials may prefer marriage licenses to be temporary, with the option to renew or dissolve after a set interval of time. The Huffington Post declared millennials have “failed”, saying they engage in “unhealthy and often damaging or abusive intimate relationships.” Rolling Stone gives millennials more credit, calling them “radicals” heading up a “revolution.”
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Aside from the think pieces and labeling, what I want to focus on for my clients and my readers is, in a world with shifting attitudes towards love and relationships, how do you get the emotional support you need?
Know What You Want
When people make negative generalizations about the current state of the dating world, it seems to dwell on the idea that everyone is bouncing from one partner to the next thoughtlessly. People are confused, or caught up in a lifestyle they don’t fully understand. Maybe that is true for some single people, but it doesn’t have to be the case.
The key to having a fulfilling romantic life is to be aware of your own expectations. Taking the time to look into your own heart is the healthiest thing you can do. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you like about your current dating situation?
- What do you dislike?
- What makes you feel exhilarated in your relationships?
- What makes you feel bored?
- How do you weigh physical intimacy versus emotional intimacy?
- What is your comfort zone for intimacy?
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When you have a clear idea of the circumstances that will make you feel happy, the dating game becomes much easier.
Stay Safe and Healthy
I’m supportive of whatever arrangement my counseling clients decide to pursue as long as they fulfill one goal: to keep themselves healthy. There is nothing more important than staying safe. That means having a plan for birth control and disease prevention. That also means protecting yourself from situations that could lead to physical or emotional abuse. Whether your romantic relationships last briefly or for years, they involve being vulnerable with another person. Nothing is more important than exploring that vulnerability in safety and good health. Use the flexibility of dating right now to put yourself in control of your own body and welfare.
Open Up to Deep Connections
The only risk that I see as a Couples Coach is that someone in a series of casual relationships might not develop the skills it takes to sustain a long-term relationship, and that would be problematic if and when she decides she’s ready for a committed relationship. Who will be there for her in emergencies? Who will be close enough for her to turn to for advice or lean on in times of struggle? Will she be able to create a stable, long-term relationship if and when her dating preferences change later in life?
Read More: 5 Best Places For Dating
That’s why I say you must have deep relationships somewhere in your life. Be it with your family of origin, your second family, your friends, or some other group you build for yourself, it is essential to have close personal ties with others. No one can deny that people function best in small, committed groups, from the time of tribes to today’s communities of our own choosing. Members of communities like this are always healthier, happier, and more successful.
Be careful not to remove yourself from all deep connections with people, because one day you will wake up and miss it, and you’ll be stuck wondering where to start.
Go for It
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So, I say jump into the dating world in any way that makes you feel empowered. Find people that you enjoy spending time with, and people you can trust. Create a social life that supports your larger goals as a person, and gives you the energy you need to build a strong career and happy life. Whatever arrangement you create to get those results, you’re doing it right.