You can’t find a relationship because you’re not looking for one.
When single, and going out into the world (or, more often, the internet) to seek love and companionship, most of us decide whether or not to date someone based on how they make us feel. Most of us don’t think about the relationship we want. We think about the person we want, and, once we find them, we assume a lasting relationship will form organically from there.
Our list of traits that a perfect partner must display comes from a good place, (“I have standards!”) but, often without realizing it, we’re applying the same mentality we use to pick new upholstery fabric to pick out a person to share part of our life with. “This one makes me feel good, and will make me look good to others, so I’ll buy/date it.”
But these partner prerequisites, for all our time spent refining them, have absolutely nothing to do with the longevity of the relationship we will have with that partner.
A lasting relationship is about acceptance of the other, love without conditions, and self-sacrifice. Those empathies have little to do with shared hobbies, credit scores, and whether you have a career which allows you to drop everything and fly to Brazil next weekend.
Wanting a lasting relationship means accepting that, at some point, your partner will fall below your list of minimum requirements, and you will decide to stand by them, anyway. They may get cancer, and their alluring physique will crumble. They may have a loved one die, and in a cave of depression, abandon the positive communication you cherished them for. They may get laid off, and fall into financial ruin. At some point, something will happen that will make them fall below your so carefully thought-out standards, and you will be asked to accept something you don’t like, love without condition, and sacrifice your ego for the sake of your relationship — IF you want it to last.
This initial understanding of self-sacrifice is why arranged marriages last so much longer, and report equal or higher degrees of happiness, than so-called “love marriages.” People in arranged marriages usually approach their relationships with the idea that it is bigger than either one of them, and they will do what they need to do to make it work. People in love marriages approach their relationships with the idea that their feelings towards a person are strong enough to last a lifetime. “How you make me feel will be enough to sustain our love through thick and thin,” we think, with some Disney stars in our eyes, or “if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.” But, this line of thinking is still just based off of how we make each other feel in that moment; we haven’t moved beyond the realm of mutual ego-stroking.
Relationships aren’t fun. They’re an inherently not-fun thing you do with someone you have fun with. Just as light is both a particle and a wave, love is a choice as much as it is a feeling.
If we believe that every person changes throughout their lives, to then base your relationship off of your partner’s financial status, hobbies, or how much you feel they “complete you” is like stepping onto a train you know is going to crash.
We scour these dating sites, complaining about the selection, judging each other and trying on person after person after person.
But we need to acknowledge that that’s what we’re really looking for: a person. We aren’t looking for a relationship, we’re looking for companionship; a trophy, a mirror of validation made of flesh and blood, someone who said the right buzz words in their “about me” section and filled out their sex questionnaire to our satisfaction.
If lasting love is truly what we seek, we need to flip this preamble around. We should first decide if we are ready build something that is bigger than our own egos, something that goes beyond “you make me feel good right now,” and then find someone we want to build it with.
If this all feels too alien, then perhaps we are not ready for a lasting relationship. Perhaps we need to question if lasting love IS indeed what we seek. In an age of revolutionary individualism, life-long relationships may have trouble justifying their relevancy in our lives. While it might come off as depressing, there is nothing inherently wrong with loving ourselves more than wanting to sacrifice ourselves.
The point is, it’s not the fault of everyone online that we can’t make a lasting relationship work. The fault is in how we approach the territory.