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This is why it’s so hard to find love

Millennials are good at many things: using Snapchat, travelling the world and planning ambitious entrepreneurial careers. But romance? Not so much. If you’re an old-fashioned romantic waiting for the object of your affection to remove a glove, extend a hand and invite you to waltz, you might consider binning that plan and playing by new rules.

Finding love in a perfect storm

There are three reasons why courtship and relationships have changed dramatically in recent years according to Dr Gery Karantzas, Director of Deakin University’s Science of Adult Relationships Laboratory. First up, he says traditional male-female dating etiquette has been disrupted. The changing nature of women’s and men’s roles have ‘blurred the lines of how we initiate relationships’.

Secondly, the way we ‘do’ relationships has evolved. Dr Karantzas points out there are many ambiguous points in the process of growing as a couple. From who’s responsible for making the first move, to when it’s right to move in together, there are no standard social norms dictating behaviour because traditional gender roles don’t apply anymore.

Finally, aspects of popular culture, such as dating apps, add an additional layer of complexity and unnatural social pressures. Because each dating scenario is so different, ‘We can’t rely on the way other people did it. The only thing we have left to draw on is good decision making and problem solving,’ Dr Karantzas says.

Be clear about what you want

In the early days of a modern romance it’s often difficult to work out where you stand. Avoiding discussing it might feel like a protective move, but can prolong the agony of a relationship’s impending downfall. Unfortunately, it’s never been easier to avoid honesty. In a generation that uses emojis and Instagram hearts to communicate, it’s unsurprising that relationships often end by ignoring text messages (ghosting). In fact, almost 80% of millennials say they have been ‘ghosted’ when dating.

Dr Karantzas suggests that to rise above this phenomenon ‘you have to be explicit when things become uncertain’. However, he admits this can be difficult: ‘If you’re honest, you open yourself up to being vulnerable. It’s one of the greatest social pains.’

Rejection is ‘a threat to our self-esteem and a punishment that we seek to avoid’, Dr Karantzas says. If we’re brave enough to face that fear, we gain clarity regardless of the outcome, which might be a pleasant surprise or a bitter disappointment. Yet being rejected or doing the rejecting is better for everyone than vanishing without explanation.

'If you’re honest, you open yourself up to being vulnerable. It’s one of the greatest social pains.'

Dr Gery Karantzas,
School of Psychology, Deakin University

Strengthen your relationship with yourself

Casting aside the fairytale ideals of relationships is important. ‘Some people are single for a long time. There are periods in our lives when we have to be comfortable being by ourselves,’ Dr Karantzas suggests. One in four Australian households is a lone-person household, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that lone residents will rise from 1.9 million in 2006 to 3.2 million in 2031. Single female Australian mortgage applicants are on the rise and, for many, making major financial decisions alone will become the norm.

‘The idea that everything’s going to work out beautifully for everyone is not reality,’ Dr Karantzas says. However, while modern relationship liberation has its pros and cons, the upside is you needn’t wait for prince or princess charming to show up – you can choose to write your own happy ending.

Want to learn more about complex human relationships? Consider Deakin University’s range of psychology courses

You can also check out these other thought-provoking articles on relationships, including how we define romantic love or our analysis of how your phone impacts your love life


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Gery Karantzas
Gery Karantzas

Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, Deakin University
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