Relationships in modern times have moved away from their traditional roles of commitment, marriage and furthering the family bloodline. The dynamics of finding companionship have shifted to include several alternatives for individuals to explore their preferences and express themselves as they feel comfortable. With different dating forums, a rising acceptance of gender and sexuality, the idea of dating has changed. People explore relationships through casual dating, dating apps, open relationships and even polyamory. So has this shift changed our understanding of love?
Everyone engaging in different forums of dating have different perceptions of romantic and sexual connections. They find partners based on their preferences, priorities and intentions – usually with people with whom their expectations match. Dr Paramita Bhowmick, psychiatric social worker at Cadabams Groups confirmed, “Love is not just about falling for a person anymore. It is also about expectations from the relationship.”
This brings the question of how these expectations have evolved from our traditional understanding of relationships. We still seek a companion, as well as affection and social support. While the foundations of relationships stay the same, our ways of seeking companionship have changed. With more individual-centred thinking, relationships have become a space where people prioritise the happiness they receive through a relationship. Casual dating, dating apps, even avenues such as speed dating create more scope for self expression, while also giving space for choosing what is right for them at any point in time.
In fact, sociologist Anthony Gidden explained the modern transformation of romantic endeavours as ‘confluent love’. By this definition, relationships are more centred around love and respect for each other. The relationship lasts as long as an individual feels that they are being emotionally and mentally benefited from it. In the case that it no longer seems beneficial, the person can choose to take a step back and explore other alternatives to build a meaningful relationship. Of course, all these decisions depend on individual priorities, personality as well as the intentions with which they are looking for a relationship.
These same individual expectations and goals could cause some problems while communicating in a relationship. With the increasing directedness with which interests and goals are communicated, there is still a possibility of being disappointed with the way your budding relationship is going.
With multiple partners, open relationships or even casual dating, it becomes difficult for all partners to be on the same page as the other. Here, Dr Paramita Bhowmick advises, “Expectations should be mutual. They should be made clear to each other in the beginning of the relationship itself.” She emphasises that we should be clear while choosing what exactly we want and then go for it. If not, there is bound to be a lot of confusion, disappointment and can ultimately lead to a dead end in the relationship.
This advice is not to scare you into stopping your exploration of romance. Love is a delicate and powerful emotion. It holds the power to easily tip the scales, but if balanced well, can hold enough weight to last a lifetime. As we strive to find love in our complex and constantly changing culture, we can at least ensure the positive emotional wellbeing of our own selves at the front of it all.