The Paradox of Modern Love: Why We Struggle to Find It (But Shouldn’t Give Up)

Why is it increasingly arduous for the youth to kindle the flames of amorous affection? Some cite the impediments of time and pecuniary constraints, the enigmatic task of discerning one’s partner’s cogitations, and the inevitable tempests of discord and estrangement. Others fear the anguish of infidelity, the burdens of parenthood, vocation, and domestic responsibilities.

I have long perceived our era as one of “fleeting currents and emotional aridity.” We lack profound sentiments, perpetually in flux. To elucidate, three principal reasons emerge.

The primordial catalyst is love’s exacting demand for time, yet for many industrious urbanites, their hours are consumed by labor. Furthermore, the modern conception of life diverges from antiquity, necessitating far greater material provisions, such as the oppressive burden of exorbitant housing costs, let alone the expenses of childrearing.

The second impetus is the deficiency of emotional discourse during formative years, particularly amongst students, engendering an aberrant phenomenon: when enamored, they become singularly devoted to one person while disregarding all else. Many mistake mere superficial indulgences, such as cinema and confectionery, for genuine love, lacking the profound joy and warmth of truly comprehending their partner’s essence.

The third factor is the traditional moral framework imposed upon women. Bygone eras dictated that women must bear children by their late twenties, preceded by matrimony and courtship. Thus, they were expected to acquire a suitor by their early to mid-twenties. However, their parents allotted scant time for courtship, relegating it to a mere prelude to matrimony. Conversely, men perceived their post-collegiate lives as unbridled, viewing love as an encumbrance. Consequently, women became disenchanted with men, and vice versa, their mutual comprehension askew.

Regarding this quandary, I perceive that modern youth harbor certain misconceptions about love’s essence. Many erroneously anticipate love as a panacea for life’s tribulations – loneliness, anxiety, academic, professional, and personal growth. Facing such adversities, they yearn for a partner to complement their inadequacies, believing that union will provide solace and warmth. This notion is profoundly detrimental, for love is an emotion, not a remedy. Burdening another with one’s problems breeds only repulsion. Unbeknownst to them, their partner may harbor an equal array of afflictions. Excessive expectations breed immense pressure and disappointment. We cannot seek from love and matrimony that which we lack individually, for this violates a fundamental truth: those who truly possess love are those who have forged a connection with the world through their own efforts, suffusing others with confidence and joy through their vibrant lives. Those who regard their partners as mere resources to assuage their own deficiencies and anxieties have forsaken love’s essence.

Conversely, many become disillusioned with love, perceiving their partner as transformed. Partially, this stems from a failure to recognize that no love can sustain two individuals indefinitely. Love’s paramount tenet is reinvention, yet many lack the capacity for renewal. They perceive matrimony as a terminus, neglecting that love demands constant cultivation, akin to a vernal bloom. Some possess greater aptitude for dissolution than union. At the slightest intimation of an adverse future, they hasten to sever ties. If one cannot transcend such trepidations, how can one aspire to share life’s vicissitudes and co-create a world anew?

To resolve this predicament, we must confront love and believe in our power to transcend tradition. Beautiful love holds profound significance amidst life’s vicissitudes, rendering it all the more precious. As the writer Chi Li penned in “A Troubled Life,” a male technician, beset by myriad factory tribulations, would glimpse a distant light upon his homeward journey, knowing his wife awaited with a warm repast, filling his heart with tenderness and joy.

For one to lead a fulfilling life, one must possess inner serenity and the warmth of a shared world. This bestows a different perspective, fostering kindness over anxiety. Thus, believing in love with an ordinary heart is truly precious.

Having acknowledged its value, how do we uncover and cultivate it? Men misconceive love as effortless indulgence, unaware of how to truly know women. I recommend the film “Sideways” as a guide – men must approach women as they would fine wine, understanding their journey of growth with all its undulations. This process, akin to vinification, contains myriad ebbs and flows. Men should not solely fixate on a woman’s outward appearance and vivacity, but comprehend her struggles, experiences, passions, and aspirations. Only then will they possess genuine sincerity, and women will be drawn to those who can truly perceive them. At that juncture, the magpie bridge between two souls silently materializes.

Amor in our era is akin to an “encounter” – the future uncertain, love imperfect. All we can do is bear the consequences. If we have loved, we have loved; if we have failed, our conscience is clear, for we have truly lived, necessitating a new understanding of our worldview.

To have never truly loved as one grows old is a profound regret, thus we require courage. Many are disbelieving, even pessimistic, yet pessimism can be benign. Those harboring pessimism tend towards happiness, while optimists court sadness due to unmet expectations. Without blind optimism, one may encounter warmth and kindness, small joys rendering one content.

Lacking optimism necessitates living earnestly. First, become a person who needs not love nor marriage to lead a rich, unencumbered life – neither a burden nor consumed by panic over their absence. Have courage, believe in your capacity to create beauty, and trust that you can live well, “well” encompassing marriage and love. Only then will your life attain richness.

As modern women, we must shed traditional mentalities. Balzac’s “Lily of the Valley” depicts a woman of exceeding beauty confined to waiting – the traditional feminine role of being loved and chosen. Mérimée’s “Carmen” portrays an eighteen-year-old gypsy who, having loved and parted ways, falls for another. Her former lover confronts her, knife in hand, demanding to know if she still loves him. She defiantly casts aside her turban, stamps her feet, and proclaims emphatically: “No love, no love, no love!”

Human beings are not mere objects; without spirit and psychology, life holds no meaning. As the poet Baudelaire observed to his friend while gazing upon Parisian streets: “I see naught but bones scattered, no living souls – without the human spirit, the true heart, there is no distinction between life and death.” Thus, for modern women to love, they must possess inner reserves and growth, imbuing them with the confidence to take initiative, lest they appear weak. Modern women are ill-suited to passive waiting.

In Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence,” Allen stands upon a promontory, watching a ship sail towards a distant lighthouse. Newland waits upon the slope, knowing Ellen is aware of his vigil and expectation that she turn to face him, at which he would rush forth to profess his love. Yet Ellen, though conscious of Newland’s desire for her to turn, refuses, awaiting his overture. Ultimately, their relationship ends. Modern love demands each meet the other halfway, neither deferring – today’s women cannot silently occupy tradition’s passive role, for it robs them of too much.

We must face life and love with fortitude.

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