No doubt, the dating game had been recently updated and its new terms and conditions are now unreadable, to say the least.

With the modern movement towards liberation and self-love, men and women’s needs and aspirations have completely changed. The newfound freedom to simply be ‘you’, has made our traditional gender roles much less limiting. Men have learned to explore their creativity, emotion, and passions, while women have finally become stronger and more independent. Perspectives have shifted, which makes communication a little bit more complicated because now in any given romantic relationship there are actually four people involved; him, her, his soft, feminine side and her strong masculine side.

Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the ‘Modern Dating Dilemma’. My name is Lilly and I’ll be your tour guide on this exhilarating (albeit a little weird) journey of finding true love. Please fasten your seat belt, because I’m telling you, this is one bumpy ride.

Phase One: The Spark

For most people, the first date is kind of like a job interview. You’re asking (or being asked) all the when’s, how’s and where’s of life. Until this magic moment hits you like a thunderbolt. Suddenly there’s chemistry with a hint of attraction that slowly melts down your walls. Maybe the man does something to make her feel special, or the woman gets the chance to show him her genuine or playful side. Once the spark is ignited, shared values have been revealed and no apparent red flags are in sight, they can safely move on to the next step.

Phase Two: The Fear

This is a tough phase, especially for serial daters who are now forced to narrow down their options to just one individual! There’s a lot of anxiety, doubt, and too many ‘unknowns’. Each person is trying so hard to figure out what the other person wants; those are the kind of mind games that give you a migraine. To add insult to injury, questions like ‘Am I ready to settle down?” and “Where is this relationship going?” hover on the horizon around this time too. Eventually, someone freaks out and starts pulling back, compelling the other one to come on too strong. Maybe it’s the man who disappears and then the woman calls for an urgent board meeting with her friends to discuss all the possible reasons why, plus a solid plan on winning him back. Or maybe the guy fires up his stalking skills causing the poor girl to hyperventilate. Most often than not, one will feel trapped and the other will feel abandoned (See how frustrating this is?). The fear is real at this stage, but try to get past it, because the next stop is a lot of fun.

Phase Three: The Happy Place

Not really, but you know, let’s pretend it is, because even though there might still be some residual fear, there’s a lot of beautiful things to look forward to. You finally see yourself as a couple and, let’s face it, reaching this far deserves a medal. You’re exclusive, you go public with the relationship, you tag each other on social media, the whole nine yards.

There is romance, deep conversation and hopefully heart-shaped chocolates on special occasions. There’s intimacy, butterflies in your stomach, and plenty of unexplained smiles. There are raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens lol

And just when you think this is all too good to be true, you suddenly realize, it is.

Phase Four: The War Zone

The truth is, your relationship will NEVER be ‘perfect’. It’ll never look as glamorous as what you’ve built it up to be in your imagination. The flaws you’ve been blinded to will eventually surface and disappointment will fill up the cracks in your illusionary eternal romance. (I know, I’m sorry!). You’ll find yourself desperately trying to change your partner into what you want him or her to be, and the more you try, the more they’ll resist (and the more they’ll believe you’re a psycho!). That’s when the real power struggle takes place. Ego, obsession, control, overthinking and insecurities will get in the way. The woman will always want more, (more space, more attention, more time) while the man will be confused about why her expectations never stop rising. She’ll talk endlessly about how she ‘gives and GIVES’ but he’ll shrug and say ‘nothing I do is good enough’.

That’s the tipping point right there; because their masculine and feminine sides will collide and somehow hell breaks loose.

Now they’ll either break up or move on to the final station.

Phase Five: The Bliss Point

You did it! Congratulations.

Now that you’ve survived the war, you deserve some peace. The bliss point is the perfect blend of sweet and salty that keeps you wanting more. There’s a healthy balance between your need for independence and your need for a connection. At this point you both reach a level of maturity where you understand that life is not always going to be sunshine and rainbows and that maybe that’s okay. When trouble strikes we gotta remember to respect our different hormones. Yes, women nowadays can do everything a man can do, and vice versa, but still we’ll never think, behave or want the exact same things. Most women will need to talk their emotions out till your ears fall off, while most men will completely detach all together and pull away.

The bliss point sparkles when you truly understand the nature of your relationship: Your partner is not your therapist. So resist the urge to shine a light on your past wounds, secretly expecting your new lover to heal you or fix what others broke. I know you’ve heard this a thousand times but let’s make it 1001 just in case: Your partner is not responsible for your happiness. You are. Your partner can only make you ‘happier’.

Listen to me…

In the final destination where your ‘dating’ status turns into a serious, lifelong commitment, along with the rosy dreams of love and fun, there has to be a whole lot of acceptance, forgiveness, and sacrifice involved. A woman’s greatest need is to feel cared for and heard, while the mans’ is to feel trusted and appreciated. And yes, it’s not always gonna come naturally. Some days it will even feel impossible to do, but that’s what commitment is about: a promise to love someone even at the times when you don’t like them.

It’s okay to be scared. We all are.

Letting down your guards and opening up your heart for love is not easy, especially if you’ve been hurt in the same place too many times.

It’s the ‘hope’ that keeps us going.

The hope that even though we’re happy on our own, someone out there can make us happier.

Someone will be there to witness our lives and cheer us on.

Someone will bring out the best in us, so much so that we’ll never have to be sad about yesterday nor worry about tomorrow.

Because the bravest thing you can do is enjoy the bliss of today.