Diving Deep

Posted on in Healthy Living by Christian Pedersen

True Joy in the Age of
Customizable Love


Atech writer friend of mine casually said over lunch, “We live in the Age of Customization.” That struck me when I saw an ad for a high-tech coffee maker in a magazine. While it looked like other dripcoffee makers, this one was controllable from an app. From the convenience of my bed or from the treadmill at the gym, I could program it to have coffee ready at my whim. Not only that but I could specify precisely how long the grounds should pre-soak, the exact serving temperature, and lots more.

Up until that point I’d been happy with my morning coffee. But suddenly the knowledge that my coffee could be customized and optimized to my exact preference created a nagging doubt. Was I missing out on even better coffee?

This is the analogy of my love search in my twenties and early thirties. As a serial dater I had many short-lived relationships in my quest to find love that suited all my fancies. In the same way that the prospect of my coffee could be better made me less excited about my current coffee, so it was in my relationships. No matter how intelligent, kind, and gorgeous my partners were, I had the constant sense that there was something even better out there. I was the archetypal guy who couldn’t commit. There was only one serious drawback: At the end I was always by myself with an insatiable hunger in my heart, constantly starting over.

Today we customize the hell out of our love lives but this customizability comes with upsides and downsides. On the upside, it’s easier than ever to find compatible people. You can sift through a near-unlimited number of online potentials in minutes and possibly find a partner you would likely never have run into by chance as in the old days.

man and woman kissing

On the downside, fewer people are satisfied in relationship.

» Husbands question staying with women who want more from them than they are willing to give.

» Wives quietly seethe because their husbands won’t look at themselves, and leave in search of “a more conscious man.”

» Singles experience “profile fatigue” having to sort through hundreds of potentials without finding “the one.”

» People in newer relationships wonder why they should limit themselves to just one partner.

Customizability is ironically making us less satisfied, not more. The ease with which we can choose decreases our ability and willingness to persist and work through conflicts and challenges.

Granted, I’m colored by own journey. If I had had access to a dating app in my twenties and early thirties. I might have searched for potential partners who were close in age, college-educated, and located within a 25-mile radius. Those criteria would have immediately eliminated my wife, Sonika, who is truly the love of my life. No dating algorithm would have ever paired us as she is 15 years my senior and already had two young children, and we lived 8,500 miles apart.

Just like many of the men today, I was that guy who took all the freedoms I wanted in my intimate relationships. I explored love and sex with many different partners, yet in my search to optimize I was never fulfilled. It wasn’t until I made the choice to go deep with one person that my searching finally ceased and my heart felt at home. I’m not making the claim that this is true for everyone, but I am suggesting that for anyone in an intimate relationship, of whatever configuration, the degree of strength and commitment that goes into the relationship creates a commensurate quality of love.

If you want a relationship where you feel seen and known to the core, where there is trust and depth and honesty, then working through conflicts, disagreements, and breakdowns is a must. I’ve yet to see a truly deep and satisfying relationship that hasn’t been tested over and over again. That is what builds depth, trust, and intimacy. But the ease of customization makes it more tempting to skip the test altogether and just keep looking for other tantalizing offerings.

Someone shared this quote from Timothy J. Keller, a minister:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

I agree. My operating theory is that only by focusing with the same person long enough to love them fully and by being daring enough to let them love you fully can you attain real depth of satisfaction. That kind of satisfaction does for the heart what a good strong cup of hot coffee does to wake one up in the morning.

So if I can impart any wisdom it would be for you to go for just that, whether you’re with your spouse of 30 years, your brand-new partner, or your first date. Go for it. Be mindful not to customize your way right out of love and skip past true deep satisfaction.

Christian Pedersen is a relationship specialist, Certified Life Coach, and author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller When You Love Your Woman. Together with his wife, Sonika, he produces life-altering weekend trainings on love, marriage, sex, communication, and dating. They are co-founders of LoveWorksforYou.com.

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