Navigating The Ups And Downs In A Quest For Love

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated April 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
For many, the desire to find true love can be a prevalent life goal. Still, even with billions of people looking for love every day, it can be immensely difficult to do so successfully. In general, most folks tend to consider a successful partnership to be loving, caring, honest, and lasting. While these characterizations may seem simple to achieve, the code to finding long-lasting love is one science cannot seem to crack. Still, according to some psychologists, there are certain personal assessments and strategies you can implement into your quest for love that can potentially lead to more success in the long run. Though it can be common to possess a “follow your heart” mindset when looking for love, staying grounded and employing a sense of logic in your search can be helpful in finding a loving partnership that best suits you. For more personalized guidance, consider speaking with a mental health professional in your local area or through an online therapy platform.

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Science and the challenges of modern love

When it comes to love and science, it can be incredibly difficult to combine the two. Despite an uptick in research on the matter, humans are not necessarily becoming “better” at finding love. 

In a story published by the Harvard Gazette, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Richard Schwartz, is quoted saying, “I think we know a lot more scientifically about love and the brain than we did a couple of decades ago … But do we think that makes us better at love, or helping people with love? Probably not much.”

In our current, modern age, a partner can be expected to live up to disproportionately high expectations. Associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and spouse of Richard Schwartz, Jacqueline Olds, says, “There is too much pressure on what a romantic partner should be. They should be your best friend, they should be your lover, they should be your closest relative, they should be your work partner, they should be the co-parent, your athletic partner. Of course, everybody isn’t able to quite live up to it.”

According to Schwartz and Olds, life’s modern stressors are likely here to stay. Because of this, they recommend seeking a partner with similar goals and interests, as these commonalities can help maintain a lasting bond. 

Taking time in between relationships

While it can be challenging for many to spend time alone following a breakup, it could be essential to your overall quest. The period of time following a breakup, or any significant time spent single, can serve as a great opportunity to evaluate yourself and past relationships. 

Taking the time to consider your own personality and romantic attachment style may help you better determine what you are ultimately seeking in a partner. Using time alone to reflect on past relationships can also assist in identifying what works for you and what does not. 

Determining what worked and what did not in previous partnerships can help you better analyze what personality traits you seek in a partner. While this type of reflection can be difficult to delve into, it may help you identify what you can do differently moving forward. 

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Learning from past relationships

Typically, identifying problems in previous relationships is not enough to guide a successful quest for love; you must attempt to learn from your past as well. This step tends to be a bit more challenging. 

Learning from past relationships can often require a fair amount of honest and in-depth self-reflection. It is possible that self-reflection will lead to recognizing a combination of personal faults, along with flaws in past partners. It can be very important to offer yourself compassion during times of self-reflection. No person is without fault, and everyone makes mistakes in love. 

Due to the difficulty of exploring what went wrong with past love, receiving guidance from a licensed therapist can be very helpful. Speaking with a therapist can be particularly helpful if you feel that personal symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental illness have negatively affected your relationships in the past. 

Additionally, consulting and considering the opinions of the people closest to you can be helpful. It is not uncommon for trusted friends, family, and relatives to serve as fairly accurate judges of character and circumstance. Communicating openly with those closest to you may help you make a better inventory of past relationship successes and failures.

Prioritizing personality traits

According to Dr. Ty Tashiro, University of Colorado Professor of the Year and author of the book “The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love”, prioritizing three main personality traits in a partner can help narrow down your search. 

In an interview conducted by the American Psychological Association, Dr. Tashiro says, “There are some studies that find that people wish for everything and then they end up getting very little of what’s actually important to them in a romantic partner. So if people can have their top three prioritized, the good news is they have pretty good odds of getting those traits in their romantic partner.”

While consolidating your quest for a life partner to three top personality traits may come off as somewhat prohibitive, it can help to see this more as a guideline or strategy than an absolute requirement, as the nature of love varies greatly from person to person. 

Finding the right person

Despite the recent widening of the dating pool thanks to the introduction of online dating, finding the right person for a lasting relationship is just as challenging as ever. Fortunately, employing a “top three” strategy into your search and potentially help guide you in where to look for a partner. 

For example, if you are a career-oriented person and value that trait in a romantic partner, you may want to seek out dating apps geared toward professionals, or mingle and socialize at networking or company events. 

In your quest for the right person, it can be helpful to stay grounded and remember that self-reflection can often be key. For this reason, it can be highly beneficial to consult a therapist on your journey. 

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Having trouble finding lasting love?

Getting support navigating love in online therapy

Navigating a quest for love often comes with many moving parts, including personal obstacles, past relationship trauma, various life goals, and other circumstances that tend to factor into finding a quality relationship. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Online therapy can serve as a flexible and comfortable alternative to in-person therapy. Depending on your personal needs, it is possible that online therapy can more comfortably guide you in practicing self-reflection and evaluating your past. The ability to get professional help from home or wherever you feel comfortable at a time that fits into your schedule can be empowering.

According to the National Center for Health Research, online therapy is normally as effective as in-person therapy in treating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. 

It is not uncommon for untreated symptoms of mental illness to negatively affect romantic relationships. Effective therapy can often lead to the development of healthier relationships overall. 


When it comes to the quest for love, there is generally no definitive roadmap to follow. However, psychologists tend to agree that a combination of self-reflection and personality trait prioritization has the potential to be very helpful in paving the way to a lasting partnership. For help coping with the ups and downs of your quest for love, or for guidance in coping with any mental health struggles, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a licensed therapist in person or online.
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