relationship consumerism


A couple of weeks ago I was catching up with a bunch of friends who I don’t see very often anymore (because I have moved further out of town and partly because my immediate friendship circle somewhat evolved over time).
It was surprising to find out that actually in the last two or so years that I have been out of the picture not a lot has changed..

As the afternoon morphed into the evening and a few glasses of wine became a few bottles a familiar state of affairs was reinstated. Girls were complaining about the lack of ‘good men’, sharing war stories from the world of dating apps.
The boys, on the other hand, were still chasing girls.. except it would appear that whilst the boys were getting older, the average age of the girls they were chasing remained the same.
Every now and again someone would bring up the lonely pizza Sundays or praise the inventor of ‘Netflix and chill’.

The way I see the situation is as follows.. A group of boys, overachievers in most parts of their life are trying hard to ‘overachieve’ with the girls by pulling the hottest, the tallest and best looking…
The girls who are all very intelligent, good looking and are probably also overachievers are stuck on a merry-go-around of bad dates because “all the good ones are taken”..

It made me wonder why these 30-something, smart, successful, accomplished people in every other part of their life, were struggling accomplish themselves in the love department.

Perhaps this is by choice, perhaps some of them enjoy being single and enjoy the chase?! Perhaps…but I honestly think it is a little more complex than that…

Through my non-scientific, non-research, purely matter-of-opinion method, I concluded that these 30-something folk were, in fact, victims of “relationship consumerism”.

As the material possessions are viewed to be defining factors of our social status and a measure of success and accomplishment, so too, increasingly, are our romantic relationships. As we use our material possessions to pacify and distract ourselves from dealing with our deeper insecurities, so too, do our relationships become a tool for ongoing pacification. A band-aid for our insecurities.

In our twenties we simply fell in love..in our thirties, falling in love seems to come wrapped in many socio-economic layers, perceptions and impositions.

In our thirties we, both men and women alike, become more pre-occupied with the “checklist” for our prospective partners.

These checklists are varied in length and complexity and represent, what we believe to be, our perfect partner.

Millennials (and those who just scrape through the definition) are constantly looking for the next thing – the next education, the next acronym to their name, the next bonus, the next car, the next holiday…. and of course the next girlfriend/boyfriend. And all of these have to fall within the scope of our perceived life order, the perfect life that we are trying to create and that we work so hard for throughout our lives.

We are ever-consumed by self-improvement… (or perhaps creating the perfect life narrative?!) …getting a yoga teacher license (although I will never teach a day of yoga but you know… it’s totally my plan B in life), getting an MBA, looking for spiritual self (through the hottest guru in town…obvs), detoxifying (through the most over-priced, most instagrammable organic juice bar) etc etc etc. Your partner becomes an extension of self… because “I didn’t work hard to get myself to where I am just to date someone with no goals or a six pack”….

Whatever happened to good ol’ opposites attract?! Ultimately, I think the root cause is three-fold… and I haven’t quite figured out which one is more accurate. Either we are so filled with insecurity (often self-inflicted) that we are trying to compensate through our partner; or we mistakenly believe that the checklist will land us with someone whose values and beliefs are aligned with ours; or we have become so consumeristic in our attitude to life that we are never content and “what if something better is on offer”?!

As a guy, if you upgrade your job, your income, your car, your watch… does it mean you have to upgrade your girlfriend?? Or if you just so happen to be single whilst all this upgrading is happening, are you meant to be looking for a different ‘standard’ of girl who will better represent your social status?!

I feel like we spend so much time looking for the next best thing that in the process we forget what we were looking for… in fact, we forget that ‘what’ we are looking for is not ‘what’ at all but rather is a ‘who’….

I had a list… it was extensive, unrealistic and uncompromising.. Eventually, I realised that certain qualities simply cannot coexist in the same person… or at least cannot exist in equal parts.

I really hate the saying of “you can’t have it all”… I think you can have it all.. if you prioritise what is important.. if you figure out what IT is…above and beyond everything else… If it is money you want in a partner acknowledge that as a priority. If it is the looks you are after then look for someone good looking. If it is intellect, humour, kindness, generosity, respect then look for that one thing, the most important thing.

I’m not saying unicorns don’t exist… but you may agree that not everyone is lucky enough to meet one. And perhaps to meet a unicorn one has to be a unicorn…

I wish we would get real, stop chasing the partners who look good on Instagram and give the people who make us feel good a proper chance. I wish we would give ourselves a chance to fall in love or at least into friendship..rather than rushing towards the next fling, leaving perfectly lovely individuals to bite the dust, without any attempt to really get to know them.

I think technolisation of the dating world has done a lot of good for many people out there. But as with anything good – we will always find a way to overindulge, overdo, overplay and bring it down to the gutter…