Are you exploited in your relationship, or is it sometimes the other way round?
We women can congratulate ourselves on living now and not sooner. Earlier, when couple relationships were pure purpose communities. When not the love in the choice of the companion played the most important role, but the questions of how much expensive dishes stuck in the control box and whether the future would inherit a large or a small court. We, on the other hand, can afford to be romantic, just follow our heart. But is that really true? Sure, relationships are different today than they used to be, but our everyday lives are by no means devoid of purpose in love. Yes, we may rate our relationships even cooler than our ancestors. The sociologist Eva Illouz calls it “emotional capitalism”. This means that we are increasingly shaping our partnership according to economic and political negotiation models. Look exactly for the fact that it adds value compared to being alone.
“Who invests how much?” Is the basic sound of love. We keep mental tallys about who washes their socks, how often, and picks up the kids. How much each butters in his career. We register exactly who says how many times “I love you” and how long the blowjob lasts compared to cunnilingus. That sounds brutal. But we learned it that way. Because we live in a culture where we are called to always and everywhere maximize our benefits. Of course, this way of thinking also affects our relationships. The question is, what does it matter with us? Are love relationships, considered on the principle of utility maximization, even worthwhile at all? Actually, we do not need a permanent partner anymore. He is neither imperative for childbirth nor essential as financial support.
Ideally, four partners would be ideal
The American author Sandra Tsing-Loh came to exactly this conclusion in an essay much acclaimed in the US. In it she described the phenomenon of career women who, economically independent of their husbands, saw them as a nuisance once the veil of falling in love have spoiled. Ideally, Tsing-Loh satirically suggests, not one, but four partners for such a woman: Mr. X as a man for exhausting day-to-day management, and perhaps as a child’s father, Mr. Y as a romantic lover who can dance and offer Chardonnay, Mr. Z as a kind of janitor repairing everything, and Mr. Q as an intern, for the rest.
Does that look like the future? Are we beginning to evolve into relationship entrepreneurs who invest their market value on the Internet and invest emotions in a calculated way?
Not necessarily. At least not if we have our own luck in addition to economic and practical considerations. Tsing-Loh, who points out in her essay on a long-term study by the renowned Wharton School of Business, who realizes that women today are clearly more unhappy compared to the past – despite all social advances. Who concludes that women in the 50s went better because the role of the housewife fits better with them, but thinks too shallow. One can also draw a different conclusion from the study: that a lifeworld which is permeated by the principle of profit maximization right through to private life and love relationships does not really make anyone happy.
So maybe it’s an unfortunate development in the truest sense of the word, as we increasingly offset and negotiate in our relationships. Maybe we would have to follow our hearts more often. Love in itself, which is often forgotten in times of individualism and self-optimization, is a feeling that wants unity and scandalously has no interest in personal profits. Mutual accounting is a matter of the mind, but love is irrational.
Have we become too hard?
If we love each other deeply, as everyone has experienced before, this is expressed even in an irresistible urge to give. This seems to contradict what the women of our generation learned from childhood: that we always have to insist on never being shorthanded, let alone “out of love” with a man.
No question, there are moments in relationships where it is stupid to act simply out of affection: when it comes to things that have long-term financial consequences, for example. But sometimes it seems we have become too hard, as if we have forgotten that there are moments when a piece of self-abandonment is possible and even deeply satisfying. To be honest, the most beautiful moments in relationships are not those where you know you have not given too much or too little, so there is a perfect balance. But these are exactly the moments in which one of the partners gives more than he actually should.
If the dearest, just as dead tired as you say, “Take a book, sit down, I’ll make dinner.” Or if one packs the children and makes a trip, although the other would be with children’s hats. Neurobiologists have found that the reward center in the brain starts when we can give something to other people. That’s why love does not feel best when you make the most profit out of it. But if you give it generously. Just like that, without tally.