Have you been holding off dating because you’re unemployed? Well, new research shows that while you’re not alone in your job search, you might be alone in waiting to start a relationship for economic reasons.
This research points to a very interesting dynamic: When people are faced with a lack in one area of their lives, they compensate for it in other areas. The desire to find a partner may have taken a back seat to focus on career advancement, but if careers are suddenly on hold, the need to find a partner becomes the primary focus.
I find this interesting for two reasons: One, even though high unemployment rates are a terrible reality, I like the idea of people turning away from the focus on work. I’ve been to and even lived in other countries where the lifestyle is much more relaxed and relationship-oriented. Families eat all three meals together each day. Extended families live in close proximity. Friends are as close as family. Significant others are first and foremost in consideration for most life decisions. People in these places have the work-to-live ethos; whereas here, ours is live to work. We spend so much time working, and our free time is spent thinking about work that, true to the adage, it makes us dull.
I might just be proof of this current trend. I could say that for the time I’ve been under-employed my dating life had improved significantly. In fact, I am fairly certain that if I was working full time, I would not be able to dedicate the time and attention to the relationship I’m in now. I consider the time I’m dedicating to this relationship as far, far more important than any professional advancement I could otherwise make. For me, work is only a means to an end; the end is the life I’d like to have outside of work. No one lies on their deathbed regretting that he hadn’t spent enough time at work.
And it is precisely this shift of priorities that current research is pointing to. Tracy Steinberg, a fellow New Yorker and self-proclaimed “dateologist,” thinks the reason for this increased emphasis on dating is that in light of hardship, people start to see what matters. Most of us would agree that facing hardships alone is much, much more difficult than doing so with someone by our side. As she points out, many of the newly unemployed felt prompted to shift their attention to relationships out of fear of being alone. It is this fear that we often bury under the distraction of work; so once that layer is uncovered, we are compelled to face it. What better way than to try meeting someone new?
The other reason I find this social development interesting is because it forces us to shift our idea of what a date is. Let’s face it: If everyone’s broke, expensive dates are out of the question. We are all looking for ways to save money, and dating is no exception. Whereas dinner, drinks and a movie were once mandatory, now dates could consist of things like free local events, recreational or athletic pursuits, or just spending time together without a set agenda.
These ideas certainly fly in the face of Patti Stanger’s concept of a date, wherein men are required to “drop bank,” as she puts it, but I think this is a good thing. What’s wonderful about it — at least to me — is that it shifts the focus in a very real, tangible way from the shallow trappings of the material world. If we are distracted by who’s paying, and how much one makes, and what one’s professional title is, will we ever pay attention to the things that really matter? I think that money is one of the worst distractions there is from making us see what our priorities should be.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I think we shouldn’t ever consider the possibility of supporting a partnership and eventual family when we’re discerning a relationship. But when people begin looking at income as the end rather than the means, something is amiss. What will happen to those people when they suddenly lose their job?
I think that how a potential partner deals with all of the ensuing concerns of unemployment is a great indicator of how they will deal with other hardships in life. Those who can live within their means are often the same people who can withstand the difficulties of life with better coping skills. It is through hardship that we really see what a person is made of. For myself, I’d rather find out that information sooner than later.
Just the other day, I had a lovely date: a gallery exhibition (free) followed by drinks and a light lunch (inexpensive). It was a weekday afternoon. We both agreed that this would never be possible if we had full-time jobs. Somehow, it served as more than a consolation for being unemployed; in fact, it was far more enjoyable than waiting until a weekend evening. This city is far too crowded on Saturday nights anyway!
With all the research backing me up, I urge my fellow CatholicMatch members to not let a reduced income get in the way of dating. Trust me on this: Spending a weekday afternoon with someone wonderful is far more fun than spending it reading want ads!