Transactional dating is ruining your love life

I have recently been talking to people who have been single for sometime and who are at the end of their tether, in terms of meeting someone to settle down with. A question popped into my mind – What if your idea of love and relationships is completely wrong?

The drive for finding love is inherently selfish…. you are looking to get emotionally fulfilled, you want someone to make you whole, appear successful, feel good, embody a dream, have a family, fit in or be loved. It’s all about ‘me me me’…. What is in it for me? Are my needs going to be met? Will I be loved? Will I be abandoned? Can I trust this person? Will MY friends and family like them? Does that person make ME look good? Will they fulfil MY dream and idea of love? Will they be devoted to ME?

Now that all may be very well – they are ok questions, but basic, primitive and naive. I understand. There is a biological drive, a psychological drive, a socio-cultural drive, however we want to frame it, a drive to need love. So of course it is going to be all about YOU, because it’s a need that is more or less coming from within. However, this frame of reference stems from the Western society we live. It celebrates individuality, adopting an extreme consumer oriented mind-set, ‘throw-away mentality’, and a seemingly fixated discourse around personal happiness. We are entitled to eternal happiness! We need the latest upgrade and have to replace stuff that is broken (instead of fixing it). We worry about what people might think about us and the fear of missing out – “FOMO” has reached neurotic heights.

This has spilled over into dating. Our dates get chosen from a catalogue, we replace them the moment they appear to have a fault, we worry about whether our friends or family will approve and we fear that we are missing out on someone who might be better. Furthermore, the consumerism mentality has turned everything into a transaction. I will date/love/marry you if you give me what I want – otherwise forget it.

Do you know why arranged marriages work? And yes, they do work. Granted we hear horrible stories, but in reality no more, or worse, than conventional ‘love marriages’. They work because the expectations about each other are low to start off with and the couple is committed to a bigger, larger goal than themselves. The low expectation is not meant in terms of not having any, or having low standards, but rather a mind-set of curiosity and respect for the fact you don’t know the other person, and you need to take time to do so.

In contrast, love marriages, more often than not, start off with feelings of love and an illusion of who you think your partner is – only to find out that in reality, they do pick their noses and snore at night. But more interestingly, in arranged marriages, the idea of a strong commitment to something bigger is at the centre of the relationship, rather than feelings of love. It is not all about ‘me’. It’s about working out how you best can contribute to the relationship and making it work. The questions then becomes … How can I make my partner happy? What can I do to make things work? How do I need to be in order for us to feel good? What do I need to do in order to fix any arising faults or problems in the relationship? How can I contribute to the partnership?

Now, what if you applied those questions to dating? Instead of worrying about what you are getting out of it, how about you worry about whether you are actually contributing to someone else life and making them happy? Find someone who is ‘good enough’ – you get on well enough with, you find attractive enough, have more or less the same values and goals in life and then committing to that. Know that they will have faults, be curious to learn about them and work out as you go along how you might navigate and accept them.

The irony is, the love you are seeking for, and which you so “selfishly” need, is best found by being selfless. The longevity of the relationship is achieved by being committed to something bigger than yourself, and the love that grows from that space is the one you have been yearning for all this time.