Being a self-professed romantic and an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I often scrutinize the nature of romance more than most. Whereas some might watch a movie or TV show and see the basics of a romantic sub-plot, I’ll dig much deeper. I’ll identify which romances are inherently flawed, why some work beautifully, and why love triangles are inherently awful.
That scrutiny goes beyond media, popular culture, and my own efforts to tell a good love story. I often find myself observing how romance unfolds in real life. Whether it’s how people have pursued romance in the past to my own romantic endeavors, there’s a lot to break down and it doesn’t always make sense. Love isn’t known for being rational, after all.
It’s because of this tendency of mine that I notice things that rarely come up in discussions about romance. Recently, I realized something profound while reading several stories about how modern dating has changed in recent years, of which there are many.
Modern romance has become more a job interview than an emotional journey.
I imagine some will roll their eyes at that notion. Some might even agree with it and not need any convincing. A few probably think I’m giving this too much thought, even for a romance fan. That may be a fair point, but I believe the evolution of modern romance is becoming a lot less romantic.
To be fair, finding has undergone many upheavals throughout history. It wasn’t until the past couple centuries that people actually married for love. Those who claim to champion “traditional” marriage probably aren’t aware that marriage and formal relationships were little more than passionless business contracts for most of human history.
Love and romance were always there. We, as human beings, are hardwired to form loving bonds. It just took different forms and people went about it in very different ways. Most people have a general idea of how people go about it today. It tends to go something like this.
- Two people meet, either in person or online
- There’s a spark of attraction
- They both pursue each other
- They go on dates to learn about one another and explore their romantic connection
- If the connection is strong enough, they forge a lasting relationship and build a life together
Granted, this is an exceedingly gross simplification. It still covers most of the basics. That’s the problem, though. It only deals with the basics and people are rarely basic.
It starts shortly after a mutual attraction is established. Once two people start pursuing one another, the dating phase starts. Movies, TV shows, and romance novels tend to be vague about how this unfolds. However, it’s here where the parallels with job interviews start to show.
While a love story may depict candle-lit dinners, coordinated dancing, and intimate gestures, the bulk of that process tends to involve more pragmatic acts. For two people to understand whether they’re romantically compatible, they need to get to know one another. To get to know one another, they need to interact.
That, in and of itself, doesn’t make dating indistinguishable from a job interview. For that, the modern structure of relationships is what fosters that and I’m not just referring to marriage. This affects couples who cohabitate, as well as those who are serial monogamists.
From a logistical standpoint, a modern romance has many moving parts. It’s not enough to just be attracted to one another, enjoy each other’s company, or have great sex. People often have to find a way to fit one another into their lives. There are jobs, career aspirations, and living situations to consider.
These days, people aren’t as likely to stay in the same place they were born in, especially if the opportunities in that town are limited. The same goes for their families. Even if they stay, sometimes their parents or extended family move away. Maybe it’s for retirement, going to college, or pursuing their own romantic interests. Having to accommodate all that into a relationship can be daunting.
In the same way you might be qualified for a job, but not in a position to take it, you might find yourself in a similar relationship with romance. All the emotional, physical, and sexual chemistry is there. However, you’re just not in a position to pursue it. You can’t maintain that relationship when you’re both living in other time zones or pursuing different paths.
That’s not to say long distance relationships can’t work, but it’s like trying to do a job remotely. There’s only so much you can do when you’re not present. If that weren’t the case, everyone would work from home or from a tropical paradise. I that as someone who has been unable to pursue major opportunities and broken up from good relationships due to distance.
Even if you can work around issues of distance and time, there’s also the matter of becoming entwined with family affairs. As the “Meet The Parents” trilogy so hilariously demonstrates, being with someone is rarely just about being with them, individually. At some point, if the romance is to be serious, their family will get involved.
That process can be as complicated as matching qualifications for a specialized job on a resume. You’ve got to make sure both families can get along. They can’t just tolerate each other at the wedding or during the holidays. They have to be capable of co-existing in a way that doesn’t undercut the romance.
It’s very similar from having a job that matches your skill set, but for an organization that is just insufferable. A lot of people have had to endure jobs they hated, even if they paid well or matched their various talents. When the organization within the job is awful, then even a dream job can be awful.
You can love someone with all your heart. You might even have someone your family loves. However, if your lover’s family is an absolute pain, then the romance will suffer. Now that relationships aren’t just business arrangements, we have to navigate around one another’s lives and their families. To do that, it’s necessary to treat dating like a job interview.
You have figure out if this person fits into your life.
You have to figure out if their hopes, dreams, and abilities match what you’re looking for.
You have to prove that your hopes, dreams, and abilities match theirs as well.
You have to determine whether you fit into the organization of their life and their family.
Ultimately, you have to build that shared life together around all of that, knowing that breaking up/being fired/quitting comes with a personal/professional cost.
On the surface, it’s hardly romantic. At the same time, there’s an undeniable pragmatism to it. As society has evolved, complete with more egalitarian gender roles and fewer taboos about being single, we’re in a better position to chart our own romantic path. We don’t just have to settle for limited options and few opportunities. We can dare to seek something greater.
As a byproduct, the basic romantic elements of intimate chemistry can never be enough. It’s necessary, if not unavoidable, to assess a prospective lover’s entire life to determine of that romance is even viable. It’s not easy and it’s exceedingly imperfect, as the rate of divorce and abusive relationships indicates.
However, being the romantic I am, I still say it’s worth pursuing. That process is still very likely to change as society, technology, and attitudes change. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are sure to change it even more. Whether it becomes more or less like a job interview remains to be seen.