An idea love: Then I take just you! Love as a scarce commodity

Romantic love has become the central motif of our couple relationships. The fact that it is the cement of two people’s lives is a fairly recent invention. A lot has happened since then. In this Column our two authors deal with Lena and Rahel with the origin of romantic love. Where does it come from, where does it want to go? Is love between swipe left and swipe right only a product of the love economy?

Maya was 26 when her boyfriend broke up with her. Devastated, she moved out of their shared apartment and back to her mother. From the city to the village, from the hustle and bustle to the wasteland. Somewhere between fields and cows. Just the right place to get away from Oskar, she thought to herself. Long weepy walks with old classmates, melancholy in the nursery.

But as soon as she arrived, she quickly realized that the village had also changed in her absence. Many of her childhood friends were now married and had already started families of their own. And they were with boys who had been in the parallel class at the comprehensive school at the time. Many had gone on to vocational training, at the local savings bank or in the city administration. Meanwhile, Maya had moved to Berlin, studied literature, waited tables, went to student council parties and met Oskar. The two had never thought about marriage or children. Why should they, after all, they were still so young. They both wanted to see the world first, finish their studies, earn money, experience something. The world was so big and even Berlin seemed predictable at some point. In contrast, Maya’s home village was now tiny.

Was this the famous deceleration that everyone was always talking about?

She also soon had to justify herself to acquaintances and relatives. When Maya honestly answered an older neighbor’s question that she was living in her home village again because of her separation, she got wide-eyed: “But child, at 26? You won’t find anyone there! What are you going to do now, without a man?” Such encounters became more frequent and soon Maya became uncertain. Was she really that behind?

What was it about relationships that differed so much depending on where they lived? In Berlin, her friends had reacted quite relaxed. Well, they just split up when it didn’t fit anymore. No big deal, there was plenty of choice. Berlin wasn’t the capital of singles for nothing. But why was that? Were Berliners really so freedom-loving or were there just too many potentially better partners?

After much pondering, Maya finally sat down at her laptop and started looking for answers. It didn’t take her long to find them. Only what she read astonished her:

The smaller the selection, the lower the demands on a potential partner. In the other direction, the exact opposite was true. The larger the city, the more people, the higher the demands.

A study by Royal Society Publishing found that mate choice even depends on how balanced the gender distribution is in a society. While the gender distribution is balanced worldwide, some countries show a strong imbalance.

But what is the reason for this?

On the one hand, women have a significantly higher life expectancy on average. This is particularly noticeable in countries where a traditional division of roles is still practiced and occupations tend to be of a physical nature. Or, to put it another way, women live longer because men are exposed to significantly greater physical wear and tear and their daily lives are more dangerous than those of women. Men are also more often victims of fatal traffic accidents. On the one hand, because they drive more than women in some countries, and on the other, because they have a riskier driving style.

Women also often live healthier lives than men. While boys often turn to drugs and alcohol in their teens, girls are more careful when it comes to intoxicants. Men also pay less attention to their diet, so more men than women suffer from obesity and heart disease.

All, of course, as always, dependent on education level, income, marital status and genetic factors.

Nevertheless, the difference is clearly discernible. In Eastern Europe, for example, there are more women than men due to the factors just listed. In the Gulf states, on the other hand, there is a clear surplus of men, especially due to the immigration of guest workers.

Abortions also frequently play a role in the context of gender prestige, as do birth regulations. China, for example, now has to contend with a clear surplus of males and actively promotes the carrying of girls to term.

The consequences of this always follow the same pattern: women in China have more choice, so they can choose the best partner in peace of mind. Is the character right? Does the man have a good job? Men, on the other hand, are happy (to exaggerate) if they find a partner at all.

However, as you may already notice, this reasoning only applies to heterosexual partner selection. But it also applies to everyone else: the more choice, the higher the demands.

If Maya is looking for a partner in Berlin, for example, she can be more selective than in her hometown.

Let’s say she prefers tall men, aged between 23 and 35, with an interest in theater and pottery, who also like dogs. The chance that she will find a few potential candidates in Berlin, with its 3.6 million inhabitants, who meet her criteria, is already mathematically significantly higher than in her home village with 1300 souls. Now let’s assume that she is dating four men in Berlin, all of whom match her ideal type, then her demands will quickly rise. She can choose the “best” one.

Of course, everything is presented very ideally, after all, these four guys will also very likely continue to date in parallel and also meet women, with whom Maya is now in turn compared.

And that brings us to the dilemma. Yes, we have less choice in the village, but that also increases the probability of a decision. Our brains are overwhelmed by too much choice. So while in the city, the rule is: “Make sure, keep looking. The world is big, men are beautiful!” In the village it’s: “Watch out, there’s Paul, Tom and Dieter now. Paul is too dumb for you, Dieter is too old, so either you increase your radius of movement (but it’s costly) or you’ll be happy with Tom. Basta!” Sounds hard at first, but for our thought structure it is the simplest possibility.

The larger our radius of motion, the more information we also have to process. In a perfect world, we would then have the complete information at some point. But that is virtually impossible in the real world, because not only Maya is looking for a partner, but also many other singles. Maybe some of them are also bisexual or polyamorous and – bang – the situation is completely confusing.

It gets really crazy when we include dating apps like Tinder, Grindr and the like in the equation. Because then Maya can theoretically meet guys who live 40 kilometers away, even in the village.

The search for the needle in the haystack becomes almost impossible, because with a larger number of potential partners not only the number of needles increases, but also the haystack becomes larger. That can make you despair.

So now Maya can decide whether to risk going on a long search for the supposedly perfect partner, kissing a few frogs along the way, or to make the pool smaller and perhaps lower her standards.

Either way, there is certainly no ideal solution. After all, love is like any other valuable commodity. Everyone wants it, but few find it. Nevertheless, it is perhaps quite nice to know that we can adapt our circumstances to our needs. For example, for Maya, with her lifestyle, it might actually be more advisable to look in a larger city than in the village. However, if one feels more comfortable with the traditional life, the great love with child, Labrador and gravel driveway may already be found in the community next door. None is better or worse.

You just have to know what you want for your life.

Love each other!

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Image source: Anna Shvets from Pexels; CCO license

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