We now live in a society where the idea of a relationship is constantly being questioned, and/or modified into “situationships”, casual sex, or simply left as your traditional relationship. However, contemporary relationships are still encouraged by the values that inform our attitude towards and about love. So what exactly is our attitude towards love today, and does the glam of a relationship induce people into unsatisfying relationships with mediocre partners? Are we settling when we settle down?
When I mention the values that inform our attitude towards love, I’m focusing specifically on relationships and sometimes marriage. Often times when I hear people speak about relationships; money, physical attributes, dates, and other requirements frame the conversation. The desire for a deeply rooted connection and bond, one that could effortlessly expel dishonesty, disrespect, betrayal, and emotional, physical, or verbal abuse, is almost never mentioned. In fact, some women were raised with a “cut-off age” when they were supposed to get married and have children, and sometimes, when these women reach that age they settle for whoever comes along just to satisfy that criteria. This method of thinking produced the term “wifey material”, which suggests that if you’re lucky enough and posses the “right” qualities, you could possibly get “wifed”. Now, many overlook the fact that this mindset, when introduced to young girls, subconsciously convinces them that they don’t get to choose. The notion that at a certain age, a much younger age for women, one should have found a lifelong partner and should be getting ready to get married and start a family leaves almost no room to develop a free-flowing type of love. While it fulfills certain societal standards, it also supports the normalization of compromise on some of the most important aspects of a relationship.
Compromise, like most things, should occur in moderation, or not at all. Social media and the entertainment industry have glamorized relationships to an “extreme compromise”. We see cute couples on dates, with matching outfits, on what looks like expensive travels… people begin to desire that- “relationship goals”. In a way, social media sets relationship standards for most, with discussions surrounding how much a guy must spend on a date or how submissive a woman should be to her man, this façade makes it acceptable for people to compromise on the vital areas of a relationship, as long as he spends $200 on that date, and she cooks and cleans when she’s supposed to or she’s the #WCW, nothing else matters. This mindset allows mediocrity to predominate, and people are not required to do the emotional work; materialism consumes the relationship, coupled with what society thinks/sets. As long as it looks good, then it’s all good. And if you’re unlucky enough, you’ve probably spent 5 years in the relationship, so the thought of leaving is nauseating because people look at relationships as investments. You know, the kind that provides a higher return with a longer term. But is it riskier to dispose of an unsatisfying relationship of 5 years, than swim in dissatisfaction and mediocrity for the remainder of your life?
On page 116 in Bell Hooks’s “All About Love” she states, “…They are disposable. If it does not work, drop it, throw it away, get another. Committed bonds (including marriage) cannot last when this is the prevailing logic. And friendships or loving communities cannot be valued and sustained.” While I agree with her logic, as she is Bell Hooks, I also believe reasonable boundaries should exist to be able to discern what you will and will not tolerate for the sake of a relationship or for the sake of not being alone. But then again, if the concept of self-love and self-sufficiency were emphasized in our society today, there’s a chance we could see more substantial relationships; as the pressure of being with another individual to seem whole, would be alleviated. To be with another being would now become a want rather than a need. I’m not concluding that those are the only contributing factors to a more prosperous relationship, however they are significant, after all “self love is the first form of freedom,” word to Isra Al-Thibeh.
Learning how to be alone and content with just self provides an opportunity to restructure and set the tone for how we want to give love and to be loved. This does not imply that we are responsible for how others treat us, but we get to decide to either accept or reject the type of love we’re offered. Essentially, we construct and define our own theory of love; thus one has to ask themselves, “What does my love look like?” We all have very different definitions of love, which is why I believe there is no one definition of love. Unless you meet all 7.5 billion of us, collect each definition, and then compound it into one. Other than that, we construct our own definitions of love as we journey. So I always wonder why some people are afraid to demand what their love looks like, maybe they’re too pessimistic about the existence of their kind of love or maybe they’re too impatient to wait for it, or maybe some people don’t even have a type of love. Maybe some individuals just want another being they can call their own, all other things held constant and they are content. But I’ve also met people who are like me, those who are uninterested in a lukewarm type of love, those who want their love to consume them in a much healthy way. The kind of love that compels you to be a better you, the one that makes you a poet or an artist for the first time, the kind of love you want to write about, the kind that makes you not want to settle for anything less, because the opportunity cost is just too damn high.
Still, my question stands: Are we settling when we settle down?
BY: Bianca Onwukwe
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