The Capitalist model of Romance

…the capitalist urge to get you to think of romance in terms of capital investment, finite resources and ‘growth’.

Capitalism is defined by its reliance on the private sector to deliver what the market needs, urged by the profit motive. In theoretical, pure capitalism, the ‘invisible hand’ directs market actors to invest as needed in the quest for profit. For economic prosperity, there is little doubt that is largely works as intended. However, the focus on profit, greed and capital accumulation has always had a nasty down-side. Those who benefit the most, are inspired by their success, power and influence to extend Capitalism’s reach into further realms of human existence.

I identify capitalism as a modern day problem for romance, sexuality and love. Indeed, the issues I want to raise here were not created by the capitalist system. Rather, capitalism inherited this from previous systems of authoritarian control, such as feudalism.


Scarcity mindset definition of success

Happiness, Health, Safety, Comfort – those are universal human needs that have been now almost entirely co-opted by capitalism. We are taught that in order to obtain these things, we must accumulate wealth. The more money we have, the better chance we have of obtaining these needs. The conditioning we receive from childhood prepares us to measure these values in dollars and cents.

In a sense, romance and love have been equally reduced to the same – objects that we must compete for, amass wealth for, and defend others against taking from us.

The Capitalist model of Romance – 3 tenets

1) Scarce resource: There are a finite number of people who we can romantically and sexually connect with.

To ensure we stay in scarcity mode, the number of perceived potential compatible partners are reduced through various means:

  • We have been convinced that we must find ‘the one’ soul-mate, best friend, best lover.
  • We are taught a binary vision of connection – heterosexual and monogamous.
  • We are told to look for compatibility in a narrow, similar age range, socioeconomic status and cultural background.

2) Capital investment: Finding Romance requires investment and expenditure

To be successful at romance and end up with a life partner, we have to :

  • Spend money on diets, exercise regimes, dating advice, nice clothes, makeup etc.
  • Buy gifts and impress our date with economic success. In some cultures if you don’t own a car and a house, you are not considered eligible for marriage.
  • Over the duration of a relationship, we must continue to invest financially in anniversary gifts, bigger house and other symbols of the relationship being escalated.

3) Continuous growth: We must expect constant growth in our romantic connection

The Relationship Escalator, encapsulated exactly the capitalist growth mindset. If a relationship is standing still and not escalating to the next level, then something must be wrong with it.


Abundance mindset definition

Perhaps, they are right?

Maybe this is what we need to do in order to find true love, big romance and a lifetime of relationship bliss?

If we look at the facts, stare at reality and take off our (luxury-branded) rose-tinted glasses, it is quite obvious, to me at least, that the capitalist version of romance is very far from what humans really need, crave and deserve.

Let’s see if we can challenge those 3 tenets of Capitalist Romance:

Romance and love are not scarce resources, they are abundant

What if we had all grown up as pansexuals and panromantic? What if we learned about, and saw as natural, the entire spectra of human emotional and sexual connection? If we did not stigmatise certain orientations and relationship dynamics?

Imagine a world where people look for love and sexual connection that are not restricted by an expectation of heterosexuality or monogamy. How much more expansive would their choices be? There are plenty of myths we were told over our lifetime, that when challenged, really stop making much sense.

Capital investment is not required, money does not buy romantic bliss

When we cease viewing romantic connection as a scarce resource, we realise that we do not need to compete.

Collaboration is much better than competition. With non-monogamous relationships, my connection with a partner does not exclude them having other connection, and I do not need to crowd out others to protect my ‘investment’ in a partner.

A world devoid of mono-normativity will look vastly different, and will not tie our human need for social attachment, to a monetary value. Check out this post about imagining such a world.

Continuous growth is a fallacy

The Relationship Escalator is a concept that compels us to seek constant growth and escalation. We have to accept that a relationships cannot just ‘be’, that we cannot be happy with a partner without wanting to have kids together, or live together.

This is has not been my experience or what I observe in people that have dared to challenge this premise. We can create an abundance mindset and stop seeking a relationship from a place of fear and anxiety.

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