Bring on wed­ding belles and beaux

Most of us still de­sire that life­long ro­man­tic com­mit­ment

Herald on Sunday - - WE SALUTE YOU - Dr Pani Farvid u@Pani Farvid

So far so good on Mar­ried at First Sight!

Luke and Lacey have hit it off in a cute and comedic fash­ion. Dom is to­tally smit­ten with Claire (who got over his height pretty quickly, peg­ging him as just the loveli­est man ever). Vicky wants to take it slow with An­drew.

But Brett and An­gel were so happy with each other, they just couldn’t stop smil­ing.

Two more wed­dings to go.

As we wait to meet the fi­nal cou­ples tonight, it’s timely to con­sider how this thing — “the cou­ple” — struc­tures our daily lives.

Not only is so­ci­ety firmly cen­tred around the cou­ple (the nu­clear fam­ily is con­sid­ered the norm), but the ro­man­tic pair is also po­si­tioned as the ul­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship goal.

As much as the Western world has be­come lib­er­alised about sex, my aca­demic re­search in­di­cates most peo­ple are still chas­ing that ro­man­tic ide­ol­ogy of “The One” — even if they are de­lay­ing the process.

We largely have the free­dom to choose how, when, where and with whom we have sex. Yet most of us still de­sire that life­long ro­man­tic com­mit­ment to do it in.

Be­ing sin­gle even­tu­ally gets dif­fi­cult. It has a stigma at­tached to it, and it gets harder as you get older and peo­ple start to pair off — how many times can you be the third or fifth wheel?

It might be okay to be sin­gle in your 20s — you might be study­ing, fo­cus­ing on work, or travel — but be­ing sin­gle in your 30s and be­yond is a ma­jor stress for most, par­tic­u­larly when friends and fam­ily have chil­dren and spend more time with sim­i­lar cou­ples. When match­ing up cou­ples for

Mar­ried at First Sight, I was sur­prised by how many younger ap­pli­cants there were.

At 25, or even 30, have you re­ally ex­hausted all your op­tions — or is it that the pres­sure to find The One and set­tle down is so pow­er­ful you’re will­ing to put your des­tiny in the hands of ex­perts and go on a tele­vised so­cial ex­per­i­ment to find it?

It’s of­ten taken as “nor­mal” or nat­u­ral to need to be paired off. But the promi­nence placed on this for our in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships and in some ways for our whole so­ci­ety re­quires anal­y­sis.

For ex­am­ple, monogamy is not a re­quire­ment for sex, love, or pro­cre­ation — but we’ve been led to be­lieve it is.

His­tor­i­cally, monogamy has been use­ful to con­trol sex­ual con­duct, as well as help keep track of which off­spring are whose — and who is fi­nan­cially re­spon­si­ble for them.

As re­li­gious and moral dis­courses have soft­ened in favour of sec­u­lar­ism and lib­er­al­ism, I’m sur­prised how strongly the tra­di­tional con­cept of love, as tied to mar­riage and life­long cou­ple­dom, re­mains in­tact.

I’m not say­ing we shouldn’t com­mit to one per­son, but I won­der if we’re long over­due for some di­ver­sity and plu­ral­ity in our op­tions.

Re­cent re­search I un­der­took on ca­sual sex re­vealed a hi­er­ar­chy of re­spectabil­ity that struc­tures our sex­ual be­hav­iour.

The rank­ing of sex/re­la­tion­ships, from ideal to least ideal was, from the pin­na­cle: monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ships with The One; monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ships; dat­ing in search of The One; long-term ca­sual sex re­la­tion­ships — aka friends with ben­e­fits — a one-night stand; and fi­nally, at the bot­tom, the booty call.

No­tably, in this hi­er­ar­chy, the more emo­tion­ally in­volved or com­mit­ted a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship, the higher its sta­tus.

Although sex os­ten­si­bly holds an im­por­tant po­si­tion in de­ter­min­ing re­la­tion­ships and com­mit­ment — here it was the “emo­tional” in­volve­ment, the in­volve­ment be­yond sex, that in­creased the sta­tus and mean­ing of a re­la­tion­ship.

It would seem our new moral com­pass is emo­tional in­ti­macy, in the con­tem­po­rary con­text. It’s how we judge the worth of in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships.

What does this mean for cou­ple­dom and mar­riage? Do we get the emo­tional in­ti­macy we dream of? Can such emo­tional in­ti­macy sur­vive the pres­sures of work­ing, hav­ing chil­dren and other fam­ily obli­ga­tions, and stand the test of time?

Most in­trigu­ing, through Three’s new so­cial ex­per­i­ment, can our

Mar­ried at First Sight par­tic­i­pants find the emo­tional con­nec­tion that could bind them for life?

Love­birds Luke and Lacey have hap­pily hit it off in an amus­ing fash­ion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.