A few weeks ago, as I was going through my morning ritual of seeking new articles on online dating/dating/relationships (partly to learn new perspectives, partly to comment and introduce TruConnection.com), I came across this article in Psychology Today online entitled: ”Is a ‘Marriage of Convenience’ So Bad?”
The author, a renowned psychologist and frequent contributor to psychologytoday.com, offers pros and cons of a so-called ‘marriage of convenience’ — loosely defined, the idea of a married couple staying together despite falling out of love. She talks about the financial and logistical difficulties associated with divorce, the fact that with kids you’re never truly apart from your spouse anyway, and that if the situation is tolerable and livable, perhaps it isn’t the worst thing. The author recognizes that such an arrangement is not the ‘dream’ of marriage, but shouldn’t be stigmatized, either. She uses the phrase ‘companionate marriage’ to describe an arrangement in which ‘spouses are willing to give each other some accommodations and freedoms so that they can meet other vital needs elsewhere’.
Not being married, it isn’t my place to comment on the psychology of marriage, or what married couples go through. But in my opinion, this article is symptomatic of a deeper issue that arises in all stages of a relationship, and which I believe contributes to less-than-ideal arrangements: the idea that outside factors and societal pressures should have an impact on the potential happiness you can achieve in a relationship, or should affect who YOU choose to meet / date / marry in the one life you have.
It’s easy to get impatient about this. Reading the last paragraph, friends I know will say ‘oh come on, get real.’ We are social creatures, and it’s lonely to sit and dream of a world in which true love is just that, and everything else is secondary. It’s much easier to consider the things that are deemed ‘important’ in a potential relationship: background, family, education level, career path, etc. We develop a checklist mentality not because these are truly important factors in falling in love and staying in love, but because that’s what we think is the recipe for long term ‘success’ in a relationship.
Online dating sites know this. Many are set up to provide you with as many data points about another person as they can extract through dating questionnaires or personality tests. They realize that we all have an image of an ideal mate in our mind, and they try to make it easier for us to find that person by allowing us to filter based on things we find ‘important’.
This approach looks good on paper. And when you are feeling impatient, you don’t want any BS, you just want to drill down and be as specific as possible with your parameters. Went to college. Makes a certain amount of money. Is much taller than me. Gym 3x/week. No smokers. Wants to have minimum 3 kids. No exceptions.
You review your matches, and perhaps you date a few. Maybe one seems great, and you develop a relationship that blossoms into something significant. Maybe you fall in love, get married, and stay in love.
Or fall out of love. Fall into a convenient arrangement. After all, the data points still match up.
What if your first impression was based on something more real?
The approach of TruConnection.com — in which members share limited information about themselves, just their writing / creative expressions and a photo — is not perfect. But it is a way to open a window into one’s personality without knowing everything about them. It is setting you up for a meeting in which you will learn the things about her that you don’t yet know. Your connection, if you make one, will be based on a more real first impression.
We are not using data points and formulas. We are not attempting to, as one popular dating site CEO described his site’s approach, ‘engineer the next great relationship.’
More importantly, we are not engineering the next marriage of convenience.