“We turn wimps and geeks into supercharged macho studs.”
Pick up artist products lure men through promising multitudes of sexual partners and the ‘cost-benefit’ analysis of casual sexual hook ups without the supposed ‘hassles’ of relationships or commitment. Relationships are depicted as games of instant gratification and women as exploitable commodities.
Women are sold equally gender stereotyped products guaranteeing; “You Really Can Capture His Heart And Make Him Love You Forever!” The promise to ‘capture love’ sells a flawed premise. You can’t capture love and you sure as hell can’t force anyone to love you. True love is freely given without games or manipulation.
Online hook up apps can give the illusion that there’s a perfect person out there for us – when in reality a relationship is two imperfect people coming together to create a sanctuary of love. Our culture has unreasonable expectations that the ‘perfect love’ happens without work or effort and our true ‘soul mate’ will naturally fulfil all our desires.
Apps can bombard us with so much choice it can feel like a sacrifice to give up options and settle with just one. You know when you’re at the salad bar and there’s so many delicious options you worry that your choice isn’t right and perhaps you preferred the others? Or you keep browsing and taste testing, hoping to find the perfect one in a perpetual cycle of dissatisfaction? You’ll send yourself bananas on the eternal quest to find the perfect meal or the perfect partner.
‘Consumer dating’ encourages us to look at potential partners as disposable products. People are not products. Mature love involves commitment, true intimacy and meeting another’s emotional, mental and physical needs. Those terrified of true intimacy can perpetually hide in the world of ‘hook ups’ that can act as a protective defensive mechanism to being hurt.
People can become so highly critical of their partners that they will never ever be satisfied. Sometimes once we know our partner is committed to us (the idealised honeymoon phase) we start trying to change them into our version of the ‘perfect partner’ who is better suited to our own selfish needs. This is the power struggle phase of the relationship, where you might obsess over all your differences with your partner whereas before you mainly noticed the similarities.
Rather than obsessing on everything that is wrong with your partner, try focussing on how you can improve yourself and what you bring to the relationship. A relationship is the alchemical work of two people together. It’s not a passive process of ordering what you want from a menu, scrutinising it for flaws and returning it for a replacement when flaws are detected or boredom sets in.
I see clients who begin relationships preoccupied with; “What can I do for my lover?” which transforms into, “What am I getting out of this person and this relationship?” Remember to accept difference, embrace compromise and work on unconditionally loving your partner as a complete package, flaws and all.
Words: Catherine O Dowd – Sex Therapist, Relationship Counsellor, Arts Psychotherapist