Dating used to be fun, because dating used to be affordable. Now, things are different. Not only are we not bumping uglies regularly, but we’re being really picky about how deep our prospective partner’s pockets are.
Over the years the UK has seen a steady decline in the amount of sex we’re having – and this trend has continued into 2023.
Lelo’s latest Sex Census reports that our ‘sexodus’ was likely born from a loss of intimacy as a result of the pandemic and has been compounded by a hard year of economic uncertainty, global incidents and a cost-of-living crisis.
Dating during this time is turning out to be something of an impossible task for those feeling the pinch, with one in 12 Brits giving up on dating completely to save money, according to research conducted by dating app Flirtini.
Furthermore, 60% say they’ve had to cancel dates because of affordability.
In 2022, daters were already tightening their belts due to inflation, with nearly one in five single people saying they were going on fewer dates, while 14% were trying to spend less on the dates they did go on.
Fast forward to today and 67% of Flirtini’s respondents say they’re taking on side hustles to impress their dates.
But why? What’s money got to do with it? Well, quite a lot, it would seem – especially when everything is so expensive and our hard-earned cash isn’t going as far as it used to.
Flirtini’s data suggests that plenty of daters are counting on their future partner to “solve their financial problems”, as 46% of women and 28% of men confirmed they were looking for someone who earned more than they did.
Moreover, one in six would not date someone who could only afford free or cheap activities, and another one in six would not date someone who lived with their parents for financial reasons.
This trend for people seeking financial security in relationships is no big deal, according to Ali Ross, a psychotherapist and spokesperson for the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). Having conversations about money can help us navigate difficult times and support one another.
But, she also says it can be dangerous to be hyper-focused on finances above all else. “Money without purpose or connection to what it is being spent on and why quickly feels empty and blurs with purpose, becoming an end in itself,” she says.
“In being so unfulfilling, it will either open up existential questions or mean the individual tries to shut off the meaningfulness in their life, only adding to their sense of emptiness.”
The reason why we end up caring so much about a prospective partner’s finances is likely down to culture, which plays a significant role in shaping our perceptions of gender roles, such as “the provider” and “the Madonna”, says Chantal Gautier, a sex therapist and lecturer at the University of Westminster.
But this can be harmful. Cultural norms, values and expectations influence how societies define the responsibilities and expectations associated with these gender roles, and how they can be detrimental to mental health.
As a result, in times of financial hardship, “men may experience heightened stress and a sense of failure if they struggle to meet these expectations,” Gautier explains.
The expert suggests that, ultimately, we need to remember “it’s not necessarily the quality of the date, but the connection you feel during” that matters. Amen to that.