Love for Now: The Rise of Short-Term Relationships
How China's gender imbalance could spark a love revolution
Wanting to avoid overly intrusive, non-satisfying emotional or sexual long-term partnerships, an increasing number of Chinese young adults have found what they've been looking for—temporarily.
Da zi, which roughly translates as “everything can be matched,” is about creating short-term, often same or opposite-gender, relationships, frequently focused on sharing specific, mutually enjoyable activities.
“I'm hoping to meet a stranger who won't pry into my life,” a da zi proponent told Indiatimes, “but can keep me from watching movies or eating hotpot alone.”
Though likely arising from what Statista reports is China having the world's most unbalanced sex ratio, as in having “34 million more men in the country than women,” it's not hard to imagine that other countries might also eventually develop a preference for short-term relationships.
Which, if we play our cards right, could lead to a world where love is plentiful—and loneliness is a thing of the past.
Odds in our favor
Mathematically, it's hard to deny the benefits temporary partnerships would offer … Well, pretty much everybody.
For example, suppose an average relationship lasts five to ten years. In that case, there'd be greater options to enter or form dozens of new ones, thus involving a greater number of potential partners than being in a long-term, monogamous partnership would.
While there's no guarantee you or anyone else wouldn't be left out, the figures don't lie; temporary relationships increase everyone's chances of finding not just one person to care about but as many as we and they want.
More possibilities, more fulfilling
All fine and good, but you can't measure happiness with a calculator.
As Dr. Randi Gunther, writing for PsychologyToday, points out, “Though most still search for the feelings of “settling down” with the forever-right person, many are realizing the benefits of non-committed, short-term, sequential experiences.”
He goes on to say a common issue with temporary relationships is how challenging it can be to move on once it's run its course, advocating that people need to “Learn how to love in short-term relationships in the same way they would if they were in it for the long haul. That means learning to love authentically, fully, and honestly, independent of any guarantees for an envisioned future.”
Another lesson da zi could teach other societies is not only can relationships be brief and still be satisfying, but they can be extremely specific.
So, as opposed to attempting to find a single person to meet all your needs for the rest of your life, why not have a series of brief ones that give you, and them, what you all want—and when the fun's over you can shake hands, kiss, or whatever, and agree to move on.
To keep things from getting messy, signing on the dotted line could be right up there with negotiating the terms of a relationship or consenting to proceed.
Which, when you think of it, doesn't sound half bad as it might help people become more used to being direct and upfront about their likes, dislikes, and how far they want things to go—including being open to extending a formal relationship agreement if all's going well.
When it comes to parental responsibilities, the same sort of legal arrangements could be put in place to ensure everyone's best interests.
Who knows, as short-term relationships flourish, we might have the opportunity to reinvent and perhaps even perfect the “it takes a village” philosophy of communal child-raising.
If not, perhaps we'll see the rise of non-linear families, with children legally choosing to remain with whoever they feel the closest to, whether or not they're directly related to them.
Not an end but a beginning
To be clear, I'm not saying long-term relationships, including marriages, are emotionally unhealthy or should be replaced by temporary sexual or emotional partnerships.
What I am saying is, as China's attempt to deal with its gender inequity situation has shown us, new or unusual circumstances may force us to be open to new social alternatives—especially when they might maximize personal fulfillment and happiness while decreasing anxiety, fear, and loneliness.
More than likely, future relationships will be a mix of temporary, permanent, monogamous, polyamorous, solitary, or other possible combinations.
Who knows, there might come a time when “relationship” is an archaic term, replaced by a more ambiguous, less limited perspective: a world without a word for being with a person or persons because, provided it's consensual, all that's important is that everyone involved is happy.
Image sources: Depositphotos