It was timely that I started reading Gilbert’s new book “Commitment” while in Seoul. I was craving home and needed something besides familiar food for comfort. (sb and i had “American” days/nights where we ate American-ish cuisine, and did American-ish things to help cope with being homesick). I hadn’t heard much about Gilbert’s book except that it was very different from her Eat Pray Love so I didn’t know what to expect. what I found was that instead of a sequel to her bestseller, the new book displayed the author’s musings on marriage. she embarked on yet another journey through lands (although this one was unintentional and undesired) while settling into her second marriage. what stood out to me was her conversations with locals in Asian countries. marriage appeared to be based on function, tradition (that’s the way it’s always been mentality) and practicality compared with the N. American vision of marriage being about love and companionship. people in Asia did not often marry for love, rather, they married because it is just what you need do. for instance, if you own a farm, you need a partner to help out and need someone to mate with so that offspring can be born and serve as additional helping hands. relationships are about business and survival. relationships as functional was ingrained in the minds of many people who it even seemed silly to speak of such things as love.
I am sure that those who value the function of relationship over love/romance are positively correlated with higher SES. it seems the lower the SES, the more people will value function and practicality in life including with who to spend it. even in a wealthy nation such as the US, we witness this phenomenon of marrying for survival – both the rich and the poor do it – the rich to stay rich, the poor to become rich.
My brief time speaking with people in Seoul gave me the impression that relationships were very much about function as well. It’s not that there isn’t romance or love, in fact I often observed people young and middle-aged (how do we define that these days anyway) enjoying “kopi” or dessert together at a cafe in an affectionate way (non involving physical contact of course). however, in conversations with people it seemed that people thought about relationships in a more logical manner. people considered age a lot (apparently a female in her mid 20s unmarried is on a slippery slope to becoming a spinster), status, physical appearances, education, and wealth (no particular order noted). it seemed that the dating process was more like running down a checklist of “must haves” rather than a playful discovery of chemistry and intimacy.
now in my younger days I actually kept a checklist. never did I find a partner who matched my neurotic list although I did find a few that allowed me to check off a majority of items. in those days, I was attempting to secure a future for myself by creating a partner that would ensure I would have my desired life. (sadly, it didn’t occur to me then that I could give it to myself without a partner). but they are now ex’s, so needless to say the checklist thing did not work for me. However, it dawned on me, since I had been out of the dating world for several years (serial monogamy) that perhaps this mentality of checklist dating is prevalent all over the world – sometimes it about status, others about survivability. I thought that since S Korea is a developed country, people would value the function in a relationship less (based on the premise that function is negatively correlated with low SES) since many Koreans have resources to find love. so basically relationships in both developed and less developed nations between the wealthy and the poor can be about survivability – the former about status while the latter is about actual survival. So I wonder – what inspires those to seek love in these places?