When browsing through a newspaper, I’m always drawn by articles about love and romance, whether love stories or commentary on the current state of romance in the country. So this week I was intrigued to read reports in the national press of a survey commissioned by Match.com to investigate the cost of dating.
According to the Daily Mail ‘singletons spend more than £3 billion a year looking for love’. The article suggests that single people go on 37 million dates each year, spending an average of £47 on each date – a superb injection of cash into our struggling economy. The average individual spend per year on dating is over £1000. That includes entertainment and meals, transport, gifts and beautifying treatments.
The survey results are based on the responses of 2,000 single people in the UK, and of course Match.com is in the business of linking up single people, so was keen to focus on singles dating. But I’d be most interested to see a companion survey of 2,000 people who are in long-term relationships which explores just how often they date as well. I suspect that the survey of those in a relationship would not reveal as much focus on dating.
As is usually the case in romance writing, the novels I write focus largely on the ‘courting’ phase of the relationship – so my characters are very much dating through the book until the end, when they make the commitment to enter into a long-term relationship. And the courting phase is so full of romance that it allows me to really get lost in a world of romance. But once I write ‘The End’ and leave my characters to their life of wedded bliss, is that the end of meals out and trips to the theatre and bouquets of flowers and dressing up for each other?
No, I don’t believe it is – but perhaps there is less need for material input now; perhaps ‘dating’ now can be more about emotional investment, rather than financial investment. Love is deeper, and there is less need to impress and more freedom to be yourself safe in the knowledge that you are loved. Yes, you enjoy putting on a beautiful dress, putting your hair up, spraying on some expensive scent and being whisked out for a lovely meal sometimes; but equally, sometimes you’re happy to just be together, quietly – you’re happy for a simpler, less extravagant time. Date night is important, but so is non-date night.
And perhaps there is a growing realisation that dating need not involve money. In fact, I think some of the most romantic experiences are the simplest: walking through the breaking surf on a beach at sunset; snuggling up in front of a roaring fire in winter and talking for hours; climbing a hill and gazing down on the world laid out below, hand in hand. It’s the being together that counts.