Betting Against the Relationship Bubble

Illustration: Hallie Bateman

Joe Berkowitz has been writing a series for the Awl about modern relationships, and his final installment was published this week. Here’s Berkowitz on the efforts we make to convince the world (and ourselves) that a relationship is working out:

Unlike companies on the New York Stock Exchange, only after single people are off the market can they go public and issue a relationship-IPO. Friends and family receive the announcement happily, but are unsure how much emotional capital to invest, without seeing key performance indicators. Everybody asks whether you two are getting serious, despite the fact that this is a bizarre question. (What are you supposed to say? “It’s actually not serious?” “We make love in the style of Monty Python?”) Now the stakes are suddenly higher. If it doesn’t work, you have a lot of ret-conning to do about why you were never right for each other to begin with and how this is for the best. So you make plans for the future, putting tiny down payments on staying together. You establish routines in dinner preparation chores, along with backrub style and duration. You experience a conscious coupling. There’s now a performance element to things—convincing the world as you convince each other that you’re basically the #relationshipgoals hashtag incarnate. You look to what everybody is saying, or not saying, for a sense of your street value, and hope it doesn’t turn out to be a bubble.

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