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Is The Economy Changing The Very Nature of Romance?

What does love feel like when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring? When life as you imagined it seems further and further out of reach? How do you know when it’s time to hold on to what you’ve got, or let go in the face of mounting anxiety? What if you’re so stressed out you can’t even think? Trends like restructuring, privatization, mergers, downsizing, and relentlessly high unemployment are transforming intimate relationships. Chronic job insecurity is shifting the way we approach the idea of hooking up, having sex, staying together, and starting families. And it might just be changing the very nature of romance.

One minute you’re happily planning a life together and talking about having kids. Then, suddenly, everything changes.

Conservatives are forever preaching about family values, but their job-destroying, anti-worker policies have made it harder and harder for young people to put down roots and reach the level of stability required for long-term relationships and children.

The most anti-family period in living memory for most is leaving a trail of broken hearts in its wake.

Downsizing Love

When you’re underemployed, when your job is below your skill level, when you fear the next pink slip might be yours, frustration and fear follow you everywhere. The tentacles of anxiety and depression can shoot out suddenly, seizing both partners in the grip of despair.

Erin, 33, works for a non-profit in Boston. Since the economic crash, funding for her organization has become increasingly scarce. She searches frantically for a more secure position and has launched a video business on the side, just in case the other shoe drops.

Erin met her boyfriend on a film production set in Arizona. In 2010 he moved to Boston to be with her. “I knew it might be hard for him to find work, and I figured I could help support him for a while. He’s not lazy. He looked hard for a good job.” Even so, Brandon, 38, has only been able to land a part-time gig at a shoe store.

Brandon is plagued by anxiety. “He’s told me that as a man it hurts him not to be able to help more,” says Erin. “Our relationship isn’t bad,” she points out. “We love each other. But your emotions get tied up. Sometimes I fly off the handle if he doesn’t do the dishes. And I know it’s about more than the dishes…

Read more: Lynne Parramore, Salon


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