Many of the traditional notions we hold about love, sex and marriage are inaccurate and economics is really the driving force behind most of our decisions in such matters. Do you agree with this point of view?

An uncle of mine of blessed memory had this statement as one of his dictums: “Love feeds on success”, and the Mammy Wagon philosopher puts it succinctly as “No Money, No Love”.

In the view of some economists, when it comes to relationships, most people tend to follow the money. People do this consciously or unconsciously, but as groups we trend towards the best benefit with the least expenditure. There’s a marketplace for sex and love, and you’re in it – whether you realise it or not.

We would like to believe that love is not tainted by commerce, but the truth is there is an indelible link between the two; a connection that behavioural economists and psychologists have recently been exploring more closely. Marina Adshade, Professor of Economics at the University of British Columbia, in her book Dirty Money: The Economics of Sex and Love, presents an interesting case about how all romantic behaviour can be understood along economic lines. The insights are based on research that Adshade compiled over three years. She challenges the common belief that humans look primarily for love, instead showing that we usually behave in our best economic interests.

In most societies today, money is power and our world is increasingly influenced by materialism. There are similarities between romantic and commercial behaviour in modern day relationships, for instance, people today select romantic partners in the same way that they buy commodities, focusing on features and attributes that are unrelated to love.

Today, economists are studying a pragmatic view of love and relationships that strips away any emotion, and looks at economic principles such as opportunity costs. So why are we ashamed of acknowledging this association? We like to look at love and loving from an altruistic point of view and try not to think of love and money in conjunction with each other. But even going out on a date involves an economic question: who is going to pay? And the one who pays for dinner has a greater influence on the relationship because it is part of an underlying economic structure.

The economics of love is serious business!

Can we conclude that dating, sex and marriage are to some extent influenced by wealth, class and status?

Please contribute your opinion to this article.

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