Chantelle Otten on One of the Biggest Problems in Dating and Relationships These Days

I want to talk to you about the ‘romance gap’. If you haven’t heard of this term, I am here to tell you it is something I see every day in my clinical work and there’s a high possibility that you have been a victim of this thinking in your dating and relationship journey, either consciously or subconsciously.

So, what is it? It’s the discrepancy in behaviours expected from men/masc-presenting people and women/femme-presenting people when dating and in relationships. New research from Bumble has revealed that this behaviour is alive and well among Australians, and also plays a huge role in our romantic connections which leads to gendered thinking.

As a sexologist and someone who deals with relationships every single day, I see the baggage and impact the romance gap has on femmes and mascs all the time. I spend hours with my clients helping them rewrite this thinking, because trust me, it doesn’t serve anyone well if you are striving for a balanced, rewarding and equal human connection with your partner.

Image: Instagram @chantelle_otten_sexologist

These days, we can certainly acknowledge that equality has come so far in so many aspects of our lives. However, the data has revealed that there is a huge discrepancy when it comes to the power dynamics between genders in a relationship.

The research found that although 88% of Australians say equality is important, 80% also reveal there are different gender expectations and behaviours when it comes to our experience romantically.

The data also highlighted that there is an expectation on mascs to take the lead and progress a relationship. Other alarming, although not surprising, findings were that femmes shouldn’t appear to be desperate and that they have a ‘shelf life’ when it comes to dating. This is exactly what I am seeing in my clinical work but also when I talk to those around me who are dating or in a relationship.

The research also found that many think that mascs shouldn’t show their emotions. If you are a masc who is dating in their 30s and you have been told your entire life not to talk about your emotions, how are you going to take this into your relationship journey? How are you going to be open and vulnerable with your partner with this gendered thinking?

Today, and every day, I want us to raise awareness of the romance gap and say goodbye to this behaviour, because I think that the key to successful relationships lies in closing the Gap and fostering equality romantically.

To do this, we really need to rewrite our language. Language is extremely important because it has the power to influence humans and their behaviours, but this language was written three centuries ago. Think about the term “housewife” or even the label of a woman being labelled “nag”, there is no equivalent cultural language around mascs for that type of behaviour.

In my opinion, women making the first move is just so important — which is the premise Bumble is built around. It is time to turn the tides on language and how we speak and to drop our expectations around who does what in dating and relationships – that is where equality starts.

So, this year, I am asking everyone to move away from this binary thinking — we have been making changes to our language in the workforce, but it is time to do it in our dating, relationships and personal connections too.

When we have binaries, we create boxes or labels on how we define the world and how we define actions — actions of ourselves and those around. These boxes make us really narrow-minded and are stopping us from a deeper, more meaningful human connection.

The first step is awareness, that is exactly what Bumble is trying to do with this campaign. By highlighting this gap, we can finally see the unhelpful narratives that we have been taught for way too long and we can give new meaning and reappropriate some of the actions that we have been taking into our relationship and dating journey.

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