539: Length vs Value

Do you think that long-term relationships are more or less “valuable” than short-term relationships?


Full episode script

Structurally, systems in the United States and a number of other countries all preference and value marriages and the long-term committed relationships that marriage is used as an indicator of. As Maura Kelly wrote in the Daily Beast, quote:

The U.S. tax system privileges married people in a variety of ways,” says Lily Kahng, a professor at Seattle University School of Law. In “One Is the Loneliest Number: The Single Taxpayer in a Joint Return World,” a paper recently published in the Hastings Law Journal, Kahng points out that married workers are able to transfer wealth and property to spouses—and others—tax-free, while the unmarried can’t; she concludes that the joint return penalizes single people and should be abolished.

That same article also outlines there are structural benefits in rental applications, insurance, and even home purchasing. There are also studies have shown that singles are often paid less than married people, even if they share the same title, responsibilities, and years of experience.

In short, short-term relationships don’t come with the same social benefits as long-term relationships. But that doesn’t mean that they are less valuable. As Sky Jordan wrote in the State Press, a college newspaper:

It is important to carefully consider what kind of dating and relationships feel healthiest and most fulfilling to you. This varies from person to person. Any relationship can be positive as long as we foster an attitude the validates and celebrates each different experience. Short term relationships can also highlight what qualities we value in our love-lives. By experiencing different relationships, we gain insight into what we look for in a partner.

“Every kind relationship we enter into has something to teach us. Many of these (relationships) teach us what we value and what we want. They often teach us more about ourselves than about our partners,” said Whitney Linscott, managing member of Bracket Dating LLC.

There can be some great power in short-term connection, as was written in the Australian paper Daily Life:

In the age of disposable online dating, finding a genuine connection is hard. I was surprised I’d found one at all, and even more that it unfolded in the way that it did. Despite the brevity of our time together, we made emotional progress that I had been unable to in much longer previous relationships.

The world conditions us to believe that anything less than ‘happily ever after’ constitutes a failed relationship – that, to paraphrase Dan Savage, the mark of a successful one is being together until one person dies. But I don’t consider my short-term relationship a failure, because it taught me so much about myself, other people and love. I came out the other side knowing how profoundly I am able to care for and trust another person, after years of holding back – and that’s one of the most significant things that’s happened in my adult life.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.