If you haven’t seen Bridgerton, the Netflix series set in the Regency era about the romantic trials and tribulations of a wealthy, close-knit family trying to marry well, have you been off the grid in the Australian outback? That’s the only excuse I’ll accept at this point.
The series has become a huge part of the global zeitgeist, from the fashion (flat dress shoes are in) to the memes it’s spawned. But what about how we date?
In one episode, Daphne Bridgerton’s mother Lady Violet gives her daughter some sage advice about finding a life partner. “My dear, why ever do you complicate matters so? You must simply marry the man who feels like your dearest friend.”
While Daphne’s subsequent marriage to the Duke of Hastings isn’t exactly a decision based on this advice, their relationship is certainly one with a foundation of friendship. In short, the series champions being best friends with your romantic partner as the road to a long and happy life together.
It sounds old-fashioned when you consider how we have been approaching dating in this modern age. For a while there, app-based dating was led predominantly by looks – you swiped right on people you thought were hot, left on those you didn’t. Thankfully, some apps like Bumble have added fun questions you can answer on your profile, meaning we’re swiping based on personality, not just looks these days.
But for a while there, the concept of meeting a best friend felt like it had been overshadowed by “chemistry”. It felt like we talked a lot about The Spark – needing it immediately, requiring fireworks with a new partner from the get-go, this almost animalistic, immediate attraction to someone based purely on a feeling we couldn’t quite put a finger on.
Instead of seeking out someone we felt connected to when it came to interests, personality and values, we were chasing the highs of romance and sexual chemistry. The term “the ick” – when you suddenly feel turned off someone you’re dating for reasons that evade you – became popular. It felt like we weren’t putting in the effort to get to know someone if we didn’t immediately feel pulled to them magnetically.
Look. Bridgerton still romanticises relationships – yes, Daphne and Simon end up in a happy, friend-based marriage. But they also have wild sexual chemistry and clearly felt “the spark” from the outset. Obviously the show is not representative of real life – but I do feel the message of seeking friendship in romantic partners, not just sparks and fireworks – is refreshing.
Maybe we’ve been dismissing dates due to a lack of initial attraction, or a lack of immediate cosmic pull, when we should have been giving them more of a chance by getting to know them beyond the surface-level first date stuff. I know I’m certainly guilty of analysing the man sitting across from me at a bar against a list of needs and wants in a life partner, completely writing them off if they fail to meet my expectations from the outset.
It feels like it’s time to completely bin this kind of impatient attitude toward dating, and let things that have potential grow. Who knows, we might find our own Duke of Hastings in the process.