This is what we can do to help close the ‘romance gap’

‘Communication is key’ (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Yes, it seems that, among the many social injustices we must navigate in this patriarchy, there’s a ‘romance gap’ to deal with, too.

Research from Bumble, who coined the term, has indicated that there is a measurable discrepancy in the behaviour expected from women compared to men when it comes to dating and relationships.

Their study of more than 6,770 adults found that 52% of respondents believed men are still expected to take the lead in making the first move and initiating intimacy, and that number rose to nearly two in three in the UK (63%). Meanwhile, only 8% expected the same from women.

Nearly a fifth (18%) of British men are worried about being judged for their lack of sexual experience, but around the same amount of women (19%) worry they’ll be judged for the exact opposite – having ‘too many’ sexual experiences.

Apparently, women should also be fearful of looking too desperate, with (51%) of respondants saying femmes are expected to avoid appearing too keen or clingy.

Indeed, it seems women feel this more keenly than men – at 62% and 40%, respectively.

On top of that, one in three women (33%) also confess to changing their behaviour to make a date feel more comfortable or even powerful.

While we, as individuals, can’t be expected to heal all gender inequalities on behalf of society, there has to be something we can do to take a little bit of control and start to close this worrying romance gap.

Sex and relationships expert Dr Caroline West tells us that, despite these findings, the survey also showed that 86% believe ‘equality is essential between people who are dating’.

She adds: ‘It is therefore extremely important to be open about what you are looking for to help reduce this gap.

‘An honest conversation about values, goals, and the type of relationship sought, allows both parties to decide if this is what they are looking for.

‘Some pre-date homework will help you have better dating experiences – think about The Romance Gap and how it impacts you.

‘It’s likely that we’ve all experienced the traditional gender “norms” explored in Bumble’s research through society, media, and culture, so it can take a while to unlearn these biases and find what really works for us, and what we really believe.

‘Looking inwards and understanding your intentions will usually help you to have more equal connections.’

Dr Caroline really emphasises the importance of good communication and offers some specific talking points to help get to know each other in these key early dates.

‘When getting to know someone,’ she explains, ‘it’s important to be confident in asking your potential partner how they feel about modern dating. You may be surprised by their answers.

‘Bumble found that people in the UK strongly feel that in an ideal world we would not have expectations about who earns more money, has a more successful career, or who makes the first move by initiating a date.

‘It’s a lot of pressure on men to have to be the progressor in a relationship, and they might be happy to have a more egalitarian approach to dating.

‘You can also ask them how they see themselves in five or ten years’ time, in order to see how they view progress in life and their relationships, and what kind of timeline they have for settling down.

‘This can open up a conversation about the expectations which are held by society for different genders and can give you an insight into their own personal beliefs.’

There are also some romance gap-perpetuating red flags to look out for.

‘Although it may happen unconsciously, your date may make jokes that can come across as sexist, or they may be unwilling to talk openly about their views because they’re “controversial”,’ says Dr Caroline.

‘Both can be viewed as red flags and a sign that this person is stuck in societal expectations on gender roles.

‘It’s no surprise that a third of women have, at some point, changed their behaviour to make someone feel more powerful or comfortable.

‘Unfortunately, often people don’t realise that they’re feeding The Romance Gap but are instead fulfilling duties that society has set up for them. If you notice these red flags, don’t be afraid to vocalise your feelings. 

‘Very often people require education on the matter and when they understand The Romance Gap’s adverse effects, they’ll very quickly change their perceptions and make a conscious effort to change – in all cases, communication is key.’

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This is what we can do to help close the ‘romance gap’

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