Spreading the love

Pen Stuart writes:

We are in love. Or more precisely we were on Monday morning, soaking ourselves in the warmth of a topical subject that doesn’t always feature high on client priorities, even as it leads personal ones. And in true Futures Company fashion, we wanted to know what’s happening next in the heady world of love. So began a session mapping the trajectory of this ideal, trying to understand how core emotions have been shaped to construct the Hallmark ideas that are all around, especially in the run-up to Valentine’s Day.

Paradigms of love are often at odds with realities. Take for example the 1950s ‘golden age’ of housebound wives who expressed their love by presiding over a newly close family. In practice, with household consumerism an essential ingredient of this ideal home, it was possible only because women were entering the paid workforce.

Yet it was these (misleading) ideals that captured the public imagination, and became a crucial way for brands to connect with consumers. In turn this was overthrown by a new ideal that fitted better with people’s hopes and dreams for equality of opportunity, providing new zeitgeisty opportunities for brands. Many commentators say that love today is in crisis, pointing to family dissolutions and the rise of single-parent households, but a narrow focus on demographic trends misses out the continuity of love, warmth and feeling within shifting families. And millennials, who will shape the future, are increasingly interested in the pursuit of happiness, which they associate strongly with, you’ve guessed it, “love”. If love isn’t dead, it’s worth mapping how meanings of this might change.

So we delved through themes such as the joys and sorrows of work, which has been re-interpreted and re-negotiated as women come to influence it more strongly, as a place of emotional fulfilment. The broader economic context looks set to make divorce – said to cost £25,000 – a luxury consumer good.

Add to this a pinch of escalating expectations, a dash of ageing populations, and a liberal sprinkling of new scientific claims and technological possibilities and we came to a few scenarios for the new shape of love. Ranging from ‘pursued perfection’ to new spaces of tolerance and ‘flexi-ships’, the heartening thing was the hope and exciting possibilities that remained. But enough! I must go and spread the love.

The image at the top is ‘A love for the arts by Delacor‘, published here under a Wikimedia Commons licence.

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