Polina Aronson spent her first 16 years in Russia. There, people tend to regard love as a sort of divine madness that descends from the heavens. Love is regarded, as the sociologist Julia Lerner put it, as “a destiny, a moral act and a value; it is irresistible, it requires sacrifice and implies suffering and pain.” Russians measure one another by how well they are able to bear the upheaval love brings, sometimes to an absurd degree.

But when she was in high school, Aronson moved to America, and stumbled across an issue of Seventeen magazine. She was astounded. In America she noticed that people tended ask: Does a partner fulfill your needs? Do you feel comfortable asserting your rights in the relationship? Does your partner check the right boxes?

Aronson concluded that she had moved from the Russian Regime of Fate to the American Regime of Choice…

The Regime of Choice encourages a certain worldly pragmatism. It nurtures emotionally cool, semi-isolated individuals. If the Russian model is too reckless, the American model involves too much calculation and gamesmanship. “The greatest problem with the Regime of Choice stems from its misconception of maturity as absolute self-sufficiency,” Aronson writes. “Attachment is infantilized. The desire for recognition is rendered as ‘neediness.’ Intimacy must never challenge ‘personal boundaries.’”