Sunday, April 13, 2008

Relationship economics

I am thirty-two years old. By my account, I have almost gotten married three times, twice to the same person. Somehow, I never managed to do it -- but the thing is, I've mostly felt that it was all for the best.

I might have been wrong. According to this Atlantic Monthly article, I should have just settled:

At their core, they pose one of the most complicated, painful, and pervasive dilemmas many single women are forced to grapple with nowadays: Is it better to be alone, or to settle?

My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year.


What I didn’t realize when I decided, in my 30s, to break up with boyfriends I might otherwise have ended up marrying, is that while settling seems like an enormous act of resignation when you’re looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you’ll probably be relatively content. It sounds obvious now, but I didn’t fully appreciate back then that what makes for a good marriage isn’t necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship. Once you’re married, it’s not about whom you want to go on vacation with; it’s about whom you want to run a household with. Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way.

Slate views the whole problem as one of economics -- game theory to be precise:

You can think of this traditional concept of the search for marriage partners as a kind of an auction. In this auction, some women will be more confident of their prospects, others less so. In game-theory terms, you would call the first group "strong bidders" and the second "weak bidders." Your first thought might be that the "strong bidders"—women who (whether because of looks, social ability, or any other reason) are conventionally deemed more of a catch—would consistently win this kind of auction.

But this is not true. In fact, game theory predicts, and empirical studies of auctions bear out, that auctions will often be won by "weak" bidders, who know that they can be outbid and so bid more aggressively, while the "strong" bidders will hold out for a really great deal. . . . But you can also see how this works intuitively if you just consider that with a lot at stake in getting it right in one shot, it's the women who are confident that they are holding a strong hand who are likely to hold out and wait for the perfect prospect.

While I wonder how this applies to Rock of Love, I am fairly confident that this is manifested in my own life by the fact that, last week, I told someone that I just want to find a man that can change the oil in my car.


Paige Jennifer said...

And kill spiders whenever I ask.

As for Rock of Love - OMG, he picked a 37yo woman?!?!? And I love her.

See we too can have a weave donning rocker!

dara said...

I really liked Ambre, but still can't get over the fact that he picked a 37 year old woman who was the voice of reason throughout the competition -- and didn't have fake boobs. Anything's possible, I guess.

And I'm so glad I'm not the only one with a Rock of Love obsession.