Did you know that you can treat relationships just like business? Relationships can be viewed as a cost and reward system. But firstly there is the initial attraction where you would consider the similarities (like meets like, even though you would minimise the negative aspects and maximise the positive aspects until the chemicals in the brain becomes more balanced after 6 months to two years.), proximity (how close you live or work with this person) and attractiveness (finding a person who is equivalent in their physical attractiveness to yourself).
Studies have tried to debunk similarity by proposing the "complementary hypothesis" suggesting that people will find others who don't have qualities of their own. For instance a controlling person will find a passive person, which may not make a compatible attraction and, I would assume, the relationship would either become unsatisfying in the long term or end. This would have to relate to the Social Exchange Theory which states that people bring to the relationship certain expectations and if these needs are not met then there is a cost which would correlate to unrewarding and unsatisfying expectations. If the expectations are met then the relationship would consider to be rewarding and therefore last longer. Moreover, the theory has levels of comparison being higher levels (expecting the relationship to be rewarding) and lower levels (expecting the relationship to be less rewarding so would put up with higher levels of dissatisfaction). Then there is the comparison level for alternatives where the partner that has received lower levels of rewards and the cost was too high would seek an alternative: leave because there is a better option elsewhere or stay because the alternative does not look good such as lack of education or finances (hence, why abusive people stay in relationships that offer little rewards). Interestingly, how you perceive the relationship is another story. Perception can influence how the person sees their partner, for instance a controlling person may be perceived as being helpful. Perception can be influenced by culture and the level of self-esteem. Similarly, investment is another element in commitment to relationships. If the person has invested their time and energy into the relationship, they will be more committed to it and want to stay to make it work. Therefore the more sacrifice is put into the relationship the committed the person will become. But what about couples who have been in their relationship for over 20 years and break-up? Haven't they invested so much of their time to increase their commitment? This is where the rewards and cost would be considered. How much of the relationship was rewarding and how much did it cost in the person's life. Often by the time a relationship reaches 20 years, the couple would be in their forties or fifties. This is the age where people will analyse their life situation and consider how far they have travelled and if they want to stay as they are or move on and grow. This is also called the crisis point in a marriage as suggested by clinical psychologist David Schnarch, Ph. D who wrote "Passionate Marriage". A crisis point occurs when one partner wants to grow and the other doesn't. If both grow and cross the barriers that occurs in the crisis, then the relationship will become stronger then ever. If the other partner does not accept the growth of their partner then the relationship will disintegrate supporting the Social Exchange Theory. In sum, if your relationship provides you with rewards that meets or exceeds your expectation (depending on your comparison level) then you would be satisfied in it and committed.
However, getting back to the complementary hypothesis and the crisis point. Even though the passive person will find rewards after being with the controlling person (because they find being told what to do satisfying) the cost will be too high in the end due to lower levels of self-esteem causing anxiety and depression and the need to grow after evaluating their life situation. This is where this hypothesis can be questioned. It may be true for the initial attraction, but not sustainable enough to cause long term satisfaction and happiness. Unless there is a low level of comparison and low levels of expectations.
So getting back to treating relationships just like business. Don't forget that relationships can be marital, friendships, business, etc. Therefore consider what the expectations are, if they can be met according to your comparison level and therefore the commitment would be far greater than expected. To put this in a different way, before you commit to anything think about what you expect and your comparison level. If you don't you may not get what you want because you did not think about your needs and expectations causing lower levels of happiness and commitment. Lastly, is your perception of what you want healthy for you. To find out, talk about it and listen to suggestions with an open mind.
jb Consulting and Psychology
Counselling, consulting and eduction to improve child, adolescent & youth mental health, and parenting skills.