On love and business.
PBS has a bit of a dilemma. Years ago they started giving donors awards when they would give money during their annual charity drive. It worked well at first and seemed to be a good short term solution to dwindling donations. But within a few years they realized that they couldn’t stop giving out tote bags whenever someone donated a certain amount.
They discovered that in a way, they had trained people to only respond to incentives. Unless they gave someone something, the people that first responded to the gift offer would not donate any money in the future.
The thing that PBS did not take into account and what is visible in a lot of dating relationships is a concept the book “Steal These Ideas” detailed:
“People renew the way they were acquired.”
That is, someone will repeat an action the same way they first committed it. Donors that gave because they got a gift will expect a gift the second and third and fourth time they give. Customers that bought sneakers because there was a Spring Sale tend to wait until the next Spring Sale to buy again. So what does that have to do with relationships?
What this ultimately does is give a framework to the Oprah-tastic concept, “if he cheated to get you, he’ll cheat on you someday.” Everyone is familiar with the idea that if you’re relationship started with a guy leaving his wife for you, chances are you should be worried about future infidelity. If he was willing to do it once, he might be willing to do it again. But I think that’s only the extreme example.
What about relationships that start with one person bending their beliefs just a little? What if for instance, before you’re married you pretend that you like going out all the time? That for you, new restaurants, tango dancing and wild adventures are what you prefer. But when you get married and a little more comfortable in the relationship, you revert to who you really are, which is a homebody. What happens then?
What happens is that the person who fell in love with the wild adventurer wakes up to find a peaceful homebody instead. For lack of a better word, they were acquired by something that no longer exists. The very things that attracted him or her no longer exist and conflict has fertile ground to grow.
I know that in some sense we’re all on our best behavior when we start a relationship. That’s cool and is natural, but be careful. I think it’s dangerous to blur who you are too much when you begin a relationship. I’ve seen too many marriages when one person says, “She became someone else. I don’t know who I married.” The truth is though that she just became who she had always been. And if that’s not who you fell in love with, love can suddenly feel very fake.