For Relationship Advice, Turn to an Economist

In a recent episode of the Planet Money Podcast, the Planet Money team turns to an economist to help address listeners’ dating and relationship questions. It’s listening gold. And often spot on advice in many ways, made more accessible for some presented as behavioral economics.

For one young caller, the guest economist Tim Hartford gives economic perspective on the pain of social rejection in seeking dates. Hartford talks about the power of Loss Aversion. If we keep avoiding risk because we’re afraid of loss (the loss of comfort, ego strength due to being turned down for a date), we’ll never have the opportunity to get a date in the first place. If you avoid the pain of rejection, you’ll assure yourself no gains, no relationship experience, and certainly no long-term relationship.

Another important point Hartford explores is the Sunk Cost Fallacy, which is “where you stick with something [even if it’s under-performing] just because you’ve already started with.” “I mean I’ve had it this long, so I can’t get out of it now.” Or, “We’ve been together this long; what am I supposed to do, just go back to being single now?” You can avoid the fallacy by asking, “If I hadn’t spent all that time and money, all that energy, would I start it now or not?” If you wouldn’t make the same decision now, economically speaking, then it makes sense to stop.

Applying this to relationships, maybe that’s the trigger that helps you know when it’s time to bring some dramatic change to a dysfunctional relationship – either leave it outright, or invite your partner to go to couples counseling and embark on an overhaul.

Sometimes it’s possible to create a clean start. You can try a ctrl+alt+delete on your relationship with your partner in couples counseling. ¬†You can break down the old patterns and adopt new ones in connection and partnership. It takes forgiveness, honesty, authentic emotional connection, mutual commitment to growth as individuals and in partnership. It’s difficult work and it pays off. Like working out, it can be tiring, and it’s also energizing, mood-boosting, and fulfilling.

You can learn more about how I help couples achieve these goals and help all my clients find fulfillment and wellbeing in life. Check out my website and you can find me on Facebook and Twitter, too.