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Friday, 18 January 2013

Are Relationships Like Business Investments?

A very attractive friend of mine and I were having a discussion over coffee yesterday. She is somebody who is extremely loyal in life, and because of that, she has allowed herself to settle into a 5 year relationship in which she, until this very stage, feels that it still isn't exactly heading towards the promising direction she hoped it would. 

She doesn't want it to end, but neither does she want to go on and end up having to start over again with sentiments of regret at the age of 40 if things don't work out.

"Listen, if you're telling me all this now, have you thought about what you're going to do for yourself?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean... Considering how your instincts are telling you that this might not be what you want, are you going to start being smart about it? 
"Perhaps maybe you should... I don't know. Start opening up to other possibilities?"

"Yeah but I don't want to cheat on him. And this kind of makes me feel like I'm cheating behind his back."

"Who's talking about cheating?" 
"I'm talking about 'opening up' to other possibilities or prospects without cheating."

"Don't think I can do that while I'm still with him. I can't get over the guilt I have on myself."
"Do you think I'm too conservative as a girl?"

"Hmm... Conservative isn't the right word." 
"I've known you for 10 years and in your case, it's your extreme sense of loyalty that is getting in your way. Look, the loyalty you have for him, for all of us, for everybody in your life, is beyond amazing. I for one know that. But I think in this case, you should start being smart about things and not let this noble trait of yours put you on blindfold."

She: [silent]

"You know, this might sound stupid, but sometimes I like to take human relationships and put them into a business context." 

"Now, I know for a fact that mathematical statistics can never be used to measure love, emotions or feelings. But sometimes, putting it into a business sense might just allow us to assess our situation and see clearly as to what we're really doing."

"I don't understand."

"Okay! Think of this relationship, or any other relationship for that matter as a financial investment. You've invested 5 years of yourself into this relationship. As a friend, I can see that you've given a lot of yourself when planning your life around his. Which means, all your money is literally in one pool. A pool in which he calls the shots. Which is, not really in favour of you."

"I think you need to ask yourself: Is this current relationship bringing you more disappointment than it is giving you fulfilment? From what we can see now after 5 years, your investment is still not giving you the promising returns you're hoping it would. The relationship is bringing you more cons that it is giving you pros."

"Logic would then ask us if a smart investor would continue to pour cash into an investment that is not yielding any positive results? Would your 'inner businesswoman' continue to invest in something that until this very day, after 5 years, still yields unhappy returns?" 

"Kinda like gambling too. Why would one continue to bet all their money in a single uncertain pool rather than start casting a wider net in hopes that it'll possibly chance an even better profitable return?" 

"Look I'm no business major, but all I know is that in business, you're always hearing them say or yell: 'Cut the losses, expand the profits!' Yes to profits, no to losses. It's such a straightforward principle, but yet we sometimes wouldn't allow ourselves to see the truth because we keep deluding our minds when emotions are heavily involved." 

"But of course, everything that I've just said here is always easier said than done."

She: [pondering...]

"Hey uh... " 
"Am I making some sort of sense here? Or did I just unloaded a bunch of inapplicable theories on you? I'm sorry if I did."

"No no! It sounds kinda right and logical." 
"Go on."

"I mean think about it. You're still young and attractive at your prime."
"Do you really want to wait until you've lost another decade before you're willing to start spreading your bets around? Don't forget that time itself is another resource that is at stake here."

"Remember how we've always mentioned that we live in a world where every man is for himself? I think you really need to start taking care of yourself by knowing what is best for you. Because if you don't, then who else will at the end of the day?"

I can't help but believe that relationships are supposed to bring out the best in both parties. The bond should be symbiotically nurturing to foster mutual gain and unconditional love between two human souls. This inevitably reminds me of another friend who once told me how she ended a relationship because she believed that she deserved better. I now realised how much courage it takes for one to actually walk away from something. But of course, it's always easier said than done when emotions are heavily involved and hearts are intertwined. I wonder what would my relationship be like?


  1. You and I think in such a similar way, it's a little frightening.

    With that said, you're completely right!

    A long-term relationship is an investment and each party has the right to expect a reasonable return. Although very minute with him does not need to be stupendously awesome, she should be able to step back and enthusiastically agree that she's happy and excited to be with him. If she's not then she's only delaying the inevitable. There WILL come a day when she's filled with regret.

    Breaking off an "ok" relationship can be very difficult but looking back at 5, 10 or 20 years with regret does not compare. Those years can never be reclaimed.

    One thing I'm unsure about is whether using the business metaphor is appropriate for your friend. If she's a business-minded person, then yes, otherwise I'd try to think of a metaphor that's more applicable. If she was a scientist, for example, you could cite one of Newton's laws: an object in motion tends to stay in motion. In other words, if she's felt the same way about her relationship for the past five years, what is suddenly going to happen to change it?? Nothing inherent, that's for certain. She has to reach out and affect change in order to see a difference.

    Being loyal is a terrific quality but being blindly loyal is not. She needs to figure out where to draw the line that separates the two.

  2. Emotions definitely complicate the business view on relationships. Though you may have saved her from years of regret.