April 22, 2008

Why Do People Get Back Together With Their Exes? Naturalist Essay #2

I think most of us have gotten back together with one of their exes at one time, possibly many times, or at least know someone who has gotten back together with their ex. I myself have gotten back together with an ex and I have also contemplated getting back with other exes multiple times. The question I have is why do I feel this way when I was the one who ended the relationship in the first place?

I think I could use a little economic welfare analysis to help me out. To start out, me ending the relationship shows that there was a benefit to getting away from the other person. Then why after some period of time do I find myself reevaluating the costs and benefits of getting back together with them again, and finding that there is a benefit to getting back with them? Alright, to sum all this up to make it easy to understand is; I find a benefit to breaking up with someone and I also find a benefit to getting back together with the same person. This is so simple to understand, correct? Well I would like to call this the “circle of hell” because it usually ends up being a circle of, well, hell. I thought people’s preferences were given and that they are transitive? Why can I want two different things that are completely opposite from one another?

I think that there might be a problem with perfect information. When I weigh the cost of staying in a relationship and benefit of ending it, I don’t see the full benefits from those choices. I cannot see the costs involved with finding someone else, the costs of going to movies alone and having everyone stare at me, I cannot see the costs involved with my family asking why I’m still alone and the constant nagging me to ask the funny looking “nice” girl down the street out. All these cost are hidden or at least not estimated properly. When these costs have to be paid for after the relationship has ended, that is where the cost of getting back with the ex becomes lower. It is easier to get back with someone that you know, rather than taking a chance with someone that could turn out to be even crazier. You can skip all the awkward silences during the first few weeks if you go back to your ex. You don’t have to wait a long time to find someone that will hold your attention for more than a few seconds in a conversation. It just seems that the cost of finding someone else is higher than the cost of dealing with the same crap from your ex.

How can the “circle of hell” be stopped. Well, having something lower the cost of finding someone new to be your future ex can help straighten out that circle a bit. One such thing is online dating. Online dating lowers all these costs. My prediction is that in a few years when more and more people try meeting people online there will be less of an occurrence of people getting back with their exes.


Roman Kozhevnikov said...

There could also be a lot more break-ups, because finding someone else would become SO easy. I'm not saying that finding a GOOD someone else would be easy (because everyone can look good over the internet), but finding a profile that looks good enough to give you doubts about your relationship is pretty darn easy.

Alan C. Earing said...

I like the concept of costs becoming internalized!

I say date MANY MANY different people, including the funny looking "good" girl down the street, but don't delve in with too much committment too fast! Work with each suitor and take note to which ones respond well to the incentives you offer and see which ones are willing to offer you incentives in return!

Once a system of incentives is established and the filtering effects of selection have boiled things down, it becomes a situation that is what I like to call "the circle of heaven!"

Even if you never DO find a suitable match with just one person, you may find out that you respond better to a life of single-ness.

Or, if you discover that there are too many transaction costs with that lifestyle, there becomes a stronger incentive to only date people who have similar interests in avoiding transaction costs... which in turn leads to TWO people working to avoid the "circle of hell."

In other words, play on playah!