You’re giving up a lot to be in this one particular relationship. But guess what? So is your partner.
Economists like to talk about opportunity cost. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s simply the idea that every action you take precludes taking another action at that same time. For instance, if you decide to go the the Prince concert tonight, you’re giving up the option of going to your neighbor’s Tupperware party (easy choice, I know).
I like to think about opportunity cost in the context of love because the breakdown leaves me feeling so profoundly lucky. I hope it will help make you feel just as good about your relationship.
Opportunity Cost in Love
I am totally and completely in love with my fiancee, Aubrie. Because I’m in love with Aubrie and in a monogamous relationship, I am not in a relationship with anyone else. The opportunity cost in my relationship, in very general terms, is what I’m giving up, namely all of the other relationships I could be having. Basic enough idea, right?
Not so fast. Sometimes, when we’re fighting, tricky little thoughts creep into my mind. Aubrie is the wrong person for me. I’m wasting my time. I should be with someone else who would approach this argument differently—as if I wouldn’t have pretty much the same fights with this other potential partner.
When I notice these thoughts creeping in, all I have to do is consider the fact that opportunity costs apply to Aubrie as well. She too has made sacrifices for our relationship. I think of all the lives she has given up to live this one life with me, all the potential partners and time with friends, the travel and adventures she isn’t experiencing, the sex and passion with other men she isn’t having, the places she could have lived or people she could have met had she not decided to share a life here, in San Francisco, with me. In that context it’s clear that Aubrie has given up an awful lot just to be in a relationship with me. Wow—what an honor!
Opportunity cost cuts both ways. It’s a profound privilege to be with our partners in light of all they give up to be with us, and we need to honor them for it.
Opportunity Cost Exercise
Here’s a simple exercise you can do to help you better understand the privilege of being in your relationship.
Below your partner’s name on a sheet of paper, start listing all the choices and adventures that your partner has given up to be in a relationship with you. When the list hits 10 items, go share it with your partner and thank him or her for making the choice to be with you. Discuss.
Erik Newton is the founder of Together.