I read an article earlier this week on The Daily Beast that talked about marriage and didn’t quite sit with me. The piece compares marriage to game theory where two people have to essentially compete to get what they want. The author describes game theory as
“the study of how we make decisions in strategic situations. Classic examples: the Cuban missile crisis (PDF), soccer penalty kicks, and the first scene of The Dark Knight. When you find yourself debating whether to wait for the bus another minute or give up and walk, you’re facing a game-theory dilemma. Same when you’re browsing the profiles on a dating site.”
She goes on to talk about a fictional couple that is at a stand still over grocery shopping. The husband feels it’s the wife’s turn because he’s been to the store the last 5 times. And the wife doesn’t want to go to the store because she does several other chores around the house. It’s a pretty hostile environment with neither one willing to budge and no visible winner in this scenario.
Thankfully, the author steers the article toward talking about a “cooperative strategy,” in which two parties work together to come up with a reasonable solution versus a “non-cooperative strategy,” where it’s every man for himself. In the end she breaks down three game theory strategies that can help improve the outcomes of potential conflicts with your spouse so at least there was a silver lining.
The article starts off pretty bad – painting an ugly picture of marriage – but it ends with some decent advice so I’m having a hard time putting my finger on why this rubbed me the wrong way or why I’m still thinking about it a few days later. Maybe it’s because I saw a younger me in some of the example couple. Brett and I dated for 10 years before we got married and for some of those selfish years in my 20’s I’m sure I played a few stand-off games of my own.
Now, after growing and progressing together, I can definitely say we are more mature as individuals and have a much stronger relationship. I think the real reason the article puzzled me was because it still pits husband and wife against each other. In my eyes when we got married, we became a team. It’s no longer us against each other. Now it’s us against the world (in theory anyway). My thinking has shifted to an “us” mentality.
Of course, there will still be nights when we disagree on what movie we want to watch or where to go to dinner, but those are trivial. I realize that we are on the same team and instead of fighting with one another, we need to figure out how to get what we both want. Now we each have a partner for life.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the author and think all couples play game theory too? Or do you disagree? I’d love for you to read The Daily Beast article and let me know what you think in the comments below.