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Dating Diaries: The Business Side of a Relationship

Curious about how the economy is affecting relationships, Dana Neil wondered if more people were considering the business side of a relationship. In order to gauge local opinion on the subject, she posted her question on Craigslist:

The Business Side of a Relationship
I know this is totally unromantic. But I’m curious to see if anyone now considers the business side of a relationship more because of the economy. Two people sharing one place, sharing the daily cost of living, pooling their money for travel and adventures. You can do a lot more with two people contributing than on your own.

I have a theory: You can have just as much luck at a good relationship with someone you pick walking down the street as with someone you’ve known for a while. Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but I think it conveys the idea. If you commit to someone you don’t know well, then you have committed to making it work and there’s no choice but to adjust to each other and grow as a couple. If you commit to someone you’ve known for a while, then it’s harder to adjust as a couple because you don’t feel the need to change. Kind of a “take me or leave me, you knew going in what I was like” thing.

I’m curious to know your thoughts on this and if anyone has started to think this way. Maybe a conversation will start something fun?

Dana received nearly 100 answers. About 10 percent of the responses didn’t respond to her post but sent a cut-and-paste description of themselves and what they were looking for in a woman. About 20 percent were from people who disagreed because they believed that the love and emotions should be the first things that draw a couple together. The majority agreed with her and described how it might work. Here’s a sampling of the responses:

• “Though you do make a valid point that two people contributing are better than one, your point of committing to someone you don’t know is a preposterous theory. You are supposed to commit to someone you know is a person of integrity and character who has similar interests. A relationship is supposed to be a loving, mutually respectful friendship/partnership, not a ‘take me or leave me’ proposition/ultimatum. If you knew what a person was like, you should have left before getting too involved. The very thought of one having no choice in anything shows a complete lack of foresight. In closing, it’s better to be happy and alone (and even lonely sometimes) than to be in an unhappy, dysfunctional relationship. Good luck.”

• “This is a smart and practical idea—I like the way you think from a business perspective. To build on your idea, though, I believe if you’re to make that work, you have to have two additional things: common interests and common ideas on living in the same home. Common interests help you build you relationship, and common living ideas such as organization, chores, and cooking make sure you can live together peacefully.”

• “Oh, good heavens, no! I understand what you’re saying, but I’d rather struggle financially as a single than settle for a good relationship based on mutual penny scavenging. I’ll hold out for that spark and follow it through whatever financial deprivations it leads to. It won’t be the first time.”

• “Your thesis about meeting a stranger and making it work is probably correct—the stats on arranged marriages prove that. However, if you’re a (male) property owner, it really doesn’t pay to share a place with a woman, since she can hit you with a paternity suit and claim part—or all—of the property. For men, any relationship shared under the same roof is bad business, because family courts are biased in favor of women. Renting out the basement seems like a better deal.”

• “It’s an appealing notion, to the extent that it demystifies relationships and makes a workable relationship feasible. Many singles nowadays are sold on the romance-novel notion that there’s a perfect soul mate out there, and they wonder why it’s so hard to find him or her. As you’ve suggested, a good relationship is more the result of compromise and effort than of magical chemistry. That being said, people will have nonnegotiable requirements (religion, race, age), and physical attraction will ideally play a part, so grabbing a person off the sidewalk is likely to be impractical.”

• “Marriage is nothing more than a contractual agreement, isn’t it? Relationships are more like a business merger than anything—trying to protect what you have and trying to weigh the costs of being single versus being married. As far as your description of the business side of a relationship, it may cut your cost financially but may cost you emotionally.”

• “I totally get the economic benefits, but I think your idea is wack! I agree luck is an important element in meeting the right person, but there’s only so much adjusting you’re going to be willing to do. I think you at least have to have some things in common, some common goals and be somewhat in line with your views on morals and ethics. I know some societies have prearranged marriages, but those societies are very rigid and the roles of man and wife are very clearly defined. I also don’t know how many of those couples are truly happy rather than accepting.”

• “You’ve never been in love, have you?”

• “That’s simply preposterous and terribly dangerous. Are you considering the chaotic ripple effect that your idea can conceive? You are proposing a terrorist idea that could very well break the fabric of our society as we know it and bring random sparks of joy and pure happiness as well as failure and true sadness, leaving us humans powerless to control our own misery, just so we avoid rejection and embarrassment.”

• “I guess the main thing I think of when it comes to the stranger part is that before you make the commitment to stick it out no matter what, there definitely has to be a time period where you’re getting to know each other somewhat. I mean, I don’t want to make a commitment to someone who feels very different about something important to me. I think you have to have some things in common if you’re going to get along with each other and ever be interested in seeing each other.”

Readers, what do you think of Dana’s theory? Let us know in the comments below.

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