How delicate are relationships?

Recently I have been thinking of dating analytically as a stream of dates where one must build up “relationship capital” before certain pieces of information are revealed or certain negative events occur. The stream must more or less occur in a particular order. That is, if you examined a series of weekly dates over the course of a year and scrambled that order – maybe the 37th date came first, the 5th date came 9th, etc. – the outcome wouldn’t necessarily be the same.

Many of us believe that there are instances when a piece of personal information is revealed “too soon.” For example, if on a first date your companion tells you that he or she recently filed for bankruptcy it may be a “deal breaker” as you assume this reflects negatively on their level of responsibility (as well as being an “overshare”). However, if the same piece of information is revealed after you’ve been dating, say, three months you can weigh the strength of that assumption against the person you’ve come to know. Likewise, some intense external shocks can prematurely end a relationship if they occur too close to the beginning of a relationship whereas  if that same event occurred after sufficient time had passed both partners have would have built up enough “relationship capital” to weather the storm.

I decided to expand on this idea by creating a simple model (which I plan on elaborating over time) by assuming a couple goes on a date once a week for a year (or 52 dates over whatever time period you like). Three pieces of information or events must be reveled only after enough capital has accrued. Event 1, is low level and can only occur after Date 5, Event 2 must occur after Date 20, and Event 3, the most serious, must occur only after Date 40.

What if we kept the concept of “deal breakers” and randomly scrambled the order or the dates. How many relationships would still last a year or more (by chance) simply because events happened after enough capital was built up? It turns out that scrambling the order of the stream of dates results in a failed relationship about 88% of the time.

Of course, this is a theoretical exercise, not just because it’s impossible to scramble the order of dates, but because in practice it is us who decide if we want to be with a person despite difficult times or questionable personal sharing.



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