How Much Does “Mr Right” Really Cost?

Cost-benefit analysis is a basic tool for decision-making and one of the first lessons in Economics and even in Finance. Most of us know of this and probably use it to make rational choices. This concept came to my mind when a friend of mine approached me saying sadly how she made another mistake for the nth guy she’s been dating turned out to be so far from what she has always imagined him to be. So I thought to myself, what makes this news so depressing? Why are we, women, so obsessed with the idea of finding THE right guy anyway? Why is it so important to find THE ONE?

Perhaps the perceived benefit we have of finding Mr. Right is so great that we think it is all worth the cost. The heartaches and disappointments we experience when we go out there, with our hearts out in the open, are brought about by the risky nature of the most common method of arriving at the desired benefit—the trial-and-error method. This method is so old-fashioned and tricky but for the benefit, we are willing to take the risk. Trial-and-error means there are no calculations, no specific rational ways and no guarantee of how long the process is going to take or if we’ll even get there—to that eureka moment of finally finding THE ONE. Thus, I’m not making much discussion on the benefits side of finding the right person to live the rest of one’s life with. It appears it is much well-known and no one needs more convincing.

Rather, I would like to highlight the fact that on top of this inherent risk of the trial-and-error method, there are other hidden costs that each of us uniquely discovers on our own before we reap the benefits. Though I am in no way an expert in love and relationships, my personal experience should be reliable enough for one who is looking for a resource for estimating the total cost of finding his or her happily ever after. For someone who, in real economic terms, was able to make a “successful purchase” of a life-long partner, a recommendation to other prospective “buyers” is not at all a bad idea.

So here’s a list of 8 things in life I think I did right which brought me to Mr Right (a.k.a the costs I personally had to incur)

  1. I accepted that I was broken. I was lonely and that, though I didn’t really need someone, I wanted someone. I wanted to have a partner to walk through this life.

One of the guys I dated suddenly decided to stop seeing me for no apparent reason at all. When asked why, he said he thinks I am too independent and that I don’t really need anybody. There was no room for a significant other to be part of my then independent life. While that may just be an excuse from a guy who just realized he didn’t really like me, there is some truth to it. While we don’t need anyone to make us complete, more so depend on, from the bottom of our hearts we long for belongingness, someone completely for us and would stick with us through life’s twists and turns. Otherwise, you won’t be reading this post. Admitting this fact and embracing it with neither shame nor guilt is a crucial first step.

  1. I stopped underselling myself. I set the standards right at the level actually fit for the role I wished to be filled.

If we are hiring for job openings, we can be very picky. I realized late that I was not this critical when I was seeking for my perfect pair. I was largely reliant on the trial phase—the ride, the feel, the spark, the compatibility which I hoped I will discover through the course of the relationship. I have never been so wrong! Coming from a devastating break-up, someone gave me the most useful of all the pieces of advice I got then, “you should set your non-negotiables before you even think of dating.” The non-negotiables are values or qualities you are definitely sure your partner should have. Other good qualities you wish he has but can also accept him without all fall into the negotiables category. Enumerating the non-negotiables will be easy if you narrow down the list to a few. In my case I named three: (1) FAITH: He is a godly man, far more matured in the faith as I am and can lead me closer to God.  (2) FAMILY: He is a loving man who values family and real connection with friends. He will love and accept my family as his own and will never lose respect for them in any and every circumstance, no matter what comes out of our own relationship. (3) DIRECTION: He dreams and he is right on the path of achieving his dreams. Wherever he is at the moment, he should have achieved a level relatively higher than where I am. I was specific on this one because I know I am the type of woman who can only follow a man who has gained my respect, and a significant factor affecting that is how he’s fared in whatever endeavor he chose in his life.

  1. I prayed and prayed a lot.

Having experienced failure so many times and a heavy blow from the last time I did my own trial-and-error, I learned to give up and surrender the quest to God. I urge you to do this as early as you realize #1 is good for you and not commit the same mistakes I did experimenting and trusting my own guts. While I learned a lot and grew wiser through every failed attempt, I later realized in life that I actually didn’t have to. And you don’t have to either. So if only for one thing (though you would probably be better off if you do this for all things in your life), leave this matter up to God. After coming up with the list as in #2, let God guide you through the list: Is this the right criteria? Are you being superficial in any of the items? Let God change your heart and lead you toward coming up with a firmer list with his approval. Then patiently wait on him until he gets that guy right at your doorstep.

  1. I opened my heart to God’s answers.

When my husband confessed his love for me, I was surprised but I was not as happy as a child would be when opening a gift on Christmas morning that is exactly what he wished for. But right at that moment, I knew that it was God sending him to me. I felt in my heart how he was the answer to my prayers because he met all my non-negotiables. No questions asked—he’s the one. However, he didn’t fit my picture of an ideal man. He is not the type I imagined. He is only an inch taller than I am, he doesn’t play basketball or football, I can argue I am a better driver than he is, and most of all he is not an architect or an engineer. His profession was not the masculine type I always imagined my husband would have. He’s an accountant which is a profession that requires much organization and control-freakishness very well-suited for women. He is also not very outgoing and is very much an introvert. But I just let things unfold; I let God direct me through the events about to unfold. How on earth I would end up falling for this guy was not very straight-forward but just the same, I opened my heart to what was about to come clearer.

  1. I listened to my heart and learned to be true to myself.

While it is tempting to be thinking of what other people will say about the new guy I’ll be dating, I learned to silence the noise from outside and focus on the voice within me. My own soul would recognize the cause of its own joy. In my case, I was lucky because I was surrounded by matured friends at the time I started dating my husband. They see well beyond the surface so found a gem in him. Though my family was at first disappointed by the fact that he refuses to even drink a bottle of beer on social gatherings, I stood by what my heart is telling me. And that is, this guy is being sent to me by God because he meets all the criteria I set, the very list which I prayed about and got God’s approval for. Though the sparks and sparkles did not come immediately at the start, the conviction I had in my heart was solid. God is telling me a big “something” with this guy. And I, myself, knew what it was.

  1. I let go and let God write my love story.

I turned down my husband’s offer of love for quite a few times but each of those times, I felt like I did something that’s not really right. There was this friend of mine (let’s call her she), which I knew especially because a close guy friend of mine ( let’s call him he) courted her for a long time but consistently turned him down. He is a really good guy and a rare find so I once asked she whether she ever regretted not giving him a chance to be with her. I was expecting she would give me a testimony that will encourage my decision to totally refuse my husband’s offer of love. To my surprise, she didn’t. She actually advised me to keep him and give him a chance for she, herself, regrets the fact the she turned down he for the sheer reason she feels for him like she would for a brother. With him, there were no sparks and felt no butterflies in her stomach. It was a brotherly affection without the exciting feeling of guilt and scary risk of getting hurt. It was boring love so she thought it couldn’t be the one. Dating another guy afterwards made her realize that at the end of the day, her heart is still longing for he, for that good guy. When we are young we look for sparks, but as we mature we realize that love is not all about that, but about the comfort and security only a trustworthy affection can provide. THE ONE will make you feel right at home, where you have always belonged. She‘s confession was God’s way of talking to me and asking me not to let go of my husband’s love. I’d like to think that it was also God’s way of bridging the broken relationship She and He had because after that conversation I had with She (the rest of the story is worthy of a different article but to cut the long story short), they eventually got another chance at love and are now engaged to be married. (You may conclude that yes, I didn’t keep my mouth shut and told He everything She said.)

  1. I allowed and continue to allow myself to be loved.

Only recently a friend opened my eyes to the fact that it is far more difficult for a person to receive love than to give love. If we think more deeply about it, it requires someone to surrender his notions of how he or she should be loved and humbly bow down in an act to receive what the other person gives and how he chooses to give it. I read that there are five different love languages to express one’s love and our own language is embedded into our own character so it isn’t at all hard to practice. But learning to appreciate what another person has to offer, take it for what it is and abandon our own critical self-absorbed notion of how it should be is a crucial requirement of love.

  1. I forgave myself and continuously forgive.

The inherent risks of getting hurt and making mistakes can take its toll on a person and tire him of hoping and looking forward to the right thing that is yet to come. The same was true for me. It can be easy to be cynical or worse lose faith in love especially after years of waiting, trying and failing over and over again. I found my way back by forgiving myself and accepting the many times I was wrong. I gave up on self-reliance and trusting my own judgement when choosing the right “purchase” and instead took the service of a reliable “product advisor”—God. This is when I found the courage to continue to have faith in the benefits I will reap upon the coming of love into my life.

Even today in my marriage, forgiveness is a consistent element in love—for my own shortfalls and for my partner’s. This is a part of the benefits, however, more than the cost. It is forgiving and trusting that your shortcomings will be forgiven that make for a beautiful relationship; one that continuously aspires to change, grow and push us towards maturity, both as an individual and as part of the relationship.

So for me, was it a wise purchase? Do the benefits outweigh all these costs?

Well….

I’d say marriage is underrated. And that’s just a resounding “Yes!”

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The Dreamer’s Dilemma

Here’s what happens when a frustrated economist thinks about life, desperately trying to sneak into her thoughts bits and pieces of the rusty economic tools inside her brain, when all she remembers from her college Economics degree classes are the market for lemons and adverse selection. This blog is about the reality of life, the power of dreams and everything else in between.

I feel obliged to talk about my dreamer’s dilemma for this blog’s first entry. The truth is, I abandoned my dream field, Economics, 6 years ago. And though I left my heart there somewhere, I moved on. I had to. Life happened. I mean, I literally didn’t have to. But circumstances lead me astray from the original path I wanted to take. I could have worked in the field but without a master’s degree, I’d have to work for the government, which should have been perfect since I have always fancied macroeconomics, public and development economics. The only problem was, I had to make a decent living and I have also always dreamt of helping my family, with a PhP 16k monthly salary, I could only scarcely feed and buy myself some office clothes and shoes. The glaring difference of the life the corporate world was offering me then took the better of me. I jumped into the temptation. It was a sweeter lemon. Or so it seemed at that time. So being an economist became just an item on my life’s waitlist. Promising to go back to the arms of my first love with the savings I’ll earn from the job I chose, I slaved myself in the world of Corporate Finance. I neither applied any of the theories of Adam Smith nor of John Maynard Keynes. And through the years, my economist dream stayed as it was, only a dream. It was six years of gaining expertise swallowing sour lemons and monstrous Excel files.

Why do things like this happen all the time? Why do we keep doing things which were never really aligned with the original longings of our hearts? And why do we live with it day by day trapped into a constant struggle with ourselves?

Do you know how when we get out of college, we have a truckload (maybe more) of plans and ideals about how we want to live our life and make our mark into this world? The contents of that truck represents our demand. In our case, humanly complicated as we are, we have unlimited wants, all categorized into the different aspects. You demand a job that is challenging (intellectual). You demand a job that pays for your clothes or shoes or gadgets or whatever makes you feel physically better (physical). You demand a job that makes you feel respected and accepted by your family and friends (social). You demand a job that provides work-life balance  so you can enjoy the better things in life (emotional). You demand a job that would make you post an entry in Twitter or Instagram or Facebook with a hashtag that says ‘I love my job’ and fulfills your inner self for real (psychological). Is there an end to this list? I’m sure you can relate to this. That’s the nature of demand–the  unlimited wants of mankind, something we, humans, all share.

In the Philippines, we have a saying that goes Libreng Mangarap (You don’t get charged for dreaming or Dreaming is for free). This is particularly true only in the case where you want your dreams to remain as they are–just dreams. That is probably the best way to explain the concept of unconstrained demand. In the dream world, where the price for dreaming is zero, the demand will be sky-high. But should you have any plan of reaching your dreams, you would have to sacrifice and give something to achieve your dreams; whether it be time, money, or the emotional investment. When it comes to our career aspirations, the price required by the world comes in the form of resources. Our resources, no matter how rich we are, will always have a limit to them. This represents the price. As the resources you have to give up increase, your dreams narrow down from an unending list to a few ‘realistic’ items you reckon you are more likely to achieve. That’s how the demand curve works: if the price is zero, you dream on without end and as the price increases, you drop your other dreams (the other criteria you seek from a dream job). The result is a downward sloping demand curve (with your truckload of desires on the x-axis and the resources you have the ability and willingness to give up on the y-axis).

Now, the probability of your dream becoming a reality increases as you pay and sacrifice the resource requirements dreams requires. In my life’s example, had I given up on my desire to somehow provide for my family some form of financial help and my desire to be able to provide physical comforts to myself, I would have gotten a dream career to start as a junior economist. It was just that, I was not willing to pay the price it required. I cannot give up on one type of resource which that dream required–money, a higher salary. That’s how the supply of dreams work. As the you pay more of the resources and sacrifices it require more, the higher the likelihood of you getting your dream. Think of it as life giving you more of what you dream of, the more resources you give up to get it. The result is an upward sloping supply curve (with the resources you give up on the y-axis, and the amount of desires fulfilled in the x-axis).

You may have realized by now that we can easily juxtapose the two curves together because they have the same y-axis (resources) and x-axis (desires pursued/fulfilled). The result of course is the supply and demand curve sloping on opposite directions meeting at a point somewhere. That point determines where in our dreams we end up in the reality of things. Some of us can be spot on where we have ever dreamed to be, while others may be no where close. It all depends on the mechanisms of the supply and demand curves, the amount of what we can and we do sacrifice to get our life’s desires and the limited nature of what life can offer us with what we give up.

If you find yourself in a career that was never what you dreamed of to begin with. The dilemma has always been the same. Should we shift our demand curves to a higher ground where it meets the supply curve at a higher level, that is give up on whatever demand curve we have right now (our status quo, our current careers). Should we change careers? To answer this, we have to go back to the reality of the price you have to pay. Shifting the demand curve upwards means, for every item in your desires list to be fulfilled, are you now willing to give up more resources than you originally had to (say when you were a fresh grad and didn’t have to give up on a current career or a lifestyle that took you years to afford)? The answers aren’t always easy. It requires deep reflections and knowing yourself and what would satisfy you most. With this, I can start talking about utility, which simply is the quantitative concept of satisfaction. Are you sure you’re going to get more utility shifting your current demand curve? Is the incremental utility greater than the incremental cost of shifting the curve?

I’m sorry that answering life’s questions are not made any easier by my overthinking and economic analyzing. My point is, whatever modelling we use, our decisions will make up what we become. Where the demand and supply curves meet is determined by what we give up and how much we risk and work. So is it a worthy conclusion that we become what we never really dreamed of becoming because we weren’t ready to give up what our dreams required? Or were we, from the start fooling ourselves about our dreams when in reality we didn’t really desired them enough to pay its price? In which case, are we already where we have subconsciously been aspiring to be? If not, what more can we give up to slowly get there?

I’m creating this blog because I know in my heart that to be an economist is my one worthy dream (and so is becoming a designer). Many people would think me confused but I haven’t given up either on what I have achieved right now, with my corporate finance career. That being said, I am shifting my demand curve upwards where I am required more time and risks to write about life and Economics. This in the hope that, some desires I had as a young dreamer would somehow be fulfilled.