Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Calculated Love

by Dr. Richard Kolotkin | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Love and Marriage | December 17th, 2014

I read a fascinating article in The New York Times called “Rethinking Eating” by news analyst Kate Murphy. It equated cooking to sex. What Ms. Murphy wrote was that “like cooking, sex is messy and a lot of trouble … food, like sex, (being) fraught with emotional, psychological, social, cultural, gender and religious associations …(and) sharing a meal (also being) how we establish and maintain relationships.” How true this is.

What’s also true is that I can adore food. When well-crafted from fine ingredients and full of taste and flavor, food is right up there. I also know that my passionate feelings about food can be dangerous in the absence of intention. Why? It’s because, given my metabolism, all I have to do to gain weight is look at food – eating isn’t required.

Food is often used as a tool to aid understanding. Some people, for example, say that you are what you eat. Though perhaps not as interesting as equating food and sex, this idea also provokes thought since, if true, you’d probably be pretty selective about your eating choices.

For some, selecting from among many menu choices is relatively easy. But for those who think of food as more than just fuel, these decisions become more complicated. This is because, when you order, getting fed isn’t the only variable you consider. You also want to be happy with your meal when it’s over. And it’s this – trying to pick among many items to find a single, happy choice – that can make ordering decisions tough.

You, of course, make many decisions in “the menu of life,” most being far more important than what to eat at any given meal. And while food may or may not define you, your other decisions do. Psychologists know this and typically assume that different kinds of people make different kinds of decisions – your decisions reflecting your needs, values, desires and preferences.

Even as food is like sex, choosing from a dining menu is actually a lot like love and marriage: both ask you to pick that one, happy choice. If you’ve ever searched the Internet for your “soul mate,” you know this. Enroll in eHarmony or Match and your “menu options” are presented directly to you. And as with food, you’ll have preferences that guide you as you scrutinize those in the personal menu alternatives offered. But unlike a page-limited food menu, the love and marriage menu you scan is not finite. You can always click further. You can always look for yet another among those listed, never knowing if the one before you is “the best.”

In “The Paradox of Choice” psychologist Barry Schwartz notes that having more possibilities makes things worse, not better -- so many possibilities often making it almost impossible to choose. And while this is true for most who Internet date, it’s not true for all. For those who are “food is fuel” kind of lovers, choosing is actually easy. Just sign up for Tinder, type your 500 characters and voila! Your lover appears. I’m talking fast food here!

As a psychologist, I’m often asked to help with decisions. Should I change jobs, get married, divorced, have children or find new love are often questions I find before me. And though it may surprise you, I don’t typically answer these questions for anyone – they are questions that only you can answer.

Absent my specific answers, what I do provide is an intelligent approach that can define the best answer for you. And while this approach is often useful in all life choices, it can be particularly useful when it comes to making good decisions about love and marriage. The approach I advocate is to “calculate love.”

Unfortunately the idea of calculating love is typically maligned -- it evokes a picture of manipulation and deceit. And while I’d never refute the idea that this kind of predatory calculated love exists, this isn’t at all what I’m advocating. What I’m recommending is that you approach your relationship choices a lot more like how you might scan a food menu. Why? It’s because down the road you want to be satisfied with whom you picked for your “relationship meal.” Here’s what I mean.

Picking a satisfying entrée is a multifaceted decision involving many variables. Scanning a menu, you have to ask yourself many questions as you try to predict your satisfaction at meal’s end. Will I like this preparation? Am I a fan of the ingredients? What does it cost? Is it vegan or gluten-free?

But as you consider these variables, trying to predict your future happiness, they’re not all the same. Some will be more important to you than others. So what happens is that you, without knowing it, end up developing a mental “prediction equation” that weighs the options as you decide. And, though sounding strange, this is exactly the same thing that you do in your relationship choices.

Getting relationship-specific and asking you not to freak, here’s a snapshot of what your personal relationship prediction equation looks like:

Ix1 + Ix2 + Ix3 + Ixn = y where “x” is a lover characteristic you want, “I” is the importance of each of these characteristics to you and “y” is the relationship happiness you’re trying to predict.

So again using food as an example, if gluten is important to you then your “I” value for it may be 95 out of 100. If price is important, but gluten isn’t, then gluten gets an “I” of 5 while price gets an “I” of 90.

And this has relationship importance how? It’s because figuring out all of the x’s and I’s in your personal equations will allow you to predict anything – whether happiness with a meal or with a lover – with high accuracy. This is what I mean by calculating love. You sit down and figure out what’s important and how important it’s going to be to you so that down the road you’re still happy with the relationship choice you made.

Today’s tip: Be calculating about love and determine your personal relationship prediction equation. Use relationship satisfaction as the “y” you want to predict. Then think about the x’s you’re looking for in a lover that will sustain your love and happiness. Brains? Beauty? Brawn? Wealth? Emotional intelligence? Communication skill? Religious similarity? Develop your own list of x’s or brainstorm possibilities with friends.

Next complete your personal relationship happiness equation by defining the importance of each of your x’s from 1 – 100. And if this all sounds too unfeeling make sure that you add love or passion as an “x” and give it high importance value.

In doing this, be honest with yourself and project yourself into the future -- though you might really want a party animal now, maybe not so much later in life. Work carefully since unlike a meal that can be easily eliminated -- another only hours away -- partnered love cannot. With calculations complete you’re now ready to look at those “menu options” and search for someone whom you’re truly hungry for.

[Editor's note: Richard A. Kolotkin, Ph.D., is a professor in psychology at MSUM, licensed psychologist with a practice in Moorhead, and author of "The Insightful Marriage: What You Really Need to Know and Do to be Happily Married" which is available for Kindle and Nook.]

RECENTLY IN

Love and Marriage

Tracker Pixel for Entry BohemianFest2018 Tracker Pixel for Entry LoganOnlineAds Tracker Pixel for Entry RareBeerPicnic

Recently in:

FARGO – Kilbourne’s long-term dreams of a Dakota high-rise stirred resentment on Tuesday when the real estate company announced construction on Block 9 will begin next month, and could soon block Prairie Public’s broadcasting…

The 45th Annual Downtown Fargo Street Fair has been making efforts to increase the number of local vendors. The Local Block will be located at the north end of the 300 block on Broadway, near the Fargo Theatre.The High Plains…

Thursday, July 26 at 5 p.m.-midnightFargo Brewing Company, 610 N University, FargoHip hop artist, community activist, and member of Rhymesayers, Brother Ali will appear with Nooky Jones at The Fargo Brewing Company. Nooky Jones was…

With all of the excitement surrounding the legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana, why aren’t we discussing the possibilities of industrial hemp? You might not catch a buzz from it but there’s all kinds of other…

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho! It’s Off To Work We Go!”How many undocumented workers are in the United States? Estimates range from 11 to 25 million. We need some history to understand why our immigration laws are in such a mess. The most…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

All About Food

​Food truck fever

by HPR Contributor

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comHave you all been to Taco Brothers Taco Truck yet? Or how about Poke Bowl Food Truck? Have you tried the Walleye Wrap at Chef Mobile? There may have been a few mobile food establishments in decades…

We had a chance to chat with Duluth native Gaelynn Lea at Winnipeg Folk Festival. Not only did she tell us how she developed her sound she told us about her experience winning the NPR Tiny Desk Concert and the trials and…

Boots Riley hallucinates a wildly funny feature debut with “Sorry to Bother You,” a sharp-fanged social satire that mashes up the innovative handmade aesthetics of Michel Gondry with the fierce truth-to-power consciousness of…

Arts

Dan Mihuta: The Art Maker

by HPR Contributor

By Rod Hadland rodanthonyhadland@gmail.comThe name Mr. Mihuta may not be familiar, but for most of my life, I’ve known that name. There was a television show where Mr. Mihuta taught art projects, in various mediums, that I…

Theatre

Xanadu: The Musical

by HPR Contributor

By Tayler Klimektklimek@cord.eduGet ready to dive into a world full of demi-gods, mythological creatures, and plenty of disco balls when you see Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater’s exciting first show of its 72nd season:…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

Once a year, fans of beer in the FM area have access to what their heart desires... bragging rights. The Rare Beer Picnic grants beer aficionados the ability to taste whatever their heart desires from their favorite beer…

Best Local CelebrityCarson WentzBest Stylist / BarberJed Felix, Everett’s BarbershopBest Salon / Barber ShopEverett’s BarbershopBest Tattoo Parlor46 & 2 TattooBest Tattoo ArtistMeg Felix, No Coast TattooBest Gift ShopZandbroz…

By Melissa Martinmelissamartincounselor@live.comThink back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:How did you make the decision?What happened after the decision?When did you know it was the worst…

By Gary Olsonolsong@moravian.edu Recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.- The United Nations…