Risk vs Loss

March 18, 2010

in Good Marriage

This article discusses the fact that how you frame something changes how people react.  One statement jumped out at me “People are willing to gamble [risk] — but usually only when the gamble [risk] can avoid losses.” How true this is – we are far more likely to risk to not lose than we are to risk to gain something.  If something is seen as risking to avoid losing, we react differently than if it’s seen as risking to gain something. This means, for instance, that we are willing to risk more to not lose $300 than we will risk to gain $300.

What does this have to do with marriage? We will risk more when we think we are in danger of losing something than when we stand to gain something. This makes the status quo a big deal – we will risk to maintain the status quo, but we are less likely to risk to improve our situation. Think how odd this is – if we have something we enjoy in our marriage, we will risk to keep it, but if we don’t have that thing, we may not risk to gain it. Why? Because the risk is usually a risk of losing something. It feels valid to risk losing something to avoid losing another thing, but it seems less wise to risk losing something to gain something else. However, the results of the two are really the same. Our very human aversion to loss results in choices that are not that logical when we really look at them. It also can keep us from a better marriage, as we desperately refuse to risk anything we have, no matter how poor it is or how far it might be from what we want.

I suspect we react the same way to the amount of effort needed to gain or not lose something. Therefore, for example, a man who feels respected by his wife is probably willing to do more to maintain that than he would be willing to do to gain it if he were not respected. Alternatively, a man with a sex life he is happy with is going to do more to keep that than he would do to gain it if he did not have it.

Perhaps the way to look at things we don’t have, is to think about what we would be willing to do to keep that thing if we had it. Shouldn’t we be willing to do the same thing to gain that thing that we would do to keep it?


Yes and Yes! This is a very real truth you are describing here. And I will add that sometimes when you risk to gain, you will loose. I decided to risk to gain in my previous marriage and lost. She left me because I would no longer play by 'the rules' and admit that all the problems in our marriage were my fault. But, the story wasn't over, even though it felt, for a time, like it was. I gained a lot of insight about myself from that risk-taking and with that improved understanding I was able to attract to myself a good woman who is truly a pearl of great price. What do they say in the gym? "No pain, no gain"? So be good, just as you were created to be!


I again 100% and did not understand that until recently. Then I made a decision to take a huge risk in my marriage to make for it a better - God desired marriage. The risk was so huge, my wife could have decided to walk away. Instead, we are both working on the process of making it so much better than it was - and it was not bad by any standard. I knew God had something better and because I wanted what God had for me so much, I was willing to take the risk.

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