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?