In my beautiful, completely rational world, life looks like this:
Someone asked me the other day; “Are you two a couple or friends with benefits”? ”Friends with benefit, what is that”? After she explains to me that it’s an intimate relationship without commitment, I answered, “Please! My friendship is the benefit, I hope he doesn’t think I need to give him the extra incentive of seeing me naked in order to be my friend.” She scolds me, “this is not the way it works, People have to have “the talk” or else they are free to sleep with anyone they want”.
Exclusive talk? Are you kidding me? If we’re having intercourse (assumption is he/she did in fact contact you afterwards) and he/she does the same with someone else, he/she cheated. No talk, no defining the relationship, negotiation over, you lose!
I don’t like drama, (actually, my psychologist would say I have trust and control issues, leading to not being able to deal with uncertainty, but let’s just keep it simple and say I don’t like drama), and anyone who believes in playing with peoples emotions by suggesting that someone is good enough for sex and friendship but not a relationships is looking for drama. You are creating uncertainty, you’re making insecurity, and all that leads to being unhappy. Don’t like to have “talks” then don’t make it so complicated, as they say, “Keep it simple, stupid”.
Negotiation Theory states “individuals should make separate, interactive decisions and negotiation analysis considers how groups of reasonably bright individuals should and could make joint, collaborative decisions.” I’m going to use Negotiation Theory (to game theorist it’s a repetition game) to prove that keeping my simple chart actually makes everyone better off.
Negotiations are simply a specialized and formal means of agreeing on important issues and building a shared environment leading to a long-term trust.
Negotiation must have:
-Rational actors (the couple)
-That are able to prioritize goals (goal: exclusive relationship)
- Able to make clear tradeoffs between conflicting values (one wants friendship other wants exclusive relationship)
-Be consistent in behavioral patters (mean what you say, say what you mean)
-And able to take uncertainty into account. (There’s no law saying anyone has to follow any guidelines in any relationship outside of marriage, and even then it’s sketchy)
Seems reasonable to correlate relationships to negotiations, yes? But now you ask, why can’t I have the “exclusivity” talk and negotiate the terms of the contract (relationship)? Simple, The two best strategies for winning a negotiation are, always go first and limit the other person’s options.
He/she should already know that you will not be open for discussions on “casual relations”. Again, it’s always beneficial to go first (This would also be the reason why the person who wants to sleep around will try to convince you, most of the time, after the fact, that there was no exclusivity contract. And by taking FWB off the table you limited the other persons options to:
1.) Faithful: Having sex with you and only you (or)
2.) Looking for the next best thing and going to try to negotiate friends with benefits (because we all try to maximize our own utility and if they already decided you are not worthy of a real relationship, they might as well see if they can get sex on a regular basis).
*May also help to note that once you give sex and don’t have exclusivity, you just lost all bargaining power. Think – “why buy the cow when the milk is free.”
Usually when we think of negotiations, we imagine two people facing off against each other. Whatever one wins, the other loses. This isn’t always the case, in fact, Posner (one of my most admired people) states: “The parties have divergent interests, but they can be expected to negotiate to the solution that maximizes the net benefits of their relationship.” (citing Coase)(Chrysler Corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Kolosso Auto Sales, Inc., Defendant-Appellee, 148 F.3d 892 (7th Cir. 1998).
Put Simply: look for a win/win where the negotiation yields the best aggregate outcome.
How? Well, by using game theory. Relationships are nothing more than a game of cooperate (noted as C)/ defect (D). Tit-for-Tat strategy (also called equivalent retaliation) has been proven time and time again to be the best strategy for continuing games because co-operation always yields the best aggregate outcome. (If they know there’s an end date then there’s no need to do anything but cheat, but that’s a different post)
Here’s the down and dirty for this strategy:
-Unless provoked, the agent will always cooperate.
-If provoked, the agent will always retaliate.
So let’s say that:
Our matrix shows that if you both cooperate (stay faithful) you both earn more utility than if you both defect (Sleep with other people). I made this assumption because I am under the impression that (at least one of you) would like to be together or you wouldn’t be sleeping together in the first place. However, If one of you does in fact sleep with someone else, you actually gain more, but if you are both cheating, neither of you get anything.
In all contracts we have to deal with the issue of concessions not being returned on one side because the deflecting party will relatively gain more if he doesn’t cooperate (hence higher gain when one deflects). But producing incentives to deflect (giving even the slightest impression that it’s ok to sleep with others because we didn’t have “the talk”) doesn’t reduce the risk or cut the cost associated with the uncertainty it just allows the person to be a douche bag.
First let us see what would happen if you are dating and the other person decides to not be exclusive after the second round (another assumption is the game is not a one-and-done):
Now, for fun, let’s say that you decide you don’t need to be faithful because the “Talk” never happened:
AlRIGHTY, let’s now assume you are both rational decision makers and know that in order to maximize your benefit you both need to cooperate (because you read my article and take notes!!).
OH, LOOK! 18 is the highest number out of all our strategies, no matter which way you look at it!
Friends with benefits should not be an option, ever. Sex with no commitment does nothing but make a gray area to negotiate how much you are worth. You devalue yourself and you cheapen intimate relationships overall.
Remember though, negotiations work both ways. You may have taken friends with benefits off the table. He just may take exclusivity off the table.
Back to the story earlier, I was seeing the guy for a little over a month, everything was going great and I was patiently waiting for him to take the next step… Nothing. A few days later I tried to again, and again, nothing. No matter what I tried with this guy, I couldn’t get him turned on. I wondered if I was not attractive to him, wondered if he was seeing someone else, thought maybe he has “issues”. Then it hit me.
I was negotiating exclusivity, and he knew what the terms were for us sleeping together. He didn’t want a relationship. Negotiation over. End of story. Did it hurt that he didn’t want a relationship with me? Absolutely, BUT not as much as being used until the next best thing comes along.
I found a guy that wasn’t a jerk. He didn’t “cheat” on me, he didn’t play games, he didn’t create uncertainty (actually, I was conjuring up uncertainty, he was pretty sure he didn’t want a relationship), he merely knew the “rules of engagement” and said no. Yes, I was still hurt, but you don’t always get your way.
We don’t want someone doing something that will hurt us, then when we find someone who will not , we think of every single reason for why; besides the simple answer of he just doesn’t want what you are offering. Him and I stayed away from drama, hurt feelings and know where we stand. In the end, it was a win/ win situation. I didn’t have to ask him if we were exclusive, I didn’t need to ask him why he wasn’t taking the next step. It was as simple as everyone being an adult, and playing with the best overall outcome in mind. Talking would have just forced something that I already knew the answer to, and we all know actions speak louder than words.
On more of a sentimental note (for all my lovely-dovey friends out there or the ones that just hate math), love consists of being faithful, honest, respectful, kind and thoughtful. Having someone on the side equates to selfishness, idiocy and thoughtlessness. If you are sleeping with more than one person, no one in that equation is the one you want to be with in the long run, so let them go. I call BS on “Friends with Benefits.”
professor of game theory and strategic heart breaker.
She’s also been spotted raking up credit cards at numerous local boutiques.
More reading on Tit for Tat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tit_for_tat