What makes for good relationships?
What will allow me to have such a successful marriage as these two individuals or to have many friendships?
Economic and Psychological theorizing suggests that the key to good relationships is a positive utility account on both sides of the relationship.
Specifically, it is when both people feel like they are getting the ‘better end’ of the deal that they are happy in the relationship.
One thing that is commonly asked when at this stage is how the other comes to think of themselves as getting the better end of the deal, and here we get to utility. If you want to read more about how to bring utility to others, you should check out this other blog post, but essentially, it is finding what the other individual values, and then providing that thing (thereby bringing them value).
Think about your own relationships with others, if they are only a cost to you, if they do not bring anything of value to you (e.g., good feeling) you don’t keep them around for long.
Especially if an individual in your life is of negative value (you have to do something for them each time they come around), you will quickly come to sense an imbalance in the relationship, which will motivate you to change things or rid that individual from your life.
How can I become better at providing value to others?
While we could change ourselves to gain the value, the best way would probably to find people for whom you already provide value. This is classic advice, but for instance, if you like going to the movies, why not go to places where you are likely to find others that also like movies? Certainly it would not be a good idea to find someone for whom watching movies actively causes disutility.
When we find people who we really like, and who really like us, it is much easier to provide value to eachother.
Another excellent way to (try to) raise the percieved utility of the relationship for your partner is to do things for them that they particularly enjoy. If you know that your partner really likes a certain dish for dinner, perhaps you could make that (or pick it up) for them one day when they are under a lot of pressure at work. It is the little things that remind them that you care. Alternetively, avoiding causing disutility is also effective.
Ultimately, this is the key, ‘does your partner feel that they are getting the better (or at least a good) end of the stick?’
Always remember to speak your mind, because your opinion matters.