The Behavioral Economic Position on Whether You Can Get Your Ex Back

To the Irrationality which is is in all of us,

In my wonderful class taught by Dan Ariely, we learned about the “endowment effect,” which describes how ownership automatically ups the value of something. An example was given that if there was an extremely popular but sold-out event, the ticket holders are likely to set an extremely high monetary value for their tickets, whereas other people who wanted to attend just as much would normally set a much lower monetary value as the maximum they would spend to get a ticket from a current ticket holder.

Both groups would explain their reasons in terms of what they do have. The ticket holders would emphasize how amazing and important attending this game will be for them, helping reinforce its value to them. The would-be ticket buyers would rationalize in terms of saving their money, so maybe they could watch the event on television and pay less for refreshments, thus solidifying this as the the best option.

When I proposed breaking-up to my ex-boyfriend, he was at first extremely agitated and passionate that we try to work things out. He was focused on losing me; I was something he had, or had “a girlfriend.” I was on the fence at this point, so we tried to work it out. We couldn’t keep it going like we wanted it, so we broke up; it was mutual. We both suffered the loss of something we had during this time. I had loved having “a boyfriend” and thought he was an amazing person…yet here we were.

After a bit, I missed him too much and told him I wanted to get back together. He also missed me, but thought he shouldn’t be in a relationship for reasons I do not know. We tried to be friends. I wanted him still, or maybe I was still feeling “loss aversion,” another economics term that refers to how we are more affected by loss than we are by gain (in respective directions). I think we both were feeling averse to loss. 

However, when I brought up this issue again about getting back together, my ex had been having lots of free time which he could spend without worrying about me. He now would have to give up something to get back together with me. So feeling the endowment effect, he decided to not rekindle our relationship once and for all.

Perhaps, there is a window of opportunity, or perhaps there is a strategy of being so awesome and wonderful that he only feels the loss of you and not the gain of anything else, but I do not advise scheming when you have asked and received a clear answer. Just go deal with your loss aversion, and start to think about what you have been endowed with now that HE is gone!

A Mind full of connections


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