Sorry, Mr Right does not exist
Posted Tuesday, July 24 2012 at 19:00
- Those who can confidently say that they would still choose their current spouse given another chance, are those who choose to find satisfaction in their relationships
Few statements define romanticism as accurately as this one, “If I were to start all over again, I would still choose you.”
It is uttered by many people, and whether it is truly meant, or spoken for the cameras, is a different story.
On the other hand, a statement like, “How did I end up with this…” indicates utter frustration with one’s spouse, suggesting that given a chance, one would ditch their spouse at the drop of a hat. The question to answer this week is; can we find a perfect match? Should we even attempt to?
In my search for answers, I came across an interesting mathematical concept called the Stable Marriage Problem. It is a model that seeks to offer a solution to the problem of making perfect matches, and has applications in different areas. It struck me how closely it mirrors the question of finding a perfect mate and the consequences of not finding one, both for the individuals and the society.
In very simple terms, for those, who like me, consider mathematics to be close to an alien science, this is what it says. If you have ten males and ten females, stability can be achieved by matching them in such a way that among them, there is none of them who would have preferred to be with someone else, other than the one they’re matched with. Stability is achieved through proposals which are either accepted or rejected, followed by a review of choices until everyone is paired with their preferred partner.
However, stability is different from optimality, which is equated to perfect matching, because even when stability is achieved, it is not suitable from everyone’s point of view. From this model, we can learn some important lessons.
First, it suggests that imperfect pairs will always be unstable, and in the process, will not allow the other pairs to be at peace. In my view, this is accurate in the sense that naturally, things only work best when round pegs go into round circles, while square pegs fit into square holes. In the case of relationships, it implies that the desire for people to have partners who match their requirements is a natural inclination and speaks to what all natural elements, human beings included, aspire for: stability.
Further, as the model indicates, stability in relationships is not only for the benefit of couples, but also for the well-being of the entire society. It is therefore important for all those aspiring for a relationship, as well as those who are already in relationships to do everything possible to minimise chances of instability.
This model also speaks to the many people who get into relationships out of frustration and desperation. Needless to say, their frustrations multiply many times over as soon as the deal is sealed. Finding stability in a relationship is a process that involves rejection and acceptance in equal measure, and should not be one’s dream of finding happiness. The adage that one has to kiss many frogs before prince charming comes along rings true in this case.
The other point, and one which I find extremely applicable, involves distinguishing between stability and optimality. While optimality, (perfect matching) is achievable, stability is more desirable and more practical in most situations. This is because we do not always get what we want, or get what works perfectly for us, but the fact is that everyone can find a partner, and also find enduring happiness.
I believe those who can confidently affirm that they would still choose their current spouse given another chance, are not those who found perfect mates, rather, those who have worked to build stability in their relationships, and choose to find satisfaction in their relationships.