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Science Advice Goddess: Disappear Pressure

Amy Alkon on

I recently met this guy, and we've spent the entire past week together. Unfortunately, he's moving across the country -- tomorrow. He asked whether I'd be open to dating after he moved. I panicked and said no -- I'm really not looking for long-distance -- but now that he's leaving, I'm sad, and I'm worried I've made a mistake. Help!

--Confused

Obstacles to love are like situational steroids. We long for what's out of reach -- and all the more romantic if reaching it takes crossing the desert on a camel or $553 with a layover in Boise.

The perception that something is in short supply or soon will be (say, because it's about to move across the country) makes it seem more valuable to us. Psychologist Robert Cialdini calls this the "scarcity principle" and explains that the possibility we could lose access to something (or someone) jacks us into a motivational state: Go! Chase it! Don't let it get away!

The scarcity principle is the psychological scheming behind ads like: "Today only!" and "Only one sofa at this price!" The looming scarcity (or "scarcity") shuts down your Department of Reasoning, basically turning you into a dog chasing a couch-shaped squirrel. Only after you buy the thing and get it home (P.S. "no returns!") do you notice an important fact: It will fit perfectly in your living room...if you take a sledgehammer to part of a wall and -- "surprise!" -- extend one end into your neighbor's apartment.

Recognizing how scarcity primes us to see through loss-prevention-colored glasses, do your best to set aside "Eek! He's leaving!" and objectively assess what you two have. In short, is he (and how you are together) so extraordinary -- so near-impossible to find locally -- that the thousands of dollars in travel costs and other trade-offs of long-distance might be worth it? If so, just tell him you'd like to try long-distance and see how it goes.

 

Should you decide your feelings were more about the circumstances than the guy, well, you're not alone. Impossible love brings out the drama queeny 14-year-old in many of us. Imagine if Romeo and Juliet's parents, instead of forbidding their love, were all, "Hey, you crazy kids...have fun at the movies!" The play would've become a hate story for the ages -- after things between them inevitably got kinda meh and Juliet walked in on Romeo in bed with her BFF and her lady-in-waiting.

Tales From The Decrypted

I really appreciate my boyfriend, except for one thing: his constantly posting photos and videos that include me on his Facebook or Instagram. I'm a pretty private person, and I told him I don't like having my life and our life together posted online. He grudgingly agreed to stop posting things about me, but he thinks I'm being unreasonable and "paranoid."

--Discreet

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