We never know what’s going to happen. Over a large sample-size we might get things right, but in coupling that matters only to society.
As individuals, being right or wrong, having expectations confirmed or denied, or watching our circumstances improve or decline is intensely personal. Lives change forever based on our choices.
This is why, in my opinion, dating and coupling often feels more intense than it otherwise should. Viscerally we know that the people we choose to be in our lives, in our hearts and psyches, can literally make or break us, in the sense that we must invest an enormous amount of ego in that person to make it work well. If it doesn’t go well it can get messy. Choosing wisely is very important.
The difficulty is that so few of us have any kind of training in making that kind of decision. We go about it in the same way that a seventeen-year-old makes their first automobile purchase: with a limited budget, shopping amongst the clunkers. Cars will come and go in our lifetimes; people tend to stick, for good or not.
Risk is the question here. As animals, we’re horrible at assessing risk, and more so when it comes to coupling. Mating is our biological imperative, but that represents a tiny minority of the time and energy we spend pursuing each other. The reproductive instinct within us all works against intelligent risk assessment.
The good news is that we’re pretty darned resilient. One bad choice won’t ding us too badly, and we’re often better off for it. But keeping those bad choices away from big life events – like marriage – is worth the effort, and ensuring the next generation survives to be better at the game might just be our biggest priority.