I met with a young couple on Wednesday. I photographed them along with their children and several relatives from the woman's side about three weeks ago and we went through the family photo shoot to select photos that they'd want edited and printed. After going through the photos, the lady and I talked. We talked for an hour or two and the subject of marriage and raising of children came up. This couple was very open with the status of their relationship. They have been married for about five years and before getting married it appears as though they came to the mutual agreement that as much as they would like to believe that marriage is forever, in reality such a relationship is finite. In twenty years, her father and mother went from a loving relationship to one where neither could stand each other and they parted on good terms. This woman and her husband felt similarly and even noted that they'll stay together as long as they can but they didn't feel that once the marriage "expires" that they should try to prolong the suffering of their partners and those around them, including their children.
I'm not sure what to make of this part of the conversation. I've met many married couples whom I feel should have been divorced long ago. Sometimes I tell them. Sometimes the discussion expands and sometimes I get dirty looks or cold silence. But this was the first couple that I'm aware of that went into a relationship with a planned exit route. When pitching a business proposal to a potential investor, a good part of the offering to have is the exit route - a way that an investor can cleanly cash out and exit the business relationship. In a way, it's like a planned divorce agreement between the venture capitalist and the entrepreneur, complete with prenuptial agreement and continuity plan for liabilities and operations. Well, at least so is the American way of looking for venture capital and investment opportunities. Scott and I came across this attitude when competing at a business plan competition in the American northwest. But this was the first time that I've seen this in a personal relationship.
Perhaps personal relationships are more similar to business relationships than many of us would like to believe.
...A good part of the pitch for a business relationship is the exit route. But the opposite is true for a personal relationship. I think the winning pitch for a relationship are promises of forever, a devotion to make it last so that no exit route is necessary anymore. Who would want to continue with unstable relationships and get hurt more than they have to? I think a relationship that focuses on the exit route was never really based on love to begin with.
Businesses relationships are bound by rules and a selfish need for profit. The exit is necessary once one business has suckered everything possible out of another business—be it reputation or just money. Business relationships are formed from this selfish need for money. I suppose personal relationships are formed out of necessity for love. But once the money runs out or reputation is at stake, it makes it very easy to justify leaving. But does love really run out? And even when love isn’t felt as strongly, it still makes it hard to justify leaving sometimes. Businesses can cleanly exit because the rules and contracts make it easy. But with personal relationships, feelings are never just black or white. There is too much grey. There are always exceptions. And love isn’t supposed to be selfish—suckering all of the love someone has for you, giving back as little as you can, and then dumping them.
Even after the exit, a business might stay in contact and continue to work together, but only for the sake of money. Business relationships are never formed to give without necessarily expecting an equal return, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and simply trusting. Business is calculating and selfish. But I think even though it might be business as usual, the relationship between the people in the business won’t be the same after the exit. I think people will distance themselves, secrets are once again locked up, and trust between the people/business will cease to exist. If the personal relationship or business relationship is “suffering”, then certainly an exit is necessary. But there is no need to keep in contact with something that failed. Kinda like the saying, if at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence of trying. Or always keep your enemies close. Maybe “good” relationship is kept later as a gesture of goodwill, but it will be phony. But any relation that isn’t severed, I think it will just be an opportunity to harm in “revenge” later or something else contemptuous. I mean this for business and personal. I think you’d secretly want them to fail without you by their side so that you can laugh in their face. Oh boy, I sound evil.