I started writing on this topic after going on multiple dates in Feb and March. It was because of multiple forces at a single time - me getting a sudden realization that I am in my mid-late twenties, family pressure, and instant loneliness. I would have completed this essay long back but unfortunately kept postponing. But leveraging this long weekend, I decided to write on one of the complex institutions whose NPS (Net Promoter Score: In simple language, NPS is nothing but the likeliness of customers recommending a product after own-use) is the lowest and still has strong recommendations/referrals from everyone. This is surprising, especially from a business and product point of view. If the NPS of a product is low, this means: the customer is not going to recommend it to their friends and family. But it seems Marriage is an exception - even with probably the lowest NPS, it has the highest recommendation and referral by the customers (lol). I wish we could build such a product/institution.
But as I kept thinking on this topic, I realised: the problem is getting deeper and deeper in our societies. Almost everyone I talk to or meet has this question about love and marriage, and there is some genuine curiosity to know the answer. And like most of my essay, I am going to use the First Principles approach to find the answer to this question. Since I am unmarried and hence this is not based on personal experience but rather - utility, the first principle, and some observations.
This essay has two parts
Part-1: The possible fabrics of Marriage based on Utility.
Part-2: I have found myself wasting my time on dates, and hence I will use this to set the expectation for both parties. I have used an example: why having a child is a single-person decision, not a mutual decision.
Let’s get started:
If we are really interested in finding the answer to this question, we need to flip the pages of history: the root causes of society's problems can be found there. But we must do our logical thinking based on the new world order - we have made massive progress.
When humans were hunters and gatherers, men used to go out and bring food (hunting), and women mostly prepared food. This has nothing to do with the strength and gender of humans. I am sure: if a woman had decided to bring food (hunting) a man must have prepared the food. This means the root cause of marriage and getting together was to create or compound outcomes/outputs (better utility). Logically, if someone is spending the entire day bringing food by hunting, they need rest and preparation time for the same activity the next day. And I am sure this must have been a mutual decision among men and women (It was more of the necessity to collaborate and cooperate rather than gender, strength, and power).
I would also agree with the fact that reproduction could have been another reason for living together. (why?). We all know Darwin’s natural evolution theory - we have evolved from single-cell species to complex human form in 3.8 billion years. And when we were species (non-humans), sex and survival were the top concern. This means this reproduction nature has been in our cells for billions of years. It is also a biological need rather than a reason to get married or love.
Okay, this means the prime reason for living together must have been collaboration to increase the net output and the odds of survival (Utility). As humans evolved over time, we converted this visible aspect of marriage into an institution and ignored its fabrics.
I think men started leveraging this as an advantage citing bringing food as difficult work and considering food preparation an inferior (negligible work). The idea of marriage becomes a tool for one player (men) to write all the rules the way they wanted, and those rules kept propagating from one generation to another. Even after centuries, the idea of marriage is the same - dominated by men. We have a few reverse cases, but those are not enough. If I am being honest, I would say - the idea of today’s marriage is broken and clouded by one party. Marriage was never a single-player game, was it? It was/is will be a multi-player game (Two people).
And domination by one party has reduced the NPS over time; We have results in front of our eyes: the NPS of the marriage might be around 30 to 40%. Almost 40 to 50% of all marriages are getting ended in divorce, and around 20% live unhappily. In India, this might be reversed - a higher % of living unhappy and a lower % divorce. But society still forces humans to get married for all the wrong reasons.
The real question: shouldn’t we discuss and write new laws of marriage - that have the potential to have higher NPS? I think in today’s hyper-connected world - we should be thinking and writing new rules for marriage, starting with making this a multiplayer and thinking from a utility point of view. Also making sure these utilities are aligned for both parties. I have explored a few aspects of that in this essay. But before going into that aspect of this essay, I need to add some context and originating story.
This is for every late twenties, thirties, and mid-thirties, and I am writing this with my personal experience. In our early twenties, when we lack the understanding of love, we fall in love and even face heartbreaks, hurt ourselves or others, and promise to not get trapped again - well most of us. And with all these negative feelings we become ambitious, and we don’t feel the need of having someone in our life, in fact, we consider others as a distraction. And in that process, we push people away or sometimes even pushed by others. But as we start entering into our late mid-twenties, we do feel alone, sometimes. I used sometimes, this sometimes, which might be either on the evening of a festival or getting stuck with decoding the meaning of a sentence while reading a book or on your bday evening or the day when you are sick etc. - because you are still ambitious, and you think of these things as distractions. This means you have allocated 95% of your time to building the future. So, even though you are experiencing this instant and rare loneliness and feel the need of having someone in your life, you convince yourself - no, I would like to focus and still push people. And since you have worked so hard, you have already lost your teen, your adolescent without getting exposed to complex emotions that play a vital role in shaping us as a human. You fear losing even a single day.
And all the hard work that you have been doing for the past 20 years has evolved you into a giant human. You don’t get kicked in talking regular stuff - Cars, houses, doing parties, attending social gatherings, or anything else that is normal in society. You find amusement differently: discovering this world through books, observing the invisible world and connecting that with the real world, closing a big financial deal, learning new skills, contributing +vely to society or if you are an artist, observing the behaviours of living and non-living things and converting those complex ideas in the simple words etc. This is the fact, no doubt, that you love and enjoy your personal company and having the best time with your work. In fact, you have a purpose. And since you have become a slightly different human, you understand the importance of having the right person. You understand living alone is better than living with someone wrong. Now you have this fear that the wrong person will end up creating a net negative in your life. But in all these somewhere you know that you are alone, but you keep suppressing that feeling. Without knowing you are in your late thirties, and because you have grown as an individual you start playing those power games, starting to bring your ego, and attitudes for no reason. Now without knowing you are in your early thirties, and then mid-thirties and after that start convincing yourself you have crossed the age of doing all these - falling in love, behaving like a kid, expressing your emotions (Why?).
You would agree: if you have signed up for this creative field - entrepreneurship, artist, developer, designer, creator etc. - this means you love your work. And for you, there is no retirement plan. Your work is more like Oxygen to you, you probably would like to do this your entire life because you seriously love your work. You enjoy the process of discovery, problem-solving, challenges etc. This means you have to find living with your work - these both can’t be separable. In a Western society where people live together for many years - so they are still going through that process. And get married in their late thirties or early forties. In India, the mid-thirties are considered late for marriage.
The unfortunate part of our ecosystem is that there are no panel discussions on how to maximize the pleasure of living, there are no fireside chats on how to maximize the outcome of personal time (whatever that number might be), no webinar on the process of discovering complex emotions, or even the feeling of parenting, or holding this little human in the hand etc. I think I would have been a better person early in my life - if someone had told me the basics of work and life. If someone had told me, personal life is a method to improve yourself - I might have been a better human. Every single time, I watch a teen show on Netflix, I go bunk - because I don’t remember doing any of those things. An unfortunate part of being human is that we can’t bring back even a single lost second.
The way we teach/learn about tech, building businesses, creating culture, products, design etc. I think we as an ecosystem should include the living aspect in the teaching and sharing process. We should normalize this part of the living aspect. I have personally observed this: when I enjoy my personal time, my productivity is 10X better. When I learn about building a business from you all, it is difficult for me to switch platforms to learn about living life.
If you are in your thirties, mid-thirties or even late thirties believe me you are not late to fall in love, you are not late to do every single thing that a late twenties or early thirties does in their life. Identify your North Star and message someone, or respond back if someone messages (imp, lol) and figure out if your North Star is matching or not, please don’t bring a power game, attitude, ego etc in the middle of this process. I am writing this based on my personal experience: we think dating is a game of Power show-off. I think dating is a process of discovering and identifying whether you are finding your North Star. For me that North Star is “Can I be a better version of myself every single day under her shadow?” And for me the math is simple. We become an average of 5 people, and she is gonna be one of those 5. I find the idea of living with someone who is going to make me better every second even during your non-work hour - I find super fascinating.
There is a scientific reason behind this type of analogy (why?) Before the discovery of the true nature of photons (the fundamental particles of light), we used to treat them as waves. But quickly, we realised these waves behave as particles at high frequency. This means we can’t call light either particles or waves. And finally, we settled with a new term photons - small buckets of energy. These buckets of energy sometimes behaved as particles and sometimes as waves.
I think we humans are something like that, we demand buckets of energy every day - those can be work or life. And it can’t be precisely only work and only life. And I think we can actually test this theory in a controlled environment. I aspire to have these buckets of energy every day - that could be a combination of work and life. The way work can’t be a single-player game, life demands a minimum of two players. And hence if we approach marriage from a utility pov - we might improve the overall NPS of this institution. :) What are your thoughts now?
Work is like Oxygen for me, and I can’t live without it. I am going to work my entire life, till I have consciousness. There is no retirement plan. And hence I have no other option apart from adding life components every day! I can't control the amount, but I aspire to have both.
Good time, we should move to Part-2 of this essay. This might hit you hard.
I have already talked about my North Star of marriage since this essay is already 2200+ words, I must keep this part as small as possible. And hence I will complete this essay with just one example. Maybe in future, I will write part-2 in detail (lol).
What do I mean when I say marriage is a multiplayer game? I have a friend, Saurav (altered name) who is married for 3.5 years. He is thinking to add a new family member - having a kid. When Saurav told me this, I asked have you asked Rita (his wife, altered name)? He told me ya ya (with all enthusiasm) - this is a mutual decision. I was like what, inside my mind, how this could be a mutual decision? Because Saurav is going to contribute almost nothing (I know you would say what about the sex part but the pleasure of that is mutual and that is not even 0.0000001% of the entire process). It is Rita who is
Going to carry a little human for 9 months inside her
Will sacrifice different kinds of food, habits, work etc
Will go through Massive Pain at the time of delivery
Will take many months to become normal, as she was before the pregnancy
Will go through body changes that she has worked hard to maintain
All the difficult work after bringing that little human into this world etc
I am sure, I have missed so many and so much and hence I am not seeing any contribution from Saurav. In fact, he is going to continue his work like a normal human. Let's say for a while, after reading this Saurav is taking Father parental leave (Father's parental leave, I have not heard of in India) and start contributing to the growth of the baby in this case also the contribution would be negligible. So, what on earth this could be a mutual decision? You read it yourself and tell me do you think this should be a mutual decision? Hell no, having a baby or not should be only Rita’s decision. And once she decides, Saurav has to work hard to earn the right to be called Father, I am sure you would like to agree with me, don’t you?
There is a limit, I can interfere with someone’s personal decisions. I failed to tell Saurav in person, but I can write on my website in my essay, and I hope my friend reads this essay and think again about his mindset.
That’s how I think about each aspect of living with someone (in this case a girl :)). This essay is already 2600+ words, and if I add any more words you will start losing interest. Maybe a part-2 of this essay, in future. :)
The conclusion: the NPS of Marriage is super low but that shouldn't be a barrier in not maximizing the aspect of life that can potentially create net +ve in our lives, make us a better person, maximize our potential etc. We should think the marriage (living with someone) from the first principle or utility pov. :)
If you find my essay helpful and think someone must read it - share it with them!
I will see you all the next week :)