The New York Times has published its yearly collection of interesting ideas (an interesting read you can find here), and amongst these is an idea saying how ambiguity concerning someone acts favorably in the way we think about that someone.
The explanation is simple, at least according to the Times. When we get to know someone and we’re armed with a positive attitude towards that someone, we tend to blindly take any ambiguity in a favorable way. For example, if they say they like reading, you’ll automatically think they like what you consider to be good reading (say, Asimov) and not what you consider to be bad reading (say, Barbara Taylor Bradford). However, the catch is that once you’re faced with the disappointing truth that your blind date is, indeed, an avid Taylor Bradford fan, it’s all downhill. Let downs follow as quickly as the unconscious assumptions were made before. The more you get to know the person, the more you get to hate them.
This sort of explains why too often before a blind date you feel butterflies in your stomach but ten minutes after the date has started you want to empty your stomach in disgust. As a veteran of many a blind date I find the above phenomenon to be very real indeed; I also find the above explanation to be interesting enough that it just might be true. However, since I’m no longer in the blind dating business, I find that the really interesting elements in all of this are the implications this theory has on long lasting relationships. Or, to put it another way, if this theory is correct, then why am I still involved in a successful relationship with Jo, a relationship that in three days will be six years old?
I suspect the obvious answer is that it’s all because Jo is such a wonderfully wonderful person. But if I focus on myself for a moment, I think I can point at two specific reasons to do with me:
1. By the time I got to know Jo I was no longer a kid. Far from that. In a similar way to us having Dylan at a time in which I was mentally mature enough to become a parent (and I don’t think I was at that point a year before Dylan came along), I think I got to know Jo at a time in which I was mentally mature enough to properly focus on a relationship. It's a type of maturity where you know that no one's perfect and that eternal sunsets can only take place in American cinema. It is this maturity that prevents the gradually built "hatred" originating from the above mentioned theory to have an effect.
2. Our relationship wasn’t built in a day. Immediate gratifications hardly ever gratify; it's the things you work hard for that do. I suspect that just as good slow food is probably the best meal you can have, good relationships come slow, too.
Regardless of my personal thoughts, this idea offers everybody a lot of very relevant quality thinking material.