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The “Business” of Love

This article is part of our series on the different love stories people may have. Over the past two weeks, we discussed how love stories influence our lives and took a closer look at the art story.

Today, let's take a look at a story that is relatively common: The Business Story. Before we dive in, I want you to get to know Violet and Martin:

Violet had what by almost standard would be called a rough childhood.  Her father disappeared when she was 3 years old and she has no memory of him. 

Her mother, Margie, was left in desperate financial circumstances and, for several years, did what she could—although often not at all what she wanted—to keep Violet and her siblings afloat. 

Margie had a series of live-in boyfriends, more than one of whom was abusive toward Violet, who was particularly attractive.  But at some point, Margie ended up with the wrong boyfriend, and drifted into opioid addiction. 

The children ended up, more or less, on their own.  They received some help from Margie’s friends or relatives—it was never clear who was who—but the help did not go very far.

Two of Violet’s brothers ended up drifting in and out of what seemed to be some kind of reform school.  It never was clear to Violet exactly where they were, because the family never went to visit them and they did not come home. 

Violet was determined not to come to the kind of end her mother came to.  She single-mindedly sought a boyfriend with just two characteristics: He had money and he wouldn’t leave her. The rest, she looked at as a luxury.

Martin grew up in a very upper middle-class family.  The family lived in an impressive house of 5600 square feet on 2 acres of prime property in a gated community. 

His father, a successful corporate lawyer, was married to a woman who grew up in high society.  The house was kept spic and span by a housekeeper and the lawns and garden were tended by a gardener.  In the house, everything was in its proper place. 

Martin’s parents would not tolerate even the slightest mess. Everything in the house seemed to be perfect.  

Martin’s parents were not particularly affectionate either with each other or with their children, but no one seemed much to expect affection.  The whole operation was run like a well-managed business. 

Martin had two siblings, a brother and a sister.  The brother, Alex, was quiet and Martin never felt particularly close to him.  Alex kept to himself. 

Martin’s sister, Jenna, was the one “problem child.”  She never seemed particularly happy and, upon receiving a marriage proposal at the age of 18, left and since then has scarcely been in touch except for holidays. 

In contrast, Martin always felt he fit in well, and when it came to romance, he wanted nothing more than to replicate his parents’ marriage.  It brought them money, possessions, privacy, comfort—the kind of life Martin hoped for him and what he hoped would be a large family.

As you may have suspected by now, both Violet and Martin view a successful romantic relationship as a partnership that is not unlike one that's formed in business: You work together toward common goals, making your relationship and the life you build together work smoothly. Schedules are fine-tuned, everything is neatly organized, and there's a lot of negotiation over problems.

Where does a business story of love come from?

People can come to business stories in love in different ways.  Violet came to a business story seeking stability and the kinds of resources she lacked as a child.

Martin came to a business story seeking to emulate his parents and their marriage.  Violet had little; Martin had a lot.

Neither had a typical childhood, and their childhoods were very different, but both sought the same thing from a marriage—resources, stability, and a certain kind of happiness that comes from knowing that you have some control over your present and future.

What do people look for in a partner?

Business stories have partners who view their partnership not so much as a business as, instead, pragmatic.

For them, fairytales and exotic love stories are for books, movies, and television shows.  They want a relationship with someone who knows that, in the end, a marriage is about making things work and avoiding catastrophic outcomes.

Although today some might view as business story as lacking romance, this story has, by far, the longest, and some might say, most time-honored history of any love story.

Marriages for romance are a relatively recent invention.  Historically, romance often was something that took place, if at all, before marriage and then, if it continued, it continued outside the confines of marriage.

Marriage was about starting a family, raising a family, and then hoping that perhaps you had a few years left to get to know your grandchildren.

Keep in mind that, in 1900, the average lifespan was 46 years for men and 48 for women.  Between 1500 and 1800, the average lifespan was between 30 and 40 years.

Couples who wanted to raise a family had to, metaphorically, get down to business pretty quickly and hope that they could stay around long enough to see their children grow up.

The business story provides stability

The business story has some advantages for almost anyone.

Unless things go wrong—a bankruptcy, a hostile takeover (read that as an affair that breaks the couple up!), a war, a plague—it provides more stability than most love stories.

Because couples focus on the tasks that need to get done in a business—keep finances in order, raising a family, having a stable home, working together to succeed as a couple—the story can lead to at least the outward trappings of success, and for the couple, if that is what they want, the inner trappings as well.

And the story has a long history behind it, showing it can work.

On the other hand, for some people, the story is too lacking in excitement, too materialistic, and just too traditional and time-honored for it to work for them.

What’s important if you have a business story

As you read about the business story, you may react as though (a) why would anyone else want any other story?, or (b) how could anyone have such a boring story?, or (c) ho-hum, who cares?

The thing to remember is that stories are not right or wrong, for the most part, but rather, more or less appropriate for various individuals and couples.

The important thing is to find someone who shares you preferred story or stories.

If you have a business story, it is especially important to find someone who shares your story, because this story can seem perfect for someone who shares the story, but stultifying and unromantic to someone who does not share the story.

If you meet someone who does not share this story, be reflective about whether this is the partner for you.  They may never adapt to your story and may find, after a while, that resources and stability are just not enough.

What’s important if you love someone with a business story

If you do not have a business story but meet someone who does, you may be tempted to try out the relationship, especially if you crave stability.

But this is a hard story to adapt to if it does not come naturally to you; you may find yourself lacking excitement and then wondering whether you need to go outside the relationship to find passion and possibly even intimacy.

As to Violet and Martin, both found mates who seemed to match them.  Both ended up in what, for them, was a rather unpredictable marriage.  Violet and Martin have been married for almost 20 years and plan to be married for at least 20 more!

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