Relationships and Prisoner’s Dilemma

So I ws thinking about this car analogy for relationships. I was thinking about how when you start your car, you will need to drive in first gear, with full engine power, slowly releasing the clutch, using a lot of fuel. However, after you have gathered certain speed, it is wasteful and unstable to go on in first gear. It is time for you to take your foot off the gas pedal, hold down the clutch and change gears, and shift the car to lower engine power.

I think it is similar with romantic relationships. Once you’ve reached a certain level and gotten past the initial phase, it is wasteful to continue in the same full throttle. Once both of you understand that the other is firmly in the basket, there is no need to waste much time just assuring and reassuring each other of the other’s presence. It is simply a wastage of fuel. Also, if there is too much torque at too much speed, there is a good chance that the car will spin out of control, so that needs to be avoided.

A relationship is like a car with two control systems. It is important that both of you coordinate the gear change, else there is a danger that the axle might snap. Let us move out of the analogy for the rest of the post.

So there are two of you and both of you have the choice of whether to change gear or not. Now, the ideal thing to do would be to change gears together, since that will ensure the relationship is at the same level but you’ll both be spending lesser energy on it. The worst case is if exactly one of you changes gears. If one of you suddenly slows down while the other is still at full throttle, it is likely that the other will suddenly feel insecure that the one has stopped responding, and this is likely to lead to some sort of breakdown in the relationship, even if temporary. And in order to get things back on track, you’ll need to go full throttle, thus leading to wastage of energy.

So basically, exactly one party deciding to scale down can prove to be disastrous for both of them, because of which the dominant strategy is to stay where you are – at full power. Let me draw the 2 by 2.


|                        |    Scale down           |  Remain at full blast     |


| Scale down|    0                               |  -100                                  |


|Remain at   |  – 100                         |  -50 |

| full blast     |                                      |                                              |


You will notice that the players start off at a Nash equilibrium! Of both of them remaining at full blast. And thus neither has the incentive to scale down, unless he/she is sure that the other will also scale down simultaneously! And if the couple is not communicative enough, they will continue in this suboptimal state for too long, and end up burning way too much energy and willpower, which could’ve been otherwise put to good use.

Hence it is important that the couple communicates about matters such as these, and coordinates the shift in gears, and saves valuable energy!