Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.
X

Why She Always Gets What She Wants


He wants to go to the football game. She wants to go to the concert. They want to go together. Which of the two options do they choose?

Without claiming that there’s an absolute pattern, we have all observed that couples usually end up doing what she wants to do. And to make it worse, she usually gets what she wants by claiming that it’s best for both of them to do what she wants to do. This game explains why drama queens usually get what they want, and what can be done to even out the odds.

The Battle of the Sexes

John and Jenny plan to go out together during the night. John wants to go to the football game and Jenny wants to go to the concert. But both would rather go together than alone.

Each player gets 3 points if they go together to the event they prefer, 1 point if they go together to the other event and 0 points if they don’t go together.

Here are the different possibilities.:

John
Concert Football
Jenny Concert 3, 1 0, 0
Football 0, 0 1, 3

So, what is going to happen?

Possibility 1: Concert or football

So far, the game is easy and it’s easy to see which move is the best, based on the first player’s move.

John thinks like this:

  • If Jenny chooses to see the football, he will also go to the football and get 3 points instead of 0 for going to the concert.
  • If Jenny chooses to go to the concert, it will not give John the perfect night, but he follows her and gets 1 point instead of 0 points.

John tries to guess Jenny’s move and then follows it.

Jenny is reasoning in the exact same way. She wants to be with John and chooses whatever she thinks he’s going to choose.

If they can communicate, both will go to the football, or both will go to the concert
.

Nash equilibrium is achieved since neither John nor Jenny has anything to win from single-handedly change their strategy. They both would have to do it together in order to have anything to win from the strategy change. This applies to games where both players know the other player(s) decisions. For example the traffic direction is a Nash equilibrium, all agree on left side traffic or all agree on right side traffic. A middle choice is not possible since it will give a lower score for all players.

This requires that the players can quess what strategy the other players will choose. An example where the players have no clue about the other players strategy is the traffic in some third world cities. All players drive randomly and a third equilibrium is met because nobody has anything to win from choosing a specific strategy. All drivers keep flipping a coin every morning. Heads or tails decides if they drive on the left or the right side on the particular day.

Stockholm
The players cooperate and everyone benefits from driving on the right side.
Dhaka
The players can’t agree and nobody benefits from driving on a particular side of the road.
Auckland
The players cooperate and everyone benefits from driving on the left side.

The good thing with this is that both players benefit from cooperating in their strategy. Unfortunately there are still two equivalent outcomes and it’s still impossible to predict if they will go to the football or to the concert.

But there’s more possibilities to add to the game.

Possibility 2: Correlated equilibrium

If the game is repeated, as is often the case in a relationship, there is a good compromise that both John and Jenny can benefit from agreeing on. Every time they face a similar scenario, they could flip a coin to decide where both om them go. Over time the result would even out and they would both get an average of 2 points per game.

If John and Jenny flip coins individually, they would instead get an average of 1 point per game. In a sound relationship, both players choose the correlated equilibrium.

But the eccentric girlfriend will not tolerate this. To get what she want, Jenny will use a new strategy.

Possibility 3: Changing the rules

Jenny really wants to go to the concert and she wants to convince John that it’s best also for him to go there. An all too common scenario from reality.

Here’s a rastic strategy that she can use: She takes out a twenty dollar bill from her purse and announces:

John, I really want to go to the concert. And if I think that there’s even a possibility of us not going, it would drive me nuts. I would have to distract myself by burning this twenty dollar bill.

I’ll go to the next room to think about it. Knock the door when you have decided if you want to go to the football or to the concert. But think of what’s best for both of us!

Jenny has introduced a new strategy into the game that is called burning money. In this game she first chooses whether or not to burn the money and then both players decide to which event they are going.

To burn her money will cost Jenny 1 point. Now, how will this game play out?

We create a matrix of all the possibilities and then analyse it.

Jenny has two moves to make: She can burn her money or not, and she can go to the football or to the concert. Her choices are located to the left in the matrix.

John also has two moves to make. He needs to choose what to do if Jenny burns her money and what to do if she isn’t. His choices are abbreviated as “if she burns her money, I will go to the concert, and if she’s not burning her money I will go to the football game” and so on.

The matrix looks like this:

John
Concert no matter if she burns her money or not Football if she burns the money, otherwise the concert Concert if she burns her money, otherwise the football Football no matter if she burns her money or not
Jenny Keep money, Concert 3, 1 3, 1 0, 0 0, 0
Keep money, Football 0, 0 0, 0 1, 3 1, 3
Burn money, Concert 2, 1 -1, 0 2, 1 -1, 0
Burn money, Football -1, 0 0, 3 -1, 0 0, 3

The possibility that Jenny keeps the money and goes to the football game is not consistent with the rules she has just introduced so that possibility can be crossed out. Thanks to the threat of burning the money, she has made sure not to be able to get any points at all by going to the football. Both players realise this and strike it out in the matrix.

John
Concert no matter if she burns her money or not Football if she burns the money, otherwise the concert Concert if she burns her money, otherwise the football Football no matter if she burns her money or not
Jenny Keep money, Concert 3, 1 3, 1 0, 0 0, 0
Keep money, Football 0, 0 0, 0 1, 3 1, 3
Burn money, Concert 2, 1 -1, 0 2, 1 -1, 0
Burn money, Football -1, 0 0, 3 -1, 0 0, 3

By adding the points in the remaining columns, we can see that John’s option to go to the concert no matter if Jenny burns the money or not will give 2 points. The remaining columns give a total och 1, 1 and 0 points.

We can also see that Jenny’s strategy to keep the money and go to the concert is her strongest strategy with 6 points, compared with the other rows that give 2 or 0 points.

John
Concert no matter if she burns her money or not Football if she burns the money, otherwise the concert Concert if she burns her money, otherwise the football Football no matter if she burns her money or not
Jenny Keep money, Concert 3, 1 3, 1 0, 0 0, 0
Keep money, Football 0, 0 0, 0 1, 3 1, 3
Burn money, Concert 2, 1 -1, 0 2, 1 -1, 0
Burn money, Football -1, 0 0, 3 -1, 0 0, 3

The result is as follows: Equilibrium is met by Jenny keeping her money and going to the concert, and by John going to the concert whether Jenny burns her money or not. The choices are not up for discussion and John has nothing to win from even suggesting going to a football game in the future.

They go to the concert, exactly like Jenny wanted! As a bonus, she has also convinced both herself and John that John’s decision is for the best for both of them.

Burning the money as a strategy in real life

This game is a reminder of how spoiled brats operate in real life. They don’t always destroy for themselves or their surroundings. They just need to threat and act a bit grumpy in order to force others to do what they want.

There can also be a non-verbal or perceived threat to break up och refuse sex. This would give both players minus points, but the outcomes of the matrix would remain the same. Also keep in mind that in 70% of all relationships and marriages, it’s the man that feels like he has more to lose from a break up. This would give Jenny minus points if the threat is realised, but John would get even more minus points. John’s strategy to always follow Jenny to the concert will then be even more favourable when compared to the other strategies.

Further, the ability to be able to destroy for yourself, or say “my way or the highway” can often be seen as a strength. It gives an appearance of fearlessness and uncompromisingness, which is often backed up by underlying resourcefulness. Fearlessness is therefore seen (especially by women) as a very attractive and sexy characteristic, as explained by evolutionary psychology. Contrary to what our western upbringing tries to teach us, we are all attracted to some amounts of ruthlessness and fearlessness.

It’s not a coincidence that the bad boy in class that defies the teacher and risk getting detention is also popular among the girls. This is also a factor that makes relations where one part is abusive last longer than they should.

Another characteristic that makes some people prepared to show ruthlessness is what’s called “sense of entitlement” in evolutionary psychology. It means that you have a feeling of deserving to get what you want. That it’s your right to get what you want. This is also a characteristic that can make a person appear attractive in a relationship, since it subcommunicates that the person is in some way extraordinary. The phenomenon is further described in the post about egoism versus egocentrism.

How John can defend himself

John has a few ways of striking back.

  • He can threat to preemptively burn his own money, which can make Jenny realise her own silliness.
  • The best real life strategy is probably to withdraw attention from Jenny whenever she pulls drama. If he feels that he’s in a position to play a power game, that is. This is the complete opposite to what most boyfriends would do, and it subcommunicates that he’s prepared to play the most drastic strategy that follows:
  • He can end the game once and for all. Spoiled brats can grow up and change, but it’s a question of how fast and if it’s worth the effort.

There are probably ways to deal with destructive persons, but the best thing is usually to realise that it’s not worth the effort. To break up and end the game is the most obvious strategy, but as the game above has shown, it’s usually enough to just act as if you are prepared to break up.

Comments

  1. Another real world application of this game:
    I’ve often heard a female acquaintance complain that some of her classmates do drama like this. The most common example is when they are a group and want to go somewhere together. One person in the group is then ready to make the whole trip miserable for everyone unless they do the activity that she wants, effectively giving all other options a lower score.

  2. David, there is a great philosopher that wrote about this not only in the context of couples and romantic relationships but in every aspect of life, his name is Michel Foucault. His theory about power and relationships can be applied to eerything in life including sexual relationships, politic relationships, or romantic. But for me in my life, it was better to not pay a lot of atention to the theories when I have a problem with my couple. For me what works is to have an honest and direct communication, The poblem with a lot of men is that they have a lot of fear to appear as a weak individual and to demonstrate vulnerability, and therefore they act as jerks or they hide their feelings, or they lye or just don´t communicate. And that finally ends with the relationship.

*