A big part of finance culture is that if you don’t get promoted, you usually are asked to leave the firm. This is known as “up or out.” I’m not quite sure why this is a thing since a third-year analyst almost always has more value-add than a first-year analyst, but that’s just the way things are. I suppose this culls each level of the hierarchy to fit the desired ratio between analysts and associates or associates and VPs or VPs and directors. Either way, some people stay, some people leave voluntarily, and some people are forced to leave.
Friendships and relationships are different in this regard. Friendships can stagnate, but relationships cannot. If a friendship goes on pause — for example, if one of my friends decided to move to Egypt for a year — I would be able to pick up the friendship whenever we were in the same city together again. If that is not feasible near-term, then there are always options of chatting on Zoom every couple of months. If a relationship does not advance, however, then it must end. There is no such thing as chatting every couple of months in a relationship. The purpose of a relationship is to reach a state where both parties want to marry. If at any point in a relationship it is clear commitment is not mutual and that marriage is not a plausible destination, then there is no purpose to the relationship.
Relationships are like corporations. They are entities with a lot of power over our lives despite having no tangible form in this world. Spending time within a relationship is a lot like a job. We spend a lot of our time in relationships, and we only pursue relationships because there is a mutually beneficial arrangement given our participation. Relationships reduce our feelings of loneliness, but our romantic partners also add value to our personality and networks. Like our jobs, we can choose to leave at any point when we find other opportunities that offer us more value than our current arrangement. In addition, our relationships, like our jobs, eventually become a part of our identity. At a certain point, we stop looking for other opportunities and settle for the job or relationship that has been a part of our identity for so long.
In this regard, there’s quite a substantial transactional nature of relationships. It would be nice to enjoy spending time with your romantic partner, but ultimately there’s a purpose in making each other a priority. I think people were able to “date for the sake of dating” in college because there’s a genuine desire to explore personalities to understand what we value in a romantic partner. However, is there such thing as dating for the sake of dating once we are aware of what we are attracted to and what we seek in a long-term partner? Don’t we, at a certain point, crave permanence?
At a certain point, I think there’s a point in our lives when we discover that there are more important things we want to accomplish than just dating around. When we reach that point, the appeal of dating around becomes a lot less appetitizing, and we devote our attention to finding a long-term partner as opposed to just riding the intimacy wave again.
At a certain point, it becomes very explicitly transactional.
It reminds me of this text exchange between my friend and I:
I think there is a lot more value to MBAs than just the dating scene, but I still think that’s a pretty significant part of it. Dating was a very big part of undergrad, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a big part of an MBA. Although, I would say undergrad is quite different because there is a significant process of self-discovery involved in undergrad dating. When you go to an MBA, assuming you have 3-6 years of work experience already, you already went through four years of undergrad and several more years of adult life. When you go to an MBA, you have a clear idea of what you want from a romantic partner, and considering what types of people an MBA attracts, having a six-figure salary is probably a big criterion.
Sometimes, I read some biographies of famous hedge fund managers and tech founders, and I always wonder why they chose to get married at such an early age. Is there something about successful people who settle down at an early age, or is precisely the fact that they chose to settle down at such an early age that they become so successful?
I think when I was an undergrad, I focused too much on chasing girls and too little on figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. When I wasn’t studying, I was always pining over some girl as opposed to thinking what classes I wanted to take or what careers I wanted to pursue. Maybe if I introspected more about what I wanted out of life instead of writing about how I felt when my crush hugged me, I wouldn’t have had to do three unrelated internships to figure out what I wanted to do in life. Alternatively, maybe if I focused more on girls in high school as opposed to school, I wouldn’t feel the need to date as much as possible during undergrad to figure out what I wanted out of relationships.
Even as I’m writing this, I’m not sure if I’m completely convinced at my own thoughts. I’m not entirely sure what drove me to date people during undergrad — I wasn’t thinking about it at all — but it certainly wasn’t transactional. There wasn’t this thought of up or out. It was just taking things one step at a time. Sadly, I’m not sure if I’m able to approach things like that anymore. There’s just so much I want to accomplish before I die, and I don’t know if dating for the sake of dating can offer me the same fulfillment anymore. It probably can offer me the intensity that I want in my life (probably). But lately, I’ve been thinking there’s more to life than just intensity (like making a billion dollars).
I’m not sure if I would be able to accomplish all that I want to accomplish in life, but I’m pretty certain that I wouldn’t be able to if I just continued to devote my attention to finding the next person I want to date. At a certain point, I want to accomplish something in life, and there’s more meaning in permanence than intensity.