For everything in life there is a value which we attach. There is a price we pay and a benefit we receive. It’s easy to understand this concept in the exchange of goods and services, but is it also applicable to relationships? We enter and exit relationships for a reason. There is a value component to each relationship and how we treat them reflects the value we assign to them. So if that’s the case, why is that we stay in relationships that seem bad for us?

I’ve studied my own relationships and recognized a pattern that qualifies me to answer that question. The decision to stay in relationships boils down to a simple arithmetic formula that we unconsciously enforce. As long as the benefit of the situation exceeds the cost of being in the situation, I’ll stay in it. Others may not understand because they may only see from the outside the price I am paying. That price might look like upset, lost sleep, depression, etc. And that price tag may come only some of the time. The things that I may not be communicating are the benefits I receive from the relationship, which might be so incredible that to me, they outweigh the price I am paying. Only I know if the benefit exceeds the cost. And only I assign the weight of the consideration for each activity.

It’s also important that I communicate the value I experience with my own relationships. To what degree am I letting my significant other know his value? The things I do, the small things – preparing a meal, sending a surprise text, having a hot bath waiting his arrival – all let him know that I value him. Are the things I am doing communicating effectively just how much I care? If not, might I not risk losing my significant other to someone else who might let him know with a greater sense of appreciation. Do we migrate toward those who value us the most or are we ok being undervalued consistently? Those answers depend on many factors, not the least of which is our own self esteem.

In many ways we can’t value someone more than ourselves, at least not if we’re healthy mentally. And we also can’t value someone if we don’t value ourselves. So we may be getting the best someone can give but is that enough? I also feel that appreciation comes into the valuation index. It’s another indication that we value the contribution and efforts the beloved is making toward us. If I am not communicating appreciation and my significant other continuously breaks his back trying to make me feel good, I might just be a sociopath.

While so much of this seems like common sense, there is a complicated assessment that we are making daily in our relationships. To me, it comes down to simple math. Am I treated well enough to continue investing in the relationship and I am treating my partner well enough in the relationship to keep him invested? If both answers are yes, we have a very promising future. If one of the answers is no, there is sure to be some type of disharmonious experience that will leave at least one party unhappy and create tension in the relationship.

The value principal illustrates the importance of how actions communicate our intentions more effectively than words. I’ve often thought that the best relationships are the ones in which each values the other so much that they try to outdo one another in the expression of appreciation. Wouldn’t that be an amazing experience?