Dear Economist

Another chance for another ‘workaholic’?

I was recently stood up on a first date. The guy sent me a message four hours after we were supposed to meet, saying he hadn’t made it because he’d had to work and had been unable to call because his phone battery was dead. I was disappointed and angry. When he apologised and proposed meeting up later that week, I said no.

I found these excuses all too familiar. Using “working” as an excuse without respecting my time was exactly what my ex-boyfriend did to me. I always forgave him, and tried to be understanding. But he did this repeatedly and each time he knew that I was going to forgive him. Never again!

However, maybe everyone needs a chance to make things right. Am I punishing this guy for my ex’s behaviour?

BC

Dear BC,

This is an experimentation problem: how much do you need to see of a man’s behaviour before deciding you’d be better off without him? It is also a signalling problem: you need to ensure you don’t appear to be a doormat.

With your ex-boyfriend, you made both mistakes: ignoring plentiful evidence of his selfishness, while encouraging him to walk all over you by forgiving his abuse. (Economists call this latter problem “moral hazard”.)

Yet I think you have been harsh on the new chap. Admittedly, he got off to a poor start. If you have a queue of suitors, by all means move on. If not, it would be wise to allow him one chance. Your “no second chances” policy gives him the right incentives in future, but that is irrelevant unless you give him another try.

You should make the price of a second date high but not infinite. Insist on lobster and champagne. If he complies, he has made it worth your while. He will also have learned to keep his phone charged in future.

Also published at ft.com.

29th of November, 2008Dear Economist • Comments off