We have all seen some television ad claiming that if you try some product the company is willing to give a “100% Satisfaction Guarantee!” If you buy their product and aren’t completely satisfied, you can return it, get your money back, and pretend the purchase never happened.
As this tactic is so extremely prevalent in our modern culture, you would have to live in the middle of the wilderness somewhere to avoid seeing it used. In fact, this method seems to have become part of how we treat other aspects of life as well.
However, I would like to share with you the harsh reality revealed across relationship studies: there is no 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, and trying to find one is 99% sure to fail. (Like 53% of statistics, the 99% is made up on the spot). Here are three reasons why we want a guarantee in our relationships and why such thinking may cause more problems than we think.
No Need to Commit
Companies often use the 100% Satisfaction Guarantee tactic to build a new customer base. It provides a low-risk, low-commitment means of getting more people to try a product. If the person is satisfied, it gives the company a new customer. If not, the person can be on their way. However, the risk inherent in such an idea is that many people may try the product and find a reason to be unhappy with it simply because they know they can get all their money back.
Likewise, the 100% Satisfaction Guarantee approach to relationships may actually create less motivation to actually commit to a relationship. If you aren’t happy with your partner, just ditch it. But what might happen if you bought a product knowing you wouldn’t get any of your money back? Chances are, you might try harder to find a reason to be satisfied with the product because you have it anyways.
If you enter into a relationship with the idea that you are stuck with it, then your perspective begins to change. Research shows that entering a relationship with a commitment mindset encourages us to invest more energy and effort into making the relationship work, which then increases our chances of actually being happy in the relationship. Though this does not mean every relationship will work out in the end, research shows that breaking up may actually be easier to do, or at least less damaging, if we leave it on a positive note.
*Disclaimer: This does not mean you should commit to a relationship the first time you meet someone. Rather, after deciding you want to be in a relationship with someone commit to giving it your best shot.
No Harm Done
One of the benefits to both you and the company of a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee is the feeling that you can try something without any long-term negative effects. If you don’t like it, you simply return it and your money comes back to you as if it never happened. You can use that money for something else instead. The company avoids a potential lawsuit. Win-win.
Unfortunately, relationships don’t work that way. Multiple scholars have found that every relationship we have continues to affect us in every relationship we will have in the future. This may be shown through difficulty in adjusting to a new partner’s character traits because we keep expecting them to act like a previous partner. It could be in how every partner shapes us in some way, for good or bad. We may even find that we have trouble figuring out who we are for ourselves if we go through too many relationships.
Unlike a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, every relationship we enter into will do something to us. Though this is not always, or even often, a bad thing, we can never actually be the same person we were before the relationship.
Not Your Fault
Another reason we like 100% Satisfaction Guarantees is that it puts the blame on anything going wrong with the product on the company. Granted, most companies qualify their guarantee with something like “we will not return money for improper use.” But the idea still remains: if we are not satisfied, it has no bearing on our sense of competence as a person.
Relationships, unfortunately, cannot depend on others. While it is important to find romantic partners we feel we can depend on, research shows that the success or failure of our relationships ultimately comes down to the effort we put into it. Your partner is responsible only for how they behave, while you must take responsibility for how you react to, communicate with, and treat your partner.
While your partner is a significant source of how you might experience the relationship, you could be miserable or happy no matter what they do. In other words, the satisfaction you feel in your relationship is up to you. If you do not give 100%, then don’t expect 100%.
So if there is no guarantee that a relationship will work out, is there a guarantee you can trust?
I 100% guarantee that no relationship is 100% perfect. But that’s part of the fun. If we approach relationships with realistic expectations and the willingness to give everything we can, then our chances of success are much higher and our experience will be much more rewarding, whether or not we are 100% satisfied.
Stop treating a relationship like an inanimate object you saw on TV. Relationships just don’t fit “as seen on TV.”
If you want to find out where you can work harder to make your relationships more satisfying, try taking our RELATE assessment for couples or READY assessment for singles.
Written by: Dallin, Master’s Student in Marriage, Family, and Human Development. Reviewed by Brian Willoughby, Ph.D.