My mom sells flowers on Craigslist. Well actually I do most of the selling and tell her when customers will be stopping by, because she doesn’t use the internet.
My mom’s customers are always delighted, because she sends them off with free stuff like this:
These plants are ugly and useless and grow like weeds in her yard. People don’t love the free plants because they’re free, they love them because they were an unexpected gift.
The element of surprise triggers the release of dopamine and cortisol, amplifying the sensation of an experience. Pleasure turns to delight, irritation turns to rage. Getting kicked in the nads hurts a lot more when it’s unexpected. So do breakups.
Animals out in the wild regularly experience unexpected events amplified by dopamine and cortisol. They’re generally pretty satisfied with life.
When a human enters a long-term job or relationship (which is really just another type of job), life takes on a pattern of predictability. Surprises become rare, and the brain stops releasing dopamine and cortisol. This results in a continued state of dullness and dissatisfaction.
Neuroscientist Gregory Berns proposes that, in the absence of surprise, the path to long-term satisfaction in jobs and relationships is for people to be honest and vocal about their wants in order to preserve individuality or some crap*.
I think that a much better solution is to follow the example below, which is probably why nobody ever comes to me for relationship advice:
*I don’t really know, I stopped paying attention because his book was boring and not very satisfying. I only read it because @pmarca tweeted about it.