Understanding the behaviour of your spouse is often seen as one of the oldest mysteries of them all. Why do people do the things they do? Why do we sometimes behave in ways that are so obviously contrary to our own best interests when viewed from the eyes of the other? Well, the answer to that question can be found within the question itself: The judgement as to what is in our own best interests, cannot always be seen from the eyes others.
Our own perceptions (or phenomenology as psychologists call it) is the only basis from which can be seen what we get out of any particular behaviour. Sigmund Freud called this: The Pleasure Principle. The basic idea is simple, according to Freud all behaviour can be seen as being motivated by one of two forces. Either: A move away from pain, or towards pleasure. That’s it.
The problem for those who are trying to understand the behaviour of others comes when we simply cannot see what it is that someone is getting out of a particular course of action. If we look closely however, if we can put ourselves truly into the shoes of another, we can see the Pleasure Principle clearly has merit.
Even if a particular behaviour only has a short term pleasure associated with it, if that pleasure is seen as greater than any potential pain associated with it: Like the idea of having an affair or cheating in your marriage in light of the potential end of a long marriage if caught, then an individual might find themselves making decisions they later regret.
The Pleasure Principle states that any behaviour that is seen as a move towards pain is avoided, as long as the pain is seen as more substantial than the pleasure associated with it. If we look back again at the example of having an affair or cheating on your partner and the individual can clearly see the pain and damage that such a decision would make, then he or she is far less likely to behave in that way.