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How To Pick Your Life Partner – Part 1

How To Pick Your Life Partner – Part 1

How should you pick your life partner? Wait But Why has this inspiring answer.

To a frustrated single person, life can often feel like this:

non-vday-staircase

    And at first glance, research seems to back this up, suggesting that married people are on average happier than single people and much happier than divorced people.But a closer analysis reveals that if you split up “married people” into two groups based on marriage quality, “people in self-assessed poor marriages are fairly miserable, and much less happy than unmarried people, and people in self-assessed good marriages are even more happy than the literature reports”. In other words, here’s what’s happening in reality:

    non-vday-2

      Dissatisfied single people should actually consider themselves in a neutral, fairly hopeful position, compared to what their situation could be. A single person who would like to find a great relationship is one step away from it, with their to-do list reading,“1) Find a great relationship.” People in unhappy relationships, on the other hand, are three leaps away, with a to-do list of “1) Go through a soul-crushing break-up. 2) Emotionally recover. 3) Find a great relationship.” Not as bad when you look at it that way, right?

      All the research on how vastly happiness varies between happy and unhappy marriages makes perfect sense, of course. It’s your life partner.

      Thinking about how overwhelmingly important it is to pick the right life partner is like thinking about how huge the universe really is or how terrifying death really is—it’s too intense to internalize the reality of it, so we just don’t think about it that hard and remain in slight denial about the magnitude of the situation.

      But unlike death and the universe’s size, picking a life partner is fully in your control, so it’s critical to make yourself entirely clear on how big a deal the decision really is and to thoroughly analyze the most important factors in making it.

      So how big a deal is it?

      Well, start by subtracting your age from 90. If you live a long life, that’s about the number of years you’re going to spend with your current or future life partner, give or take a few.

      I’m pretty sure no one over 80 reads Wait But Why, so no matter who you are, that’s a lot of time—and almost the entirety of the rest of your one existence.

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      (Sure, people get divorced, but you don’t think you will. A recent study shows that 86% of young people assume their current or future marriage will be forever, and I doubt older people feel much differently. So we’ll proceed under that assumption.)

      And when you choose a life partner, you’re choosing a lot of things, including your parenting partner and someone who will deeply influence your children, your eating companion for about 20,000 meals, your travel companion for about 100 vacations, your primary leisure time and retirement friend, your career therapist, and someone whose day you’ll hear about 18,000 times.

      Intense shit.

      So given that this is by far the most important thing in life to get right, how is it possible that so many good, smart, otherwise-logical people end up choosing a life partnership that leaves them dissatisfied and unhappy?

      Well as it turns out, there are a bunch of factors working against us:

      People tend to be bad at knowing what they want from a relationship

      Studies have shown people to be generally bad, when single, at predicting what later turn out to be their actual relationship preferences. One study found that speed daters questioned about their relationship preferences usually prove themselves wrong just minutes later with what they show to prefer in the actual event.

      This shouldn’t be a surprise—in life, you usually don’t get good at something until you’ve done it a bunch of times. Unfortunately, not many people have a chance to be in more than a few, if any, serious relationships before they make their big decision. There’s just not enough time. And given that a person’s partnership persona and relationship needs are often quite different from the way they are as a single person, it’s hard as a single person to really know what you want or need from a relationship.

      Society has it all wrong and gives us terrible advice

      → Society encourages us to stay uneducated and let romance be our guide.

      If you’re running a business, conventional wisdom states that you’re a much more effective business owner if you study business in school, create well thought-out business plans, and analyze your business’s performance diligently. This is logical, because that’s the way you proceed when you want to do something well and minimize mistakes.

      But if someone went to school to learn about how to pick a life partner and take part in a healthy relationship, if they charted out a detailed plan of action to find one, and if they kept their progress organized rigorously in a spreadsheet, society says they’re A) an over-rational robot, B) way too concerned about this, and C) a huge weirdo.

      No, when it comes to dating, society frowns upon thinking too much about it, instead opting for things like relying on fate, going with your gut, and hoping for the best. If a business owner took society’s dating advice for her business, she’d probably fail, and if she succeeded, it would be partially due to good luck—and that’s how society wants us to approach dating.

      → Society places a stigma on intelligently expanding our search for potential partners.

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      In a study on what governs our dating choices more, our preferences or our current opportunities, opportunities wins hands down—our dating choices are “98% a response…to market conditions and just 2% immutable desires. Proposals to date tall, short, fat, thin, professional, clerical, educated, uneducated people are all more than nine-tenths governed by what’s on offer that night.”

      In other words, people end up picking from whatever pool of options they have, no matter how poorly matched they might to be to those candidates. The obvious conclusion to draw here is that outside of serious socialites, everyone looking for a life partner should be doing a lot of online dating, speed dating, and other systems created to broaden the candidate pool in an intelligent way.

      But good old society frowns upon that, and people are often still timid to say they met their spouse on a dating site. The respectable way to meet a life partner is by dumb luck, by bumping into them randomly or being introduced to them from within your little pool. Fortunately, this stigma is diminishing with time, but that it’s there at all is a reflection of how illogical the socially accepted dating rulebook is.

       Society rushes us.

      In our world, the major rule is to get married before you’re too old—and “too old” varies from 25 – 35, depending on where you live. The rule should be “whatever you do, don’t marry the wrong person,” but society frowns much more upon a 37-year-old single person than it does an unhappily married 37-year-old with two children. It makes no sense—the former is one step away from a happy marriage, while the latter must either settle for permanent unhappiness or endure a messy divorce just to catch up to where the single person is.

      Our Biology Is Doing Us No Favors

      → Human biology evolved a long time ago and doesn’t understand the concept of having a deep connection with a life partner for 50 years.

      When we start seeing someone and feel the slightest twinge of excitement, our biology gets into “okay let’s do this” mode and bombards us with chemicals designed to get us to mate (lust), fall in love (the Honeymoon Phase), and then commit for the long run (attachment). Our brains can usually override this process if we’re just not that into someone, but for all those middle ground cases where the right move is probably to move on and find something better, we often succumb to the chemical roller coaster and end up getting engaged.

      → Biological clocks are a bitch.

      For a woman who wants to have biological children with her husband, she has one very real limitation in play, which is the need to pick the right life partner by forty, give or take. This is just a shitty fact and makes an already hard process one notch more stressful. Still, if it were me, I’d rather adopt children with the right life partner than have biological children with the wrong one.

      ———————————————

      So when you take a bunch of people who aren’t that good at knowing what they want in a relationship, surround them with a society that tells them they have to find a life partner but that they should under-think, under-explore, and hurry up, and combine that with biology that drugs us as we try to figure it out and promises to stop producing children before too long, what do you get?

      A frenzy of big decisions for bad reasons and a lot of people messing up the most important decision of their life. Let’s take a look at some of the common types of people who fall victim to all of this and end up in unhappy relationships:

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      Overly Romantic Ronald
      titanic

        Overly Romantic Ronald’s downfall is believing that love is enough reason on its own to marry someone. Romance can be a great part of a relationship, and love is a key ingredient in a happy marriage, but without a bunch of other important things, it’s simply not enough.

        The overly romantic person repeatedly ignores the little voice that tries to speak up when he and his girlfriend are fighting constantly or when he seems to feel much worse about himself these days than he used to before the relationship, shutting the voice down with thoughts like “Everything happens for a reason and the way we met couldn’t have just been coincidence” and “I’m totally in love with her, and that’s all that matters”—once an overly romantic person believes he’s found his soul mate, he stops questioning things, and he’ll hang onto that belief all the way through his 50 years of unhappy marriage.

        Fear-Driven Frida

        fear

          Fear is one of the worst possible decision-makers when it comes to picking the right life partner. Unfortunately, the way society is set up, fear starts infecting all kinds of otherwise-rational people, sometimes as early as the mid-twenties. The types of fear our society (and parents, and friends) inflict upon us—fear of being the last single friend, fear of being an older parent, sometimes just fear of being judged or talked about—are the types that lead us to settle for a not-so-great partnership. The irony is that the only rational fear we should feel is the fear of spending the latter two thirds of life unhappily, with the wrong person—the exact fate the fear-driven people risk because they’re trying to be risk-averse.

          Externally-Influenced Ed
          gut

            Externally-Influenced Ed lets other people play way too big a part in the life partner decision. The choosing of a life partner is deeply personal, enormously complicated, different for everyone, and almost impossible to understand from the outside, no matter how well you know someone. As such, other people’s opinions and preferences really have no place getting involved, other than an extreme case involving mistreatment or abuse.

            The saddest example of this is someone breaking up with a person who would have been the right life partner because of external disapproval or a factor the chooser doesn’t actually care about (religion is a common one) but feels compelled to stick to for the sake of family insistence or expectations.

            It can also happen the opposite way, where everyone in someone’s life is thrilled with his relationship because it looks great from the outside, and even though it’s not actually that great from the inside, Ed listens to others over his own gut and ties the knot.

            Shallow Sharon

            shallow

              Shallow Sharon is more concerned with the on-paper description of her life partner than the inner personality beneath it. There are a bunch of boxes that she needs to have checked—things like his height, job prestige, wealth-level, accomplishments, or maybe a novelty item like being foreign or having a specific talent.

              Everyone has certain on-paper boxes they’d like checked, but a strongly ego-driven person prioritizes appearances and résumés above even the quality of her connection with her potential life partner when weighing things.

              If you want a fun new term, a significant other whom you suspect was chosen more because of the boxes they checked than for their personality underneath is a “scantron boyfriend” or a “scantron wife,” etc. I’ve gotten some good mileage out of that one.

              Selfish Stanley

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              selfish

                The selfish come in three, sometimes-overlapping varieties:

                1) The “My Way or the Highway” Type

                This person cannot handle sacrifice or compromise. She believes her needs and desires and opinions are simply more important than her partner’s, and she needs to get her way in almost any big decision. In the end, she doesn’t want a legitimate partnership, she wants to keep her single life and have someone there to keep her company.

                This person inevitably ends up with at best a super easy-going person, and at worst, a pushover with a self-esteem issue, and sacrifices a chance to be part of a team of equals, almost certainly limiting the potential quality of her marriage.

                2) The Main Character

                The Main Character’s tragic flaw is being massively self-absorbed. He wants a life partner who serves as both his therapist and biggest admirer, but is mostly uninterested in returning either favor. Each night, he and his partner discuss their days, but 90% of the discussion centers around his day—after all, he’s the main character of the relationship. The issue for him is that by being incapable of tearing himself away from his personal world, he ends up with a sidekick as his life partner, which makes for a pretty boring 50 years.

                3) The Needs-Driven

                Everyone has needs, and everyone likes those needs to be met, but problems arise when the meeting of needs—she cooks for me, he’ll be a great father, she’ll make a great wife, he’s rich, she keeps me organized, he’s great in bed—becomes the main grounds for choosing someone as a life partner. Those listed things are all great perks, but that’s all they are—perks. And after a year of marriage, when the needs-driven person is now totally accustomed to having her needs met and it’s no longer exciting, there better be a lot more good parts of the relationship she’s chosen or she’s in for a dull ride.

                The main reason most of the above types end up in unhappy relationships is that they’re consumed by a motivating force that doesn’t take into account the reality of what a life partnership is and what makes it a happy thing.

                So what makes a happy life partnership? We’ll explore more in Part 2. Read Part 2 of How To Pick Your Life Partner here.

                [Sources at the bottom of Part 2]

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                More by this author

                Anna Chui

                Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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                Last Updated on April 11, 2019

                How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

                How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

                Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

                I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

                I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

                Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

                How Communication Skills Help Your Success

                Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

                Create a Positive Experience

                Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

                When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

                What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

                Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

                As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

                Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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                Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

                Help Leadership Skills

                It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

                Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

                As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

                Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

                If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

                Build Better Teams

                Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

                In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

                If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

                When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

                Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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                How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

                There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

                Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

                1. Listen

                Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

                Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

                People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

                Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

                Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

                2. Know Your Audience

                Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

                Here is a good way to think about it:

                Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

                You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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                3. Minimize

                I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

                He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

                Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

                State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

                The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

                4. Over Communicate

                So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

                What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

                Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

                Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

                Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

                There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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                5. Body Language

                The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

                When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

                In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

                When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

                Conclusion

                Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

                Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

                There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

                Now go communicate your way to success.

                More Resources About Effective Communication

                Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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