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How To Pick Your Life Partner – Part 2

How To Pick Your Life Partner – Part 2

So you’ve got more ideas about how to pick your life partner in Part 1. Here Wait But Why explores more on what makes a happy life partnership.

Often, the key to succeeding at something big is to break it into its tiniest pieces and focus on how to succeed at just one piece.

When we examined procrastination, we talked about how a great achievement is just what a long series of unremarkable tasks looks like from far away. In the pixel post, we looked at a human life up close and saw that it was just an ordinary Wednesday, again and again and again—and that achieving life happiness was all about learning to be happy on a routine weekday.

lineup

    I think the same idea applies to marriage.

    From afar, a great marriage is a sweeping love story, like a marriage in a book or a movie. And that’s a nice, poetic way to look at a marriage as a whole.

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    But human happiness doesn’t function in sweeping strokes, because we don’t live in broad summations—we’re stuck in the tiny unglamorous folds of the fabric of life, and that’s where our happiness is determined.

    So if we want to find a happy marriage, we need to think small—we need to look at marriage up close and see that it’s built not out of anything poetic, but out of 20,000 mundane Wednesdays.

    Marriage isn’t the honeymoon in Thailand—it’s day four of vacation #56 that you take together. Marriage is not celebrating the closing of the deal on the first house—it’s having dinner in that house for the 4,386th time. And it’s certainly not Valentine’s Day.

    Marriage is Forgettable Wednesday. Together.

    So I’ll leave the butterflies and the kisses in the rain and the twice-a-day sex to you—you’ll work that part out I’m sure—and spend this post trying to figure out the best way to make Forgettable Wednesday as happy as possible.

    To endure 20,000 days with another human being and do so happily, there are three key ingredients necessary:

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    1. An Epic Friendship

    I enjoy spending time with most of my friends—that’s why they’re my friends. But with certain friends, the time is so high-quality, so interesting, and so fun that they pass the Traffic Test.

    The Traffic Test is passed when I’m finishing up a hangout with someone and one of us is driving the other back home or back to their car, and I find myself rooting for traffic. That’s how much I’m enjoying the time with them.

    Passing the Traffic Test says a lot. It means I’m lost in the interaction, invigorated by it, and that I’m the complete opposite of bored.

    To me, almost nothing is more critical in choosing a life partner than finding someone who passes the Traffic Test. When there are people in your life who do pass the Traffic Test, what a whopping shame it would be to spend 95% of the rest of your life with someone who doesn’t.

    A Traffic Test-passing friendship entails:

    • A great sense of humor click. No one wants to spend 50 years fake laughing.
    • Fun. And the ability to extract fun out of unfun situations—airport delays, long drives, errands. Not surprisingly, studies suggest that the amount of fun a couple has is a strong predictor for their future.
    • A respect for each other’s brains and way of thinking. A life partner doubles as a career/life therapist, and if you don’t respect the way someone thinks, you’re not going to want to tell them your thoughts on work each day, or on anything else interesting that pops into your head, because you won’t really care that much what they have to say about it.
    • A decent number of common interests, activities, and people-preferences. Otherwise a lot of what makes you ‘you’ will inevitably become a much smaller part of your life, and you and your life partner will struggle to find enjoyable ways to spend a free Saturday together.

    A friendship that passes the Traffic Test gets better and better with time, and it has endless room to deepen and grow ever-richer.

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    2. A Feeling of Home

    If someone told you you had to sit in a chair for 12 straight hours without moving, aside from wondering why the hell they were making you do this, your first thought would be, “I better get in the most comfortable possible position”—because you’d know that even the slightest bit of discomfort would grow to pain and eventually, torture. When you have to do something for a long, long time, it’s best if it’s supremely comfortable.

    When it comes to marriage, a perpetual “discomfort” between you and your partner can be a permanent source of unhappiness, especially as it magnifies over time, much like your torturous situation in the chair. Feeling “at home” means feeling safe, cozy, natural, and utterly yourself, and in order to have this feeling with a partner, a few things need to be in place:

    • Trust and security. Secrets are poison to a relationship, because they form an invisible wall inside the relationship, leaving both people somewhat alone in the world—and besides, who wants to spend 50 years lying or worrying about hiding something? And on the other side of secrets will often be suspicion, a concept that directly clashes with the concept of home. This is why having an affair during an otherwise good marriage is one of the most self-defeating and short-sighted things someone could ever do.
    • Natural chemistry. Interacting should be easy and natural, energy levels should be in the same vicinity, and you should feel on the same “wavelength” in general. When I’m with someone on a very different wavelength than I am, it doesn’t take long before the interaction becomes exhausting.
    • Acceptance of human flaws. You’re flawed. Like, really flawed. And so is your current or future life-partner. Being flawed is part of the definition of being a human. And one of the worst fates would be to spend most of your life being criticized for your flaws and reprimanded for continuing to have them. This isn’t to say people shouldn’t work on self-improvement, but when it comes to a life partnership, the healthy attitude is, “Every person comes with a set of flaws, these are my partner’s, and they’re part of the package I knowingly chose to spend my life with.”
    • A generally positive vibe. Remember, this is the vibe you’re a part of now, forever. It’s not really acceptable for it to be a negative one, nor is it sustainable. Relationship scientist John Gottman has found that “couples with a ratio of fewer than five positive interactions for every negative one are destined for divorce.”

    3. A Determination to be Good at Marriage

    Relationships are hard. Expecting a strong relationship without treating it like a rigorous part-time job is like expecting to have a great career without putting in any effort. In a time when humans in most parts of the world can enjoy freedom and carve their own path in life, it usually doesn’t sit that well to suddenly become half of something and compromise on a bunch of things you grew up being selfish about.

    So what skills does someone need to learn to be good at marriage?

    • Communication. Communication being on this list is as silly as “oxygen” being on a list of items you need to stay healthy. And yet, poor communication is the downfall of a huge number of couples—in fact, in a study on divorcees, communication style was the top thing they said they’d change for their next relationship. Communication is hard to do well consistently—successful couples often need to create pre-planned systems or even partake in couples’ therapy to make sure it happens.
    • Maintaining equality. Relationships can slip into an unequal power dynamic pretty quickly. When one person’s mood always dictates the mood in the room, when one person’s needs or opinion consistently prevail over the other’s, when one person can treat the other in a way they’d never stand for being treated themselves—you’ve got a problem.
    • Fighting well. Fighting is inevitable. But there are good and bad ways to fight. When a couple is good at fighting, they defuse tension, approach things with humor, and genuinely listen to the other side, while avoiding getting nasty, personal or defensive. They also fight less often than a bad couple. According to John Gottman, 69% of a typical couple’s fights are perpetual, based on core differences, and cannot be resolved—and a skilled couple understands this and refrains from engaging in these brawls again and again.9

    In searching for your life partner or assessing your current life partnership, it’s important to remember that every relationship is flawed and you probably won’t end up in something that gets an A in every one of the above items and bullet points—but you should hope to do pretty well on most of them, since each one plays a large part in your lifelong happiness.

    And since this is a daunting list to try to achieve in a life partnership, you probably don’t want to make things even harder than they need to be by insisting upon too many other checkboxes—most of which will not have a large effect on your happiness during dinner #4,386 of your marriage. It would be nice if he played the guitar, but take it off the list of must-haves.

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    I hope Valentine’s Day was good for you this year, whatever you did for it. Just remember that Forgettable Wednesday is a much more important day.

    __________

    Sources

    The facts and opinions in this article are based on a combination of dozens of hours of research, on both scientific study results and expert opinions, and of my own personal experience and observations and those of a number of my friends and family (many of whom I interviewed in the last week). Special thanks to Eric Barker for his great blog, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, from which I mined a number of sources for this post.

    1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10090130/Marriage-makes-people-happier-than-six-figure-salaries-and-religion.html
    2. “Marital Status is Misunderstood in Happiness Models” from Deakin University, Faculty of Business and Law, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance; Economics Series Paper # 2010_03.
    3. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/08/08/most-young-adults-expect-marriage-for-life-study/
    4. “Sex differences in mate preferences revisited: Do people know what they initially desire in a romantic partner?” from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Eastwick, Paul W.; Finkel, Eli J.
    5. “Can Anyone Be “The” One? Evidence on Mate Selection from Speed Dating” from IZA Discussion Papers, number 2377.
    6. http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2013/10/recipe-for-a-happy-marriage-2/
    7. http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2011/12/is-5-to-1-the-golden-ratio-for-both-work-and/
    8. Terri Orbuch, Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship
    9. John Gottman, The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy
    10. Dan Wile, After the Honeymoon: How Conflict Can Improve Your Relationship
    11. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 94–122.

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    Anna Chui

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

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    Last Updated on January 24, 2021

    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

    Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

    For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

    But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

    It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

    And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

    The Importance of Saying No

    When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

    In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

    Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

    Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

    Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

    “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

    When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

    How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

    It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

    From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

    We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

    And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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    At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

    The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

    How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

    Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

    But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

    3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

    1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

    If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

    2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

    When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

    Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

    3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

    When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

    6 Ways to Start Saying No

    Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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    1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

    One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

    Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

    2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

    Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

    Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

    3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

    Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

    Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

    You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

    4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

    Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

    Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

    5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

    When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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    How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

      Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

      Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

      6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

      If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

      Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

      Final Thoughts

      Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

      Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

      Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

      More Tips on How to Say No

      Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
      [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
      [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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