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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 August 12, 2020

    When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

    When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

    Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

    In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

    How to Listen to Your Gut

    The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

    Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

    1. Tune Into Your Body

    Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

    However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

    Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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    Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

    In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

    2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

    Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

    There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

    3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

    Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

    As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

    This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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    4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

    As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

    Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

    5. Challenge Your Assumptions

    When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

    In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

    A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

    6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

    Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

    There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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    Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

    Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

    Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

    We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

    The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

    We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

    7. Trust Yourself

    It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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    Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

    If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

    The Bottom Line

    The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

    Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

    More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

    Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
    [2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
    [3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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