I hope you’ve felt the heart-pounding butterflies in the stomach of falling in love. It’s really one of the best experiences we have in this world and sometimes it is so good that people hope that happiness will last for a lifetime. But finding a love story that ends happily ever after these days seems harder than ever. And it’s partly because society gives us the wrong instructions on how to find it. The first love stories we hear are children’s fairy tales that tell us that love appears magically. Romantic tragedies tell us that love appears by fate. You probably can think of a friend who seems to lose all capacity for reason when it comes to their love lives. So it can happen to the best of us. This leaves us with a confusing problem.
On the one hand, falling in love is one of the best experiences we can have emotionally, on the other hand, it seems to compromise our ability to make well-reasoned decisions. And we need to make good decisions because our romantic relationship strongly affects our life satisfaction and psychological well-being. So we need something more reliable than fate to find happily ever after. In this book called the science of happily ever after, the author, Ty Tashiro says that happily ever after couples, choose partners with a set of traits that sets them up for success. By studying those couples, he has come up with some tips that can help us find happily ever after by choosing the right partner.
Tashiro says that the first mistake most people do is that they wish for too many things in a partner and end up getting very little of what they want. No partner is perfect and you can’t get everything in one person. So you need to prioritize and think about what it is that you want in a partner. It’s only three wishes that you get because with every wish you get rid of a certain amount of the population. Let’s say you are in a room with 100 bachelors randomly selected from the population. If you want someone for example that is 6 feet tall, that would mean that 80 of those 100 people would walk out of the room. If you add two more wishes like good-looking and democrat, it will take you down to only one or two options.
Now think for a second about the traits of your ideal partner. You might want someone who has certain personality traits or physical characteristics. There are actually hundreds of things that you could wish for. And the good news is that there are pretty good odds you can get your first three wishes fulfilled. So you wanna use those wishes wisely. Science can help us in this regard because it can tell us the relative value of certain traits compared to others when it comes to long-term satisfaction.
Things like kindness are obviously more valuable than things like physical attractiveness or wealth. That sounds like common sense. But when you watch what couples actually do when selecting a partner, they choose on looks and money as two of their three wishes. Now there is a really low return on investment if you wanna think about it that way.
One thing that is great to look at is personality traits. These traits are very stable across the lifespan and they can also strongly predict satisfaction in a marriage. Among all the personality traits, I would say emotional stability is the number one thing to choose. That might sound like common sense. Someone who is moody doesn't make for a great partner. Emotionally stable partners are not psychopaths, they are less prone to anger. They are just pleasant to be around. Emotional stability actually ranks nine in most research but I think it should rank one. Someone who is emotionally unstable or Neurotic is just unhappy with things in general and they create drama.
Another trait that is great is kindness. It’s easy to overlook people who are nice. In fact, sometimes the nice guys get a bad rap in dating. If people say, “Hey, I taught your partner was nice”, it’s almost looked at as an insult sometimes, like, “that’s it?” But partners who are kind, they care more about your perspective, they are more likely to understand you, they are not gonna approach the relationship as a zero-sum game. That if I give you one, you give me one. They just trust that they can give freely and in the long run, you can give freely back.
Now let’s look at what happens when people wish well, maybe for these three traits instead of looks, money, or something else that doesn’t predict well. Average couples, as you can see lose almost half of their relationship satisfaction over the course of thirteen years. The couples that chose poorly will lose 80 percent of the satisfaction in the same period. But if couples wish well and wisely, as you can see the decline in relationship satisfaction is very small and they set themselves for a long and happy marriage.
Think about your ideal partner and the traits you want him or her to have. What are your three wishes? Just make sure to choose traits that don’t have a low return on investment.
I don’t think people should just coldly choose their partners based on some algorithm but I also think that relationships can be complicated and hard. And science can help us a bit in this regard to find out our happily ever after.