The Science of Happily Ever After
“THE SCIENCE OF HAPPILY EVER AFTER: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love” by Ty Tashiro, Ph.D., looks at the choices we make while selecting romantic partners, why we are wired to make them, and how three simple wishes can significantly increase our chances for living happily ever after. Ty is a relationship expert for the Discovery Network’s Fit & Health channel and is affiliated with the Research Faculty at the Center for Addiction, Personality, and Emotion Research at the University of Maryland. On Last First Date Radio today, Ty shared his scientific research on what makes love last. Read on for some highlights of today’s inspiring show.
Sandy: Why is happily ever after so hard for so many people to find?
Ty: The idea of marriages being happy is a relatively new. Marriages used to be political or socio-economic arrangements. It’s only around 150 years ago that we changed the expectations of marriage to include love and happiness. We are still struggling to make it happen. 50% of couples divorce. Only about 1 in 3 people are happily married.
S: What are some of the secrets to happily ever after?
T: People wish for too many things in a partner. Their list is long and unrealistic. We need to prioritize what’s most important to wish for in a mate.
S: What are the “three wishes for love”?
T: We often squander our wishes for what we would like in a partner. Most people say they want good values, good morals, and a good personality. But if you watch them in speed dating, men prioritize women for their looks first and their socio-economic status (money) second. Women prioritize money first, looks second. This doesn’t line up with what they SAY they want.
We can’t get everything we want in a partner. A very small percentage of men have the height or the money you want. Personality is a great thing to wish for. Our personality is pretty much set by adolescence. If you assess personality traits before marriage, you can assess the success of a marriage.
One prototype to watch out for is a person who is spontaneous, lots of fun, usually into their partner and the relationship at the beginning. They are high novelty seekers. They get extra pleasure from anything new. But they get bored more quickly – including with their romantic partner. They are more impulsive, which means they are more prone to addiction, cheating, etc.
You want to attract someone who is emotionally stable, low on neuroticism. These people tend to be happy with life. Someone who is emotionally unstable will find fault in many aspects of life, including their partner. Even if they’re partnered with an emotionally stable partner, they will usually terminate the relationship. Stay away from these two types.
S: How do you pick up on these traits early on?
T: See what they are like under stress or in a crisis. When you’re in a new relationship and it’s in that exciting honeymoon phase, there’s good brain scan data about how bad we are at making reasonable judgments. A good thing to do is to ask for the opinion of friends and family. Listen to the general consensus between them. They often have good radar on the pulse of your relationship.
S: What other red flags should people look out for?
T: One red flag to look out for is how your partner thinks about why problems occur. Let’s say your partner is 15 -minutes late for dinner. There can be dozens of reasons why this happened. If your partner immediately jumps to a negative assumption, such as why are you always so inconsiderate, he’s implying there’s something more broadly wrong with you. Couples don’t recognize how harmful this is.
Green flag: There is new research by Shelly Gable about something called capitalization in relationships. 93% of partners come home and tell good news about something that happened that day. They got an A on a quiz at college. They did well at work that day. Some partners will match the level of enthusiasm. That’s called Capitalization. The benefits are that your relationship is better that day, the next day, and two weeks later. The negative side is when you say good news and your partner ignores what you said, it is destructive to the relationship. You want to be with someone who is empathic and supportive, not competing or ignoring.
S: How do you make your wishes come true?
T: #1. Narrow your list down. Start with your top ten. Get super clear on the top five and then narrow it down to the top 3. Have your list in hand and take action on it. Think about the last few people you dated. Have they had these things on your list? Maybe they were missing one or two? Make sure they have all three.
#2. Next, put yourself in an environment where you’ll find the right people for you. There’s a new app that scans Instagram pics and tells you where people like those in the photos are hanging out. For example, you have a lot of smiling people, where do they hang out? Where do the intellectuals hang out? Museums, bookstores. Go there!
#3. Assess that a new person is in line with your 3 wishes. Write them down, and promise yourself to go back and look at it after a date. And don’t forget about asking friends and family what they think of your new relationship.
To listen to the entire interview, click here.
What are your three wishes for your happily ever after partner?