I’ve really enjoyed receiving posts by Eric Barker. Recently, I received this post on How to Have a Great Relationship. He really boils things down, peppering his posts with links to the research and more expansive articles. Here’s an excerpt:
Love isn’t an emotion, really. When you look at fMRI studies of the brain it shows up more as a desire. A craving.
And that explains why it feels so good. As far as the ol’ gray matter’s concerned love’s right up there with cocaine and cash.
All three activate the same area of the brain — the dopamine reward system . . . So, yeah, even neuroscience agrees that love is intense. But can anything that powerful last? Doesn’t it eventually have to fizzle? Not necessarily. Research shows some couples are very much in love 40-50 years later. Want your marriage to last more than 30 years? Just “being married” often isn’t enough: you also need to be good friends.
But this is only the entry point to dozens of clearly written text loaded with links. Really smartly outlined and inviting. I find myself looking through many of the links, including this way to shortcut to romance.
Here are a few more links that spun off the main article:
John Gottman’s four things that kill relationships.
Criticism – Complaints are fine. Criticism is more global — it attacks the person, not their behavior. They didn’t take out the garbage because they forgot, but because they’re a bad person.
Contempt – “…name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”
Defensiveness – “…defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’ Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly.”
Stonewalling – Tuning out. Disengaging. This doesn’t just remove the person from the conflict, it ends up removing them, emotionally, from the relationship.
Here’s a gem from the same article:
69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. These problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year:
Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind – but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.
What is one of the best predictors of the well being of a relationship? It’s how much you THINK you are similar.
What’s the best time efficient way to enhance your relationship? Share your favorite part of the day with each other.
I realize that none of this is rocket science in the abstract. As a man who recently became divorced, however, it’s not easy to put these into play every day. Keeping these ideas in the forefront would seem to be a good way to making it easier to put these ideas into play.
People are interested in people like themselves. Women on eHarmony favor men who are similar not just in obvious ways — age, attractiveness, education, income — but also in less apparent ones, such as creativity. Even when eHarmony includes a quirky data point — like how many pictures are included in a user’s profile — women are more likely to message men similar to themselves. In fact, of the 102 traits in the data set, there was not one for which women were more likely to contact men with opposite traits.
The Philosopher’s Mail offers some wisdom here:
All of us are crazy in very particular ways. We’re distinctively neurotic, unbalanced and immature, but don’t know quite the details because no one ever encourages us too hard to find them out. An urgent, primary task of any lover is therefore to get a handle on the specific ways in which they are mad. They have to get up to speed on their individual neuroses. They have to grasp where these have come from, what they make them do – and most importantly, what sort of people either provoke or assuage them. A good partnership is not so much one between two healthy people (there aren’t many of these on the planet), it’s one between two demented people who have had the skill or luck to find a non-threatening conscious accommodation between their relative insanities.
The very idea that we might not be too difficult as people should set off alarm bells in any prospective partner. The question is just where the problems will lie: perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us, or we can only relax when we are working, or we’re a bit tricky around intimacy after sex, or we’ve never been so good at explaining what’s going on when we’re worried. It’s these sort of issues that – over decades – create catastrophes and that we therefore need to know about way ahead of time, in order to look out for people who are optimally designed to withstand them. A standard question on any early dinner date should be quite simply: ‘And how are you mad?’
Huffpo quantifies the meaning of a romantic relationship:
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.
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?
Instead of doing serious research, most of us do our search haphazardly, falling prey to the availability heuristic:
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 percent a response… to market conditions and just 2 percent 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.
I’ve enjoyed being a parent, though it has sometimes been a lot of work. I’m proud of who my two daughters are turning out to be. They teach me many things, including humility.
Recently I read this post at Huffpo, an extraordinarily sad post, or at least that is how I reacted. This website features the comments of people for whom parenting is a sad, and sometimes dismal experience. It includes a “confessional” where people often openly express their dark thoughts regarding their own children. Here’s the post, and here’s the “Scary Mommy Confessional.”