To a frustrated single person, life can often feel like this: And at first glance, research seems to back this up, suggesting that married people are on average happier than single people and much happier than divorced people.In other words, here’s what’s happening in reality: Dissatisfied single people should actually consider themselves in a neutral, fairly hopeful position, compared to what their situation could be.A single person who would like to find a great relationship is one step away from it, with their to-do list reading, “1) Find a great relationship.” People in unhappy relationships, on the other hand, are threeleaps away, with a to-do list of “1) Go through a soul-crushing break-up. 3) Find a great relationship.” Not as bad when you look at it that way, right?
But unlike death and the universe’s size, picking a life partner is fully in your control, so it’s critical to make yourself entirely clear on how big a deal the decision really is and to thoroughly analyze the most important factors in making it. I’m pretty sure no one over 80 reads Wait But Why, so no matter who you are, that’s a of time—and almost the entirety of the rest of your one existence.
(Sure, people get divorced, but you don’t think you will.
A recent study shows that 86% of young people assume their current or future marriage will be forever, and I doubt older people feel much differently.
So we’ll proceed under that assumption.) And 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 Studies have shown people to be generally bad, when single, at predicting what later turn out to be their actual relationship preferences.
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% a response…to market conditions and just 2% 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 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.
But good old society frowns upon that, and people are often still timid to say they met their spouse on a dating site.
One study found that speed daters questioned about their relationship preferences usually prove themselves wrong just minutes later with what they show to prefer in the actual event.
This shouldn’t be a surprise—in life, you usually don’t get good at something until you’ve done it a bunch of times.
Unfortunately, not many people have a chance to be in more than a few, if any, serious relationships before they make their big decision. And given that a person’s partnership persona and relationship needs are often quite different from the way they are as a single person, it’s hard as a single person to really know what you want or need from a relationship.