How to Pick Your Life Partner – Part 2

This is Part 2. Part 1 is here.

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.

I think the same idea applies to marriage.How to pick your life partner

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.

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:

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.6
  • 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.

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.”7

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.8 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.

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.

If you liked this, check these out next:

Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think

10 Types of Odd Friendships You’re Probably Part Of

10 Types of 30-Year-Old Single Guys

Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel


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.

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.
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.
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.

  • amy

    Beautiful part 2. In some way, your blog just became a life coach for many. Be well. Btw, have you found your life partner? tee hee. I have have a great sense of humor and score A’s in all the points above. Have have a great day.

    • nicole

      I know, right…!

  • boso

    Do you know what’s weird? youre actually sort of my tutor. Every wednesday you give me a lifelesson that I couldn’t really have understood without having read the previous lessons. I almost feel like following a course. The “wait but why how to handle life course”.

    I’m gonna send this post to two of my friends on valentine’s day cause it shows me I could have married them if they weren’t the same sex.

    What I miss in this post is the thing with learning to love someone. I lived in a studenthouse with 18 students and every time we got a new roommate that I really disliked at first, I ended up loving that person. Just because I was around them all the time and needed to. For example: I can’t stand people who talk all the time and prefer making stupid jokes above having interesting conversation. It took me three years of living with such a person, but now I love him, and don’t mind him talking all the time that much anymore. (maybe that’s also because we started to make music together and making music with people is like having sex but less awkward. (seriously, if the palestines and the Israelites started making music together the war would be over))

    That makes me think those 50 years aren’t thát big a deal after all. You just have to invest time and effort, and love will follow automatically.

    • nicole

      Yeah, I was thinking the same… this dude is dropping some serious useful advice in a palatable way. Without having to read 200 self help books! I wonder how we can make this guy some money! Lol

      • Alex R

        Judging by the ads on the side, I’m guessing he’s making at least a little money from this. Probably not much though.

    • Flux Capture

      @boso: (“I’m gonna send this post to two of my friends on valentine’s day cause it shows me I could have married them if they weren’t the same sex.”)

      Um. Actually… well. Never mind, dear.

      No, wait. Screw it. I’ll say it. Someone needs to.

      When deliberating marriage, gender is reason neither for nor against.

      The reaction of “society” must be considered, of course, but gender itself is no impediment.

      If you want to marry someone–anyone–just ask them. Their answer may surprise you.


      • Scott

        What about sexual attraction? Or sexual orientation in general?

        • Kate

          Sexuality matters, but society greatly overvalues its importance in a marriage. Pretty much everything on this list is more important, and gender is in many cases just one of the “other checkboxes” mentioned here.

          Couples with a large disparity in sexuality (such as those with one asexual person and one sexual person) do have to deal with that, but a lot of people find that they can. Others can’t. It comes down to who’s involved and what their individual needs are.

  • Verdun

    Bravo! Another great post, as always. Your points on this subject are funny and insightful, as well as being realistically useful. At the same time, they point to very deep truths and aspects of human life.. here is advice that can save mankind.

    “Love, baby, love. That’s the secret, yeah. If lots more of us loved each other, we’d solve lots more problems. And then this world would be better. That’s wha’ ol’ Pops keeps saying.” – Louis Armstrong 🙂

  • giorgio

    Awesome, thank you for this one!

  • LeftAtTheAltar

    Sorry, these posts really goes into TLDB territory. Can you burn it down to the key funny points, that would be great.

    • Frida with kids now

      When I google TLDB I get “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Thermo-Luminescent Detector Badge.” I guess “Too Long something something. Help me out?

      • Jeff

        I think the commenter meant TLDR – too long, didn’t read. Though I disagree.

      • LeftAtTheAltar

        TLDB – Too Long Didn’t Bother
        Tried reading it all, started skimming. Instant Gratification Monkey died reading this. Even the Monkey couldn’t get through it. (Yes I read this blog).

        This post was too verbose & over-written is my point.

        Best one has been Gen Y yuppies.

        I know I’ve committed the biggest offence of the internet and not being 100% supportive of whats written and thinking it’s the most awesomeist thing ever read seen.

        • Ian

          Have you read the one about the types of people in hostels? It might not be funny if you have never stayed in a hostel, but I have been in many and it hits it right on the head for me. That and types of single 30 year old guys. Hilarious.

        • Scott

          Your sarcasm is lame, and it’s definitely your loss if you didn’t read the article. I get the feeling something about it offended you. Maybe in one too many of the bad relationship types? Maybe in one now?

        • disconnect

          Know what’s great about the internet? If you don’t have anything to add, and you then proceed to not add anything, the internet still chugs along!

    • Right AT the Altar

      Did you read part one?
      I thought this one was too short! I was all disappointed thinking it’d be around as long as the first…
      Though there may be some overkill on some points..
      But still!
      I want more!

  • Anonymous

    Don’t cut a word. This blog passes the Traffic Test. Make it longer.

  • Parson

    Picking my future ex-wife just became easier…

    • Fede

      You sir. You win.

  • nicole

    Printing this out and putting it on my wall. Starting operation “find better life partner than the previous two” NOW!

  • Anonymous

    Finally! Someone who understands! These are all the things I look for in a relationship! People think I’m insane for being single… but I just refuse to settle, and I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me, but I know when I do find a relationship it shall be a a good one. There are many fantastic people out there, I think it’s just important not to rush things and wait for that one person you’re comfortable with and enjoy their company.

  • Married Misery

    I’ve done everything wrong! Every single thing… Zero traffic test score, zero safe home… Twice.

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  • Single And Some What Loving It

    Absolutely wonderful post….truthful, funny, realistic, sensible, and, to the point. I think I’ll save this one and re-read it every once in a while to bring me back down to earth and be honest with myself. By the way…..are you single?

    • boso

      he probably is, he wrote two posts about single-ship. None about relationships. Also his grandmapost sounded like he was there alone, and no one in a relationship goes to visit his grandma alone. Also you can’t write a post about how it should be like to date when you are 37 and single when you are not over 30 and single.

      Not that it is any of our business.

      • Flux Capture

        @boso: Agreed. Furthermore, I find the Author quite intelligent, and according to my thesis, “coupling” makes people unbearably STUPID. Ergo, the Author must be single.

        • …. Oh dear

          > “coupling” makes people unbearably STUPID

  • Sam

    Sometime I heard that “we are admired for our virtues, but loved for our imperfections”.
    I think it becomes right “with enough time”. I think that is why we also remember so easily the bad experiences in life or the bad customs of old friends, brothers etc.

    It has been another interesting post!

  • Oren Marmot

    What a great blog and rife with wise advice!
    I think I may contribute another method, this one relies on a simple problem in probability:

    Think of the following problem:

    You are given 100 cards face down. Each card has a number written on it randomly chosen from a bounded but unknown range (could be -5 to +5 or -100000 to +45). You need to go over the cards and flip them one by one, eventually stopping. The last card you flip is the score you get. Once a card is flipped and you go on to the next one, you cannot go back.
    What is the algorithm which maximized the expectancy of your score?
    Turns out the algorithm is this: flip over 37 cards and mark the highest number seen. The keep on flipping until you reach a higher number and then stop. Of course, you may reach the end and not encounter a higher number.

    Why is this relevant?
    Well, like spouses, you do not know the range, that is, how compatible and significant one can be to you. Maybe there is no one in the world which will understand you (the range is small and negative) and maybe there are many excellent people for you (many highly positive numbers in range).
    Like spouses, usually, once you go on, you cannot go back (not with the original score at least).

    So, assuming you go on dates from age 18 to 40 here is what you should do: Date until age 26 then dump whomever you are with, keep dating and the moment you find someone better than the best so far, stick to him/her.
    If everyone in the world did this, the expectancy of the significance of the significant other will be maximized. This is what I did and I ended up with my wife (we met when I was 32) and am very happy so far 🙂

    • Scott

      You sound like a weirdo–Nothing wrong with that though, if your wife is into it. Problem, though, is that your advice boils down to: I should break up with my girlfriend of 2 years, even though she *honestly* fulfills every point made about a good life partner in this blog post and I can’t imagine being without her, because I’m 25.

  • Shary

    This post made me wonder if this idealistic view on the necessities of perfect connection for marriage are based on actual experience or on the other great American fallacy of marriage – that it must fulfill you totally because it’s YOUR PRIMARY RELATIONSHIP. While I’m with this guy on the idea that going with butterflies in the tummy is stupid, but this post ignores the reality that intimacy grows over time, too. I’m not sure my best friend of 16 years would have passed the Traffic Test for the first few. I’m not even sure she does now.

    Author – your “About” section suggests you’re 31 – is this post based on personal experience or on fantasy? I actually think, paradoxically, when people didn’t expect their marriages to fulfill their souls in every way, marriage satisfaction was higher. Think our grandparents’ generation.

    • Scott

      Why do you contend that marriage satisfaction was higher in our grandparents’ generation (I’m 25)? Because divorce rates were lower? That doesn’t account for the possibility that people just stayed in bad marriages more often–certainly not a preferable situation.

  • Shaz bot

    Here’s what I intuitively believe… All relationships are important life lessons as by being in a relationship we learn many things..the. Art of giving & forgiving, the art of sharing & caring, the art of loving self & another, etc. we need relationships. To grow us as a person so there is no such thing as a wrong relationship…be careful not to get bogged down in seeking the perfect relationship because life is a journey, not, a destination. If you look only for perfection you will be disappointed. My relationship of 20 yrs ended and despite the hurt, the pain , the grief of it all, I wouldn’t change or wish it was different because initially it was great, it was love and it was right..but as humans we are meant to grow & change or evolve otherwise we are just existing. So too with my relationship evolved but what happened is that we both evolved at different levels and it was destined to drift to different paths, despite therapy, counselling etc.. I understand its purpose and what it brought us both and I allow myself and my ex the right to part (painful as it is), knowing that we don’t have a moral or lawful right to control another…the greatest test in life is to be brave enough, strong enough ,wise enough to recognise when to move on to the next phase and be thankful for what was and look positively into the future..just let go & believe…

    • Scott

      You’re saying you wouldn’t change what happened if given the chance. But hypothetically, if you HAD broken up sooner and HAD met the actual right person, I think that hypothetical you would much prefer that HIS life not be exchanged for yours.

  • Julie

    Thank you SO much for such profound words and insights!! You have articulated some things I have felt for years, but didn’t know how to say them (or didn’t think it was appropriate to say for fear of offending my married friends). As a single, never been married, 39 year old woman, who totally believes everything you have said and refuses to cave to other people’s opinions, it has been a rough road. But not nearly as rough a road as being divorced or being in a miserable marriage. Reading this helped me realize that I am a balance of romantic and practical, which is comforting somehow. I have known for a long time that once I do get married, after having consciously chosen a mate, I am going to write my story, hoping that it will give hope to other single women who feel like they are waiting for an eternity for partnership. Thank you for starting this process that I will continue.

  • Xhslo

    Wow, this comment section sounds like an episode of Dr. Oz. It’s good though. Most people don’t get to express their true feelings like they do on an anonymous blog comment section. As for me, I’m very happy with my girlfriend at the moment, but I don’t know that I have had anyone pass the “car test” since I was a little kid. I have many songs that pass the car test, or when I am on my way to see my girlfriend, I wish my car would be able to get there faster, even though she is only 5 minutes away. I guess that’s good..

    • Dave

      I live in LA – the traffic test doesn’t work here.

      Great article by the way.

  • Ananda

    It’s official – I love you!

  • Flux Capture

    @Stephen Braun (“…feeling very, very stuck. Sigh.”)

    I’ve given this advice before here, but you seem to need an extra hug.

    Each of my parents have been divorced twice–from EACH OTHER. I am single by choice–natually learning from their example–but I feel your pain via my many painful relationships I (fortunately) sabotaged in time.

    Now. I give you these two words of advice:

    1. “Insurance.”
    2. “Accident.”


    • ???

      That is some strange advice you give there…

    • Scott

      Terrible joke, terrible person.

  • Michelle

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I was wondering if i should take the plunge and tie the knot with my best friend. We’ve been friends, best friends, friends with benefits, and now we’ve been living together for about 6 months all over the course of about ten years. I think we are ready. I’ve been reading a lot about marriage lately but this post has basically taken all the things I’ve read and compiled them into an easy, entertaining, and applicable read. Thanks guys, you are truly the best.

  • Anonymous

    Wait but where are all the commenters complaining about the heteronormative hegemonic implications of the past two posts? Doesn’t Janet Mock have something to say about this? Quick somebody notify the ACLU!

    • Scott

      Ok, but first I will go over to KFC’s website and complain at them for not posting information no how best to go about maintaining my spinach and grapefruit diet.

  • Ahsan Asaad

    Okay so I know most of this is common sense, I mean what other reason could there be for it to appeal to people across the board and on an intrinsic level. In fact perhaps it borders on wisdom in some ways.

    My question is, how do you do it bro? It seems you have figured out the secret for separating the bullshit from the kernels of truth that lie around us in daily life. Just wondering if you could write a post about how it’s done, would make the lot of us better off for having read it.

    Thanks for your mind drops

  • V

    and don’t forget hate. nothing brings two people together like hating the same thing.

  • rosettesor

    thank you so much! just… thank you!

  • miss confused

    Wow! A lot of truth has been spoken by the author. “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 “- for me this part hits home so much because I have only been married for 8 months now. However, the bullying and unfairness in my marriage is sickening. The paradigm shift is appalling. We are not on the same wavelength of thinking any more. I have absolutely no voice any more. I could have trust and insecurity issues all i like, its entirely up to me to put my mind at ease. We have one child together whom we both adore and for me having grown up in a very stable, nuclear family, having my child grow up in the same set up is very important. I wish you could write an article about picking the wrong life partner, but choosing to stay with them. I care not about judgement on this matter, if anyone out there reading this is a mother, then you could be able to understand how I can choose to sacrifice my own happiness, just for my child to have as much a normal upbringing as possible. It’s just sad because before I married him, I also had my tick box and he certainly passed on most things which are vital to me in marriage, but 8 months down the line, there’s been a 360° turn. And this is someone I’ve been on and off with for 10 years before.

    • Sincere advice

      I’m sorry to hear that your marriage has turned out to be the opposite of what you expected it to be (which would actually be a 180° turn, 360° means getting back to where you started). But I really do hope that you realize that sacrificing your own happiness directly leads to sacrificing your child’s happiness… Children are super sensitive to all kinds of energies, including negative vs. positive ones / unhappy vs. happy ones. So if YOU – the child’s mother, one of the two most important people in a child’s life – are unhappy… What do you think the effect will be on your child? Both now and later on? Your child will definitely pick up on that unhappiness, which will manifest in the core of your child’s upbringing and have all kinds of consequences later on. Please don’t underestimate the magnitude of the influence that an unhappy environment can have. The vibe of an unhappy parent can resonate with a child for decades, if not their whole life. I can know as a child of a very unhappy parent… So please do your child a favor and be as happy as you can possible be! It will definitely prevail over growing up in a ‘complete’ but unhappy family. And not to forget: it will also be better for yourself! And for your relationship toward your child, to not always have the painful feeling that your child ‘held you back’ from being happy…!!! I can only imagine how difficult it must be to make a decision like this (to divorce your partner), but I truly hope you will make the right choice….

  • miss confused

    If anyone is wondering how I do it, well I’ve learnt that to become an actress in life and a good one too, you don’t need to star in a movie. Your life could actually be a movie and you become the actress. I also invest in a lot of self-love and making sure I look my best so that I don’t find myself miserable and taking the blame for a failed but continuing marriage.

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  • Jenny

    How does appearance fit into this? I mean, it might be difficult to be romantic or intimate with someone that you aren’t attracted to, despite your emotional/communicative connection.

  • Anonymous

    This is one of the worst manifestations of solutionism that I have ever read. The Traffic Test? Are you nuts? Are you saying that when I am driving home with a hormonal wife and an infant in the back seat that I should be rooting for traffic for further “invigoration”?

    I hate to break it to you, but choosing a wife is not like choosing a bro to enter your fraternity. The quotidian details of the “Forgettable Wednesday” are not manifested as a roundtable about the merits of each other’s day, but rather as piles of laundry, dishes, diapers, and bills that need to be folded, washed, changed, and paid.

    All I can say is thank goodness that Tolstoy, Updike and all of the other titans of literature were not concerned with documenting “the vibe”, “clicking”, “defusing”, and “people-preferences”, whatever that means. Even the most treacly self-help books acknowledge and celebrate the profound, mysterious, ineffable gulf between men and women, and entering the sacrament of marriage means embracing and navigating this chasm, not treating it as “discomfort”.

    Speaking of which, do you even like good-looking women or sexual intercourse? None of this was mentioned in your handy guide. Again, if one of your bros is asymmetrical or overweight, it’s all good, because you can laugh it up on the same wavelength, man. But in a marriage, yes, in addition to finding a hard worker, get one that you enjoy looking at and and having sex with. Doing this will go much, much further than coming home from a long day of work and believing that you have to punch the clock to begin your shift for the “rigorous [sic] part-time job” that is your marriage.

    • hjbhk

      Of course sex is part of compatibility. If one person needs bondage and the other person needs to not experience bondage, that’s probably a problem.

      It sounds to me like you prefer the thoughts of wise dead men to what we observe on a large scale about the truth of how people behave in relationships.

      If you want a god relationship, base in on reality, not conjecture. It sounds to me like you’re angry though. Are you also hormonal, or perhaps sore from having that wound of yours poked?

      Or maybe you’re just dealing with having a fresh baby and all the horrors that must be endured to raise a child, and it’s biasing your view to a successful relationship.
      The traffic test is not meant to occur during trying circumstances, like a hormonal wife and a new kid, or someone shooting at your car, it’s just when two relatively relaxed people are interacting. I’d have thought that was clear.

      Come on dude.

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  • Paul

    Relationships sound awfully hard and not much fun. Whereas being single is easy, stress free, and you get more sex. If someone you are banging puts on weight, no problem to upgrade!

  • Rudy

    Want the person of your dreams? Write down all the qualities that you would like in a mate, then write down the qualities that you bring to the table.
    the ones you are lacking in, are the ones you, not the other person, need to develop. It has been my experience, that those qualities I have tried to develop, the ones I would like my partner to have, has allowed me to accept my mate as is, while I try to become useful and bring compassion and love to my marriage. Just a normal guy with a lot of flaws, trying to be better every day.

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  • coach

    Excellent Article. This should be included in any “pre-marital counseling” material.

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  • Anonymous


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  • May

    Great article, but I’d say the biggest obstacle to happy, healthy relationships is a lack of emotional intelligence/emotional maturity.

    I would also add to the list of unhealthy societal pressures is the idea that you must “pick a life partner” and that if a relationship ends then you “got it wrong”. Why not just enjoy a relationship for as long as it’s comfortable and appropriate for both parties? And if a relationship doesn’t last a lifetime, was it a mistake?

    • Johnny

      I entirely agree, although I would rather turn emotional intelligence into a factor that makes it right (just to sound positive. .).
      And that’s why I believe that marriage is NOT for everyone.
      Emotional intelligence has to do with stability, (personality) change management, the handling of conflicts, creating surprise, getting on with day-to-day chores, humor, etc.
      Add that to physical attraction though 🙂

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  • Jennifer

    Find someone you are physically attracted to (where the feeling is mutual) with whom you share like values with, i.e., honesty, respect, care, monogamy, etc.

    That’s it.

    Forgoe ambiguous terms like “chemistry” and “clicking.”

    Also, we must be willing to get healthily uncomfortable/vulnerable to date and weather a long term relationship that leads to marriage.

    Best wishes and luck to you!

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  • Zee Relationship Doktor

    You hit on a bunch of really important things, but kind of glossed over the most important – compatibility. It’s hard to define what this means, but I define it as – making the most of what you have in common, while understanding the value of your differences. Some people can never get over their differences.

    • Kate

      I think that was covered pretty thoroughly in the sections about friendship, acceptance of flaws, fighting well, and overall positivity.

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  • alex

    sure enough you’d pass my traffic test, you’ve such a great brain

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  • Anonymous

    Very informative article. 🙂

    If I just add, picking your lifetime partner requires that you two has the same beliefs and spirituality.


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  • Kripke

    I just loved reading this…must read for many. I just broke up from a 4 year relationship and instead of feeling sad I pat myself on the back because I just saved myself from more years of misery. I feel more positive and more closer to finding whoever that other person is. This blog just made me even more happy. So for all the people out there shedding tears because you are all alone or for the others who are stuck in unhappy relationships…gear up!! Happiness is a personal choice and if you ain’t yet dead, you can still make it! Thanks again 🙂

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  • Beula Ureno

    get it right here

  • Tim from Radio Clash

    Preferred part one which was a lot of nods from me especially about not allowing others to judge your patner(s)….this one is too marriage focused, and a few what I would say major bloopers.

    Although I agree about friendship and trust, I think you don’t have to have too much in common, you can build stuff together. I thought there had been studies about this? Finding that sometimes opposites DO attract and succeed, it’s more to do with openness and interest in the other person’s world, rather than sharing the same set of beliefs and background which to me would be boring.

    And emphasis on marriage is odd, sometimes the key to a long relationship is to NOT get married. Keeps things fresh, and a choice rather than being tied together. And also it’s rather different if like me you’re in a same sex relationship (nearly 18 years – blows out most of my straight contemporaries as well as being a lifetime in gay years) – marriage can been seen as assimilation, a kind of attack on the queer, it’s not read the same. Sure some LGBTQ people want that too, picket fence and all…but not all. Especially as I don’t form one relationship at a time, and the law etc is all so monogamous/1-on-1.

    And some secrets are worth keeping…the fashion is currently to let it all out, and usually it’s a good thing, but not always. I know gay married men who love their families and wife, but don’t want to destroy it all. Sad in a way…but this idea that it’s all fine and cuddly coming out is not the reality, not everyone is as cool, modern or progressive. Depends on the secret and what the other person can handle…honesty usually is the best policy though for a happy relationship, especially amongst the day to day/less destructive but could become toxic stuff.

  • Sonu

    Amazing Post. Loved d good read.


  • Chintan

    Or you could pick the equally good option of not choosing a life partner.

    I’d rather have multiple close friendships/relationships than have one life partner that I expect everything of.

    It’s too much to expect one person to be your career coach, hobby partner, roommate, sex partner, dinner-mate, travel partner, and everything else. It puts an undue burden on the other person, and is unlikely to be successful, because it’s nearly impossibly to find one person compatible with you in all areas of your life.

    Also, if you accept the option of not having a life partner as a good option, you’re much less likely to enter into a bad marriage. Having “no life partner” as an option means that you’ll only marry someone if you’re very sure it will work out well.

    I also don’t want children, which massively reduces the pressure to find a life partner. I can see why someone who wants kids might want to get married. But even people who are married can benefit from being open to close friendships outside the marriage, and investing time in multiple people, instead of spending it all with their life partner.

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  • Autumn

    Excellent set of articles. I would include one more essential ingredient. Shared values has to be a MUST.

  • George Williams

    1) ‘Tis better to be alone wishing you weren’t than not be alone wishing you were.
    2) Most people want to “marry up”. Most can’t and this impairs their evaluation of potential mates.
    3) How can you make reliably durable life decisions in your 20s? Your outlook, like your career, will change.
    4) Most people’s mating “marketability” declines with age and the pool of available mates does, too.
    4a) The remaining pool accumulates losers, rejects, and owners of accumulated baggage as time passes.
    5) Some marriages persist on inertia/laziness – should break off but too messy and expensive to do so.
    6) The economy has so much at stake in promoting marriage, starting with the DeBeers cartel and progressing thru the wedding, real-estate, appliance, and furnishing industries that societal messages are heavily biased towards it. Competitive child-rearing is encouraged and served by another huge market.
    7) Basically it’s a crapshoot. God bless those who get it right whether by deliberation or luck. Too bad the wisdom of one’s 60s is unavailable to one’s 20s.

  • anonymous

    Another great, readable, funny post. All perceptive observations. Hope you revisit this subject in the future.

    I must add my two cents worth. Here is a thing that I see as a test in Marriage:

    We meet and greet this one side of a person. On a date, say. We show each other who we think we are. But what about the other side of us. The not socially acceptable side. Below the persona. Out of the reach of words. The side that never showed up in the dating phase. We all have to wake up to ourselves eventually. Get beyond the act. Having another person in ones life can initiate this process. They see you…and help you see you. Makes you feel exposed.

    Waking up can make or break a relationship. This is where it helps to have a mate with a huge amount of kindness, patience and understanding and belief in you and in the relationship you’ve built. To tell you ‘it’s ok’. Maybe it doesn’t happen to everyone. But, it can be a big test.

    I visualize it like the DNA ladder model that twists. Two people who fall in love are like two parallel lines. Then, when you connect with your mate on this more real level…when the buried stuff surfaces-that’s the twist. It is all still the same two people who share interests and such, but in completely different positions. It’s hard to survive the ‘twist’. When the mask comes off, it’s hard to recognize the new face. It can make or break a relationship.

    It’s like a personality change of direction-It’s hard to survive it. But well worth toughing it out. That’s when “we’re stuck in the tiny un-glamorous folds of the fabric of life” becomes something much more. It gets better. The light and beauty and love comes back and kind of spreads out in the world. (Something to do with being seen and accepted for who you really are. If only by one other person).It really did circle back 360 degrees-not 180- to how we felt in that first amazing year…four decades ago.

    • Ellen

      this describes it beautifully

  • I found this article at the end of a profile on OkCupid and he was wise in linking the article. I do feel—regardless of orientation, Mr. Urban wrote a great article to consider, when selecting or thinking about our life partners. I personally don’t believe in divorce, unless it was life threatening or unsafe (if children were involved). If a couple were having trouble and no amount of professional help salvaged their marriage, and the their last option is divorce, Dr. Laura Schlessinger advises the couple to remain together [for the kid(s)] until they go off to college.

    My favorite is the “Fighting Well” advice. I’ve seen my parents (married for 35 years now) fight over trivial things. One time my mother gave my father the silent treatment for almost a week, because he changed his mind about a car. They have decided on a car and I guess my Dad read some reviews and the car him and Mum agreed was not-as-safe as another brand model. They slept in the same bed and my Mum did what she had to do around the house. It wasn’t like she completely ignored or rejected her responsibilities during that almost-week-long silent treatment. In other words, I was able to cite a “Fighting Well” in action and eventually my Mum came around and agreed with my Dad.

    What I personally look forward to or what I’m most excited about getting into a relationship is Mr. Urban’s “A Feeling of Home.” Reading that paragraph about “Trust and Security,” “Natural Chemistry,” makes me warm and fuzzy inside.

    I also want to add my insights to the Marriage component. Coming from an Asian heritage (Chinese and Burmese), my culture and upbringing has always been about “marrying families.” There’s a common saying: “When you marry, you don’t marry the person, you also marry their family.” My culture and upbringing reflects that statement.

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  • Amanda Dean

    Thanks so much for this! I really appreciate your pragmatism, humor, candor, and commitment to research and experience. This is the important stuff!

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  • Chris

    One of the more helpful articles I’ve read. But what do you do when you’re in a realti

  • Abraham

    A happy couple could become unhappy as people change with age. So, still look carefully for your current partner, just don’t think it will last forever.

  • I wish I had read this 25 years ago.

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  • Klokinator

    And never forget, 60% of all marriages end in failure, and 80% of divorces are initiated by women. Not that it matters, 92% of all divorces have the man losing half his shit.

    Have fun getting married, suckers!

    • Chris Gielis

      Interesting fact, only 30% (and lowering every year) of first marriages end in divorce. The number of marriages ending in divorce is so high because of repeat offenders.

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