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April 11, 2015

Choosing a Happy Relationship.

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A happy relationship is all about choice, but not in the way that most of us think.

We think that having more choice gives us a better chance of finding “the one,” which is the only person who can make us happy. Thus, more choice equals more happiness.

Right?

Not necessarily.

While in most circumstances having some choice is better than having no choice, having too much choice can leave us miserable, particularly when it comes to relationships.

Here’s how:

Say there’s only one person interested in us. Our decision is fairly simple—to date them or to be alone. Since there is only one candidate they are automatically the winner of every trait that is important to us (such as humor, intelligence, attractiveness, desire, kindness or confidence).

But what happens when we’re presented with another candidate?

Most of us would directly compare each individual’s traits to try and find an overall winner. The problem is that the loser might still be more suitable in at least one of the variables. This confuses our brain and makes it hard for us to fully accept our own decision.

Things get even harder when we add multiple partners, as there may no longer be a clear overall winner.

One might have the most compatible sense of humor, while another might have the most compatible belief system and another the highest level of physical attraction. This conundrum leaves us highly prone to what is known as buyer’s remorse.

When our relationship gets stressful (as all do), our brain starts to think about what would’ve happened if we’d chosen differently. We naturally start comparing our partner’s weakest trait to the other candidates strongest and, no surprise, our partner always loses.

The simple solution to this problem is to change how we go about making decisions. According to Herbert Simon (researcher in the 1940s) there are two main styles of decision-making.

Maximizing—is all about finding the most optimal outcome. We look at every possible option and methodically narrow them down based on direct comparison. We get rid of the least suitable first, until we end up with just two candidates to choose from. This process is very logical. However, it does encounter a significant problem. We always end up with two similar final candidates. This process highlights just how similar they are, leaving us highly prone to buyer’s remorse.

Satisficing—is all about finding the most suitable outcome. It involves setting criteria and going through the options, one by one, until we find a suitable candidate. Once a suitable candidate has been found, we accept it as the solution and stop looking. While this method is less likely to produce the most optimal solution, it does tend to leave us happier with the outcome.

This begs the question, which is more important, the outcome or our happiness?

If we value our happiness, we need to stop trying to find the most optimal partner using the method designed to find the most suitable partner. If we continue to break the rules, by not fully accepting our decision, we may find ourselves unhappy in perfectly healthy relationships.

The ultimate solution is to learn to break free from the idea of finding “the one.” Instead of searching for a 100% match, look for someone who is a suitable match and begin working to build a 100% happy relationship.

Most importantly, when you find a suitable match, stop looking. The grass will always appear greener, but remember, happiness isn’t just about your partner. In the same way that boredom is the inability to appreciate what is in front of you, unhappiness is the inability to derive joy from within.

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Relephant Read:

Happiness is a Choice—& an Action.

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Author: Garrick Transell

Assistant Editor: Leah Krol/ Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: media library

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