How can you avoid getting involved with someone who is clearly not right for you? Today we answer this question from a reader.
First, a review of this blog’s purpose. The purpose is to teach people how to overcome their challenges, so they can teach themselves how to be successful. The purpose is to build minds. Sometimes, that means avoiding barriers, which includes marrying the wrong person.
The person you marry is the most important decision you will make, particularly if you have a learning challenge such as ADHD. This is my advice.
First, full disclosure: I haven’t dated anyone except my wife since we met. A long time ago . . . intact Berlin Wall . . . no cell phones.
Your reasons for dating might not be for marriage. If so, ignore this advice. But it will otherwise increase your dating efficiency. The advice is a synthesis of research, interview results, insights from counseling with students, and stuff borrowed from other domains. Following are five critical strategies:
1. Cut bait at the first sign of crazy. If incompatibility issues appear, don’t wait around. Unfortunately, when you have invested time and emotional labor in a relationship, you don’t want to waste it. It is the same as financial investments. People are reluctant to waste sunk costs. So we make the mistake of wasting more effort. Don’t do that. Just walk away.
2. Don’t try to meet people in bars. The strategy might work for hooking up, but not for scouting out a viable life partner. A tiny percentage of the time, successful long-term marriages begin in bars. So we perpetuate the practice, relying on those few stories to believe that bars are the only option.
Meeting people at church might actually be better. People who share belief systems, particularly religious affiliation, have more stable relationships (see the research: https://doi.org/10.2307/2061647).
3. Calibrate your crazy-discernment meter. The way you do that is to accumulate a lot of data points. Establish a policy of never dating anyone more than once, until you have dated 100 people.
Tell everyone upfront about your one-date-only rule. Tell everyone you date for fun, not for mating. Then just have fun on each date (but ask some pointed questions.)
4. Meet people online in order to test more people. Online dating sites offer huge databases, so you can filter bad options. First, decide your deal-killer traits. Then screen out people with those traits before meeting them.
If you could never be with someone who hates cats, screen for that before meeting.
5. Manage expectations. My former coworker said: “if you give your wife a diamond necklace for your first anniversary, anything you give her for the second anniversary will be a discount. (Turns out, he wasn’t a very good husband, yet his wife was happy.)
Once you have found a keeper, hold on to that person like a bulldog. Practice grit, faith, and unselfish love. Breakups and divorces happen, but the transaction costs of breakups are high, so it is emotionally less expensive to first invest in fixing relationships (when possible). And ideally, screen better before getting becoming involved.
::: Be fierce. Be kind. Be hungry. :::
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