Want to be happy for the rest of your life? Marry the right person
March 13, 2011
OPINION By Roger Freberg
When my middle daughter was a freshman in college, she had a poster on her dorm wall that listed ten things that would lead to a happy life. The item on top was “marry the right person.” After thinking about it a moment, I had to agree. Although, I hear some women say that owning multiple cats is equally satisfying, it leaves me wondering about the dynamics. Leaving such an important decision to propinquity or luck seems romantic, but can often lead to really long term unhappiness. We tend to forget there is a choice between luck and searching.
“If your head tells you one thing, and your heart tells you another, before you do anything, you should first decide whether you have a better head or a better heart.” Marilyn vos Savant said.
A common myth about relationships is that opposites attract. Psychologists will tell you that “birds of a feather flock together” is much more accurate. The more people share in common in the beginning, the easier the relationship starts and the more likely it will last.
Here’s our story: Laura and I were high school sweethearts who married at age 20 (39 years ago!), and share a lot of similarities. We both have Swedish fathers, grew up in the same town, and have similar education (I have two masters, Laura has a Ph.D.). We were often surprisingly mistaken as brother and sister when we were young. We both love video games and football—our first date was the 1969 USC-UCLA football game (USC won, of course).
At 17, I had yet to learn that a lot of girls DON’T like football, so I was lucky Laura was a fan or that date might not have worked out too well. Yes, we have differences. Laura likes the Rolling Stones—I prefer the warm romantic sounds of Smokey Robinson. It wasn’t easy raising children in San Luis Obispo, but Laura and I pulled together and I am proud of who they are today.
Our happiness as a couple is based on our many similarities. Our similarities seem to be based on our dove tailed PERSONALITIES (being married to a Psychology Professor does rub off on you after 39 years). There is a fun test you and your significant other might enjoy taking called the Myers-Briggs (it is available on line). Be prepared, however, to have your soul exposed! Laura (INTJ) and I (ENTJ) are identical on every count, but one. She is an introvert (that’s the ‘I’ part) and I am – according to the test — an extrovert (that’s the ‘E’).
Laura has often said that I say things out loud (and maybe in this column and my blog) that she only dares to think but would never say. Entj’s and Intj’s are also said to be “natural buddies.” They are referred to as “Pals” in the literature and by this, they mean “they work and play well together with few natural conflicts.” If you haven’t seen the test, take it, and the results will surprise you. This assessment is nothing new and has been the key to the success of matchmaking programs like eHarmony.
One of the aspects of similarity between couples but especially married people that I think is very important is politics. Politics often speaks to a way we view life and how we plan to live our lives and raise our children. It is often the most overlooked variable in understanding how a relationship can fail. I wasn’t surprised to learn that my wife’s personality type skewed to the right. Forty-three percent of all INTJ’s report themselves as either ‘Republican or Conservative.’ Who knew it was part of the personality and an unexpected benefit to me? Some of the UNHAPPIEST men I know are conservative men who married liberal women. They find their adult kids incomprehensible.
I remember meeting a Navy vet at a party who had a very “correct” wife (drove a “correct” car, belonged to all the “correct” groups, held all the “correct” beliefs, owned the requisite number of cats) and they shared a Goth daughter. Poor man. All he wanted to talk about was our oldest daughter, who was attending West Point at the time. He wanted to know what my “secret” was. It was clear that he had married the wrong person and he was beginning to realize this now that he was retired and began spending more time at home and less time at sea.
MORE PSYCHOLOGY — moms have a big influence on ACHIEVEMENT motivation, and liberal moms are not exactly in the ‘tiger’ category—to liberals, getting along is more important than doing well, hence the conservative awards that have been showered on the animated film “The Incredibles.” I think Laura was even more upset than I was when daughter Karen told the following story. A SLOHS classmate had told her to stop wearing her letterman’s jacket to school, because it made other people “feel bad” (Karen was a two-time state champion in the shot put, and ran out of room on her jacket for patches). Fortunately, Karen’s response to her classmate was a simple one—“they should work harder.”
Recently, a woman writing a column in the Huffington Post blamed everything on the woman for relationship problems; she must not be aware of the very common ‘man-as-god’ phenomenon. The trouble begins when couples stop using words like ‘we’ and ‘ours’ and move to the less personal ‘hers’ and ‘mine.’ BTW, Collectivism, communism, cooperation all work best in a family, and yet, these concepts seem foreign to liberals when they enter their ‘private’ life. They then turn into rigid capitalists defining property, rules and ‘the rights of the fully self actualized individual.’ This predisposition works against pulling together and getting along and leads to relationship failure.
I’m not saying that people with a lot of differences can’t be happy with each other—we all know couples who have overcome tremendous difficulties with commitment. But I think having big differences in political orientation, especially if you plan to have children, is not a really good idea.
So next time, a better pick up line might be, “Hey baby, who’d you vote for in the last election?”
Roger Freberg is a San Luis Obispo resident who is using his retirement to write a culinary-inspired blog, comment on important local events and occasionally enjoy getting sued for his journalistic excellence.