Doing Life Together

ID-100111043When our first dog died, we thought we wanted another. We did, but when we got the dog and our schedules all demanded more time, the dog became more of an imposition. Don’t get me wrong, we love her to pieces, but sometimes our happiness goes out the window when we are all trying to figure out how to get someone to care for her when we go out of town or have a long day. At those moments, we aren’t exactly happy with our decision to have a dog.

Or think about this. You see that incredible fudge-topped donut and you crave it. You keep thinking about it and finally get it. But when you eat it, you start thinking about the calories and the pleasure goes out the window. You like the donut but wonder, “Was it worth it? I was trying to lose weight after all.”

This fluctuation between happy and not happy has to do with something called wanting/liking bias. We want something (the dog, the donut), but when we get it, we aren’t so happy with our decision. The reason is that wanting is an appetite that is associated with one region of the brain. Liking is associated with another part-that part that considers the long-term consequences and implications of our decisions.

So like the impulse buyer, we want something badly, but then may not be so happy with it later. Add to this the fact that when we buy or want something, we aren’t always in the same state as when we experience the results of our choices. For example, you order in a restaurant. You haven’t eaten all day and are famished. You order the appetizer and the entrée. But when you push away the tower of onion rings, you are not as hungry and don’t enjoy the entrée like you thought you would. This inability to predict your future well lends to something called projection bias. It too, influences our happiness.

Thus, what you want and like can be two different things. Predicting that something will make you happy may not work out either. That is why we are sometimes disappointed with our decisions –we think we want something and then find out it isn’t all it was cracked up to be.

But hey, we give it our best shot and realize that not everything we think may make us happy, actually does! So watch those impulsive decisions. Think through the long-term consequences!


happy-face-istockHappiness is a good thing, right?

Yes and no. There is actually a down side to too much happiness.

1)   Happy people tend to be less persuasive. When happy, you can overlook details. Unhappy people can focus more on the details, create stronger arguments and thus do better with persuasion.

2)   Happy people can be too trusting. When happy, you tend to overlook deceit and have more difficulty detecting lies. This means you may not evaluate someone accurately and that can have major implications for hiring, dating and making decisions about people. You can make more errors in judgment.

3)   Happy people are more likely to slack off in their thinking. They don’t remember as many details as unhappy people and often rely on stereotypes rather than searching out the details. A little negativity brings more attention to detail and discernment in crises. A little unhappiness keeps you more alert and focused on problem-solving.

So while happiness feels good, it doesn’t always put us at our best for thinking, trusting and persuading others. I’m not saying you should live an unhappy life. Simply put, a little unhappiness at times may be good for us!

ID-100239527When I was dating my husband, I realized he was a huge soccer fan. Me, not so much! I grew up in the north where hockey ruled game day. But because I was falling for him, I decided I better learn soccer and at least try to love the game.

Conventional wisdom says that the more couples like to do things together, the better the relationship. But a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family says it might be more complicated!

When it comes to hobbies and interest, doing things together as a couple may not make marital satisfaction grow! Here’s why.

The study followed a number of married couples over a decade and found a few twists in our conventional thinking. The relationship between companionship and satisfaction depends on how often spouses pursue activities that reflect their own and their partner’s leisure preferences.  Over time, leisure liked by the husband, but disliked by the wife, causes or is the result of, the wife’s dissatisfaction! In other words, if the wife doesn’t like the leisure activity she is doing with her husband, she doesn’t feel better about the marriage. So you are probably not doing yourself or the marriage any favors but trying to like a leisure activity you don’t like. Better to be honest and find something mutually satisfying.

And husbands who pursue activities, with or without their wives, that the wife does not like, end up feeling less satisfied with their marriage as well. So the strategy of forcing leisure time together when it isn’t something the wife likes, doesn’t work for either spouse.

Fortunately for me, I grew to like soccer.  However, if I hated it, continued to force myself to games and watch it on TV, the study indicates that both myself and my husband might  become dissatisfied.

When both partners like the same leisure activities, things go much better. When it comes to leisure, find something you both like or go it alone and find other ways to connect.





Source: Crawford, D, Houts, R, Huston, T. and George, L. (2004). Compatibility, leisure, and satisfaction in martial relationships.  Journal of Marriage and Family , Vol 64 Issue 2

If you missed it, actress Emma Watson, gave a moving speech to the UN last month.  Her topic was on gender equality and her #heforshe campaign–a movement trying to raise the issues involved with gender equality. If you are not one of the over 5 million people who has watched her speech on You Tube, here are the highlights.

When we talk about gender equality, Watson rightly noted the negativity of the word feminism; that it conjures up feelings of  aggression, women being too strong and anti-men. In her struggle to find a unifying word, she is trying to create a unified movement through her #heforshe campaign.

Watson invites men and boys to be advocates of change. The belief is that as men and boys feel free to break from cultural stereotypes, both genders benefit. Men, like women, are often squeezed into stereotypes that negatively impact their mental health and success. When both genders  can break free from stereotypes and cultural prescriptions, their is freedom to be who you really are.

In other words, any talk about change should include both genders.

Watson mentions the continuing problems of equal pay, poverty, the need for respect and the right to make decisions for the self. She chronicles her own struggle to womanhood with gender issues–being accused of being bossy because she wanted to direct plays, being objectified and sexualized by media and so forth–struggles not uncommon to non-celebrity women as well.

Her main point was that no country in the world can claim complete gender equality, thus the dialogue and advocacy needs to continue.

Like Watson, I had mentors and parents who never limited my abilities or reach because I was a girl/woman. But not everyone is so fortunate and inequalities still exist, especially in the area of equal pay.

Watson’s message is needed. Feminism has become a dirty word and has lost its real meaning. Feminism is not about being anti-men as often portrayed by media. It is about helping both genders attain the path of their calling without being limited by cultural stereotypes.

Thanks Emma. We needed a reminder that the work isn’t done and the call to action can be given with grace.