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"Life is a journey and the path is much sweeter when you do it together out of love, not obligation.”
Good morning, friends.
Last week, I asked you to share your best marriage advice, and more than 100 of you weighed in! Needless to say, you most definitely didn’t disappoint.
Thanks to all the readers who wrote in, I have crowdsourced the ultimate guide to successful relationships. (You can find an excerpt below or read the full article here.)
(Photo credit: Eloise Photography)
Remember that trust and respect go hand-in-hand
When he was seeking marriage advice, reader D.K. consulted with the wisest source of all — a matrimonial attorney. Matrimonial attorneys handle everything from negotiating prenuptial agreements to divorce proceedings to child custody battles.
“I was told by one of New Jersey’s best that the No. 1 thing that breaks up a marriage is not money — it's mutual respect,” D.K. writes.
And he’s right. In researching this article, I found that the top three reasons for divorce in the United States are infidelity, financial troubles, and poor communication.
In our society, infidelity is often used to represent the ultimate breach of trust and lack of respect in a relationship. But what people don’t realize is that there are hundreds of other things couples do to chip away at their foundation.
“People cheat on each other in a hundred different ways: indifference, emotional neglect, contempt, lack of respect, years of refusal of intimacy,” says couples therapist Esther Perel. “Cheating doesn’t begin to describe the ways that people let each other down.”
Based on the responses I received, here are some other forms of disrespect you want to avoid:
Disparaging your partner in public or behind their back. “Don't badmouth each other ever — not even to close friends and family,” A.J. says. “It can become like a wedge in your relationship. Once it gets in, it can make the gap wider and wider.”
Thinking you can control your partner. You don’t own the other person. You don’t get to control how they feel, who they choose to spend time with, or where their interests lie. “Control is insidious in relationships, often hiding a desire to be cared for and loved,” Perel says.
A constant need to prove the other person wrong. Sometimes you just need to “put your ego aside and apologize promptly,” P.R. says.
Treat your arguments like a negotiation
Esther Perel has a secret about relationships: The form often precedes the content. In other words, we tend to follow a pretty strict formula regardless of what we’re arguing about.
“Every conversation will look alike,” she says. “One of you starts to raise your voice; the other rolls their eyes. One goes up a notch; the other walks away. It’s a dance, and often organized by the vulnerability cycle.”
M.M. says he and his wife have figured out a template that works. They treat their arguments as a negotiation in which they both stay logical, rational, and calm. “Compromising is usually a way for both parties to be unhappy,” he says, “but negotiating in a marriage over a very long period has been very helpful for us.”
He adds, “We've noticed in 99% of arguments, we agree and are on the same page, but we're just communicating differently. Communication, especially emotional communication, has been crucial, and we're still very much figuring it out.”
There’s something to this. Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss says a good negotiation hinges on emotional intelligence. “Genuine curiosity is a hack for emotional control,” he says. “If you talk out loud in a smooth, calming voice, you can actually calm yourself down.” In turn, it creates an involuntary response of clearheadedness in both parties.
Another thing that helps? Humor.
C.D. says most couples’ fights are over stupid things — the dishes, how you drive or how he parks the car, and who takes out the garbage. “It’s very important to have a sense of humor about these stupid little fights,” she says. “Humor goes a long way.”
In good marriages, couples actively de-escalate conflicts by doing things like injecting well-timed humor into tense and difficult situations. Humor can lower the tension level of an argument, destroy the division between you and your partner, and remind you that you’re human.
Conduct a relationship audit
The antidote to poor communication is regular, healthy communication. When you discuss hot-button topics in an emotionally sober state, they become less hot-button.
Some readers suggested holding regular “state of the union”-style meetings that allow the partners to have sit-down meetings where they check in with each other on a number of things such as making financial decisions, addressing any issues, and celebrating each other’s accomplishments.
“We audit our work and our suppliers, so why not our relationships,” K.N. says. “Schedule a recurring once a quarter date where you take stock of what is working and what is not. Act on areas that need improvement.”
Forget the grand romantic gestures. Opt for the mini everyday gestures, instead.
When C.N. goes on his morning walk, he makes it a point to look for interesting flowers that he can leave one on his partner’s desk when he returns. On the flip side, she leaves him funny Post-It notes and cartoons around the house.
“People think of romance as these huge gestures,” he says, “but we're happier with these mini-gestures that happen much more often."
If I asked you to define love, I guarantee you wouldn’t describe it as a funny Post-It note. That’s just a small act of affection, right? Ironically, that may be the secret to long-lasting love.
R.M. says “cariño” is the Spanish word for “affection or tenderness.” He says:
“Always approach your partner and the couple from a place of affection. Why not from love, you might ask. In my mind, affection is an easy-to-cultivate prerequisite for love, so if you keep affection alive, you keep love alive. It’s an approach that starts at the root and is a great antidote against pride.”
Research supports the notion that successful long-term relationships are often built on small words, small gestures, and small acts. “I am a full believer in the ‘small everyday stuff,’” C.S. says. “For example, dropping everything to listen to your spouse when they just ‘have to’ tell you something exciting is worth 1,000 fancy dinners.”
Ain’t that the truth. I also live by the motto: “Small things often’ is so much more important than ‘big things occasionally.’”
Ask your partner to join you for a walk
If there’s one practical thing you can do today to make your relationship better, get up right now and ask your partner to join you on a walk. (Anthony asked me to add: “With your masks on.”)
It’s where you can put all of the above advice into practice — a walk allows you to have the tough conversation, get curious about what your partner’s going through, reignite your connection, and experience gratitude for this person walking right next to you.
P.M. says, “After 26 years of marriage, here's my marriage advice: the couple that walks together stays together. Going on weekly walks together is a good thing!”
Struggling with what to talk about? Print out this researched-backed list of questions titled “36 Questions That Lead to Love,” and start there. It’s literally designed to foster mutual vulnerability and a sense of closeness.
Take it from this dedicated reader who was in the middle of reading The Profile: “When your spouse comes in and says, ‘Let’s go for a post-Sunday dinner walk,’ and you’d rather keep reading The Profile … you walk!”
He’s been happily married for 25 years.
Remember what matters
I asked my own partner what he thought made for a successful relationship. He said, “The reason this works so well is because you’re my best friend, and we both feel lucky to be together.” It’s simple, but it’s important.
The most common thread in the responses I received is one of gratitude.
“Never, ever take each other for granted,” N.M. writes. “Having a bad day? It is natural to sometimes lash out against the person who loves you unconditionally. Or to take advantage of their commitment to you. Please be on guard against this. The little slights — day after day — are what slowly chip away at a marriage until it's too late to repair.”
When psychologist John Gottman interviews couples, he always asks them about the history of their relationship. In a happy marriage, the spouses tend to look back on their early days fondly. They remember their first dates, they discuss how excited they were when they met, and they glorify the struggles they’ve been through.
So the big fat secret to a happy marriage is actually really simple. It’s about having a generally positive outlook on life as both an individual and as a couple.
“Marry your best friend,” Gottman says. “The simple truth is that happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. By this, I mean a mutual respect for, and enjoyment of, each other’s company.”
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GREAT READ: I wanted to draw your attention to a newsletter I really enjoy. It’s called 1440, a daily email with the most interesting reads across culture, science, tech, sports, business, and everything in between. I open it every morning, and I find myself reading a lot of the recommended articles (especially the ones in the “in-depth” section on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays). Sign up for 1440 here.
— The NFL’s $503 million man[**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The scientists planning space missions
— The woman brokering peace with Boko Haram
— The heartthrob prince who took on L.A
— The world’s most decorated gymnast
— The comedian dealing with a not-so-funny world
— America’s secretive $2-billion research hub
— The firm making $100M advising the government
— The company that sells your lost airplane luggage
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The NFL’s $503 million man: One week ago, Patrick Mahomes signed the most lucrative contract in the history of sports — a 10-year deal reportedly worth up to $503 million. But as protests flared across the nation, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback boldly called on the NFL to condemn racism. “Sometimes it's not about money. It's not about fame,” Mahomes says. “It's about doing what's right.” (GQ)
“I believe in maximizing every single day.”
The scientists planning space missions: NASA’s budget is small relative to the costs of space exploration. As a result, the agency makes no exploration decisions unilaterally; it crowd-sources its ideas from the planetary-science community. This story takes us inside the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's campus — or “space camp” — where spacecraft are built in the cavernous high bays and rovers are tested on simulated Martian terrain. This is such a cool story. (The New Yorker)
“No two of the hundreds of thousands of identified objects in the solar system are exactly alike; each must be explored according to its own characteristics.”
The woman brokering peace with Boko Haram: Boko Haram is a jihadist group out of Nigeria notorious for kidnapping women and girls. Aisha Wakil, a 51-year-old woman referred to as “Mama Boko Haram” knew many of the group’s fighters as young boys. Now, she’s using her access to broker peace deals and negotiate freedom for the hostages. (The Guardian)
“I never heard Wakil describe any of them as ‘terrorists.’ These were men she had taken care of as they grew up.”
The heartthrob prince who took on L.A: Qatari Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has more than a million followers on Instagram, featuring yachts and Ferraris. But his college years were a closed chapter, and they probably would have stayed that way were it not for a series of indictments last year in the college admissions scandal. Here’s how the prince spent his time at USC. (Hint: It involves chauffeurs, academic “sherpas,” and security detail.) (The Los Angeles Times)
“His Highness doesn’t like to hear ‘no.’”
The world’s most decorated gymnast: Simone Biles won her fifth all-around international title in October, making her the most decorated gymnast in World Championship history. In this profile, Biles opens up about overcoming sexual abuse, dealing with the postponing of the Olympics, and training in the midst of a global pandemic. (Vogue)
“I think of it as an honor to speak for the less fortunate and for the voiceless. I also feel like it gives them power.”
The comedian dealing with a not-so-funny world: Andy Samberg finds himself in an odd spot. His new rom-com Palm Springs broke Hulu’s streaming platform’s opening weekend record, and it’s getting great reviews. On the flip side, police protests upended the viability of his day job — the detective sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Here’s how the comedian is navigating the not-so-funny realities of our ever-changing world. (GQ)
“The fear with comedy is that people will like it for the wrong reason—like, that's your worst case scenario in success.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
America’s secretive $2-billion research hub: Mitre Corp. runs some of the U.S. government's most secretive science and tech labs. Some of its projects include conducting a study to determine whether someone’s body odor can show they’re lying to developing software to collect human fingerprints from social media websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the FBI. The cloak-and-dagger R&D shop might be the most important organization you've never heard of. (Forbes)
“The prospect of law enforcement agencies being able to cheaply, easily and quickly obtain people’s fingerprints off of social media is extraordinarily chilling.”
The firm making $100M advising the government: McKinsey is the world’s best-known corporate-management consulting firm — and it’s been making big dollars in the wake of COVID-19. In the four months since the pandemic started, McKinsey has been awarded work for state, city and federal agencies worth well over $100 million — and counting. What has the government received in return? (ProPublica)
“Basically, they are compiling data for us. And putting it in pretty formats.”
The company that sells your lost airplane luggage: Every year, 4.3 billion bags are checked by airlines around the world. Around 25 million of them end up lost or misdirected. The 0.03% of bags that are still not reunited with their owners after 90 days are sold by the airline. It ends up in the hands of a private company called Unclaimed Baggage. Take a look inside this mysterious business. (The Hustle)
“Look, we’re a retailer. We aren’t set up to find your Aunt Jane’s blue Samsonite.”
This installment of The Profile is free for everyone. If you would like to get full access to all of the recommendations, including today’s audio and video sections, sign up below.
AUDIO TO HEAR.
Kat Cole & Daley Ervin’s secrets to marriage bliss: Focus Brands president Kat Cole was at an event in Baltimore when she first laid eyes on her now-husband Daley Ervin. What she thought would be a one-night stand turned into a whirlwind romance and led to a blissful marriage. This episode contains lots of practical insights about how to nurture a relationship as a couple while having varying interests as individuals. It’s a must-listen. (Link available to premium members.)
Hannah Fry on using math to find love: Hannah Fry, the author of Mathematics of Love, says math can help you determine the ideal age to settle down. To have the highest chance of picking the best partner, you should spend the first 37% of your dating life having fun and dating different people. After that period is over, you should settle down with the next person that you find who is better than everyone else you’ve ever dated. (Link available to premium members.)
Kelly McGonigal on the upside of stress: Not all stress is toxic. Research psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains that you shouldn't spend your life avoiding stress. “Stress is what arises when something you care about is at stake — and your brain and body think there’s something you can do about it,” she says. Here’s what it means to be good at handling stress. (Link available to premium members.)
VIDEOS TO SEE.
Ana Lorena Fabrega on re-thinking how we learn: By the time Ana Lorena Fabrega was 15 years old, she had already attended 10 different schools in several different countries. She experienced it all — schools that were religious, non-denominational, traditional, and progressive. But what surprised her most is that learning somehow still followed the same old-fashioned format in every school. A former teacher, Fabrega now spends her time focused on building products to reimagine education, infuse creativity, and encourage entrepreneurship in the school system. (Link available to premium members.)
Conor McGregor on creating a mindset of growth: It was when MMA star Conor McGregor was working as a plumber that he began to shift his mindset for something much greater. He was going through a hard time when his sister gave him a copy of The Secret. “It started to resonate with me — you need to have belief in where you’re going and you can almost visually create your entire world,” he said. “I got better at it, and I became so damn good at it that I would go into bouts with undefeated fighters and knock them out with this exact shot at this exact time.” (Link available to premium members.)
Ghislaine Maxwell’s life of darkness: Who is Ghislaine Maxwell, really? We know her as Jeffrey Epstein’s right-hand woman who helped him build up his worldwide sex-trafficking operation. This documentary looks into the mysterious socialite’s dark, shady past and the sinister role she helped play in recruiting and exploiting underage girls for the billionaire pedophile. (Link available to premium members.)
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