Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wilde Thing

From an Economist article: "Americans expect a lot from marriage. Whereas most Italians say the main purpose of marriage is to have children, 70% of Americans think it is something else. They want their spouse to make them happy. Some go further and assume that if they are not happy, it must be because they picked the wrong person."

Well, we’ve never been afraid of unrealistic expectations on this continent, but in this case (and perhaps a few others) maybe we should be. Another person cannot make you happy – at least not for very long. Most often we’re talking minutes. On the other hand, another person can make you miserable – and this time we’re talking years.

In my observation, people divide into two basic types: 1) Type Ones are happy by default, which is to say they are just naturally happy unless bad things are happening to them; 2) Type Twos are just the opposite: they are naturally unhappy unless good things are happening to them, and they default back to unhappiness whenever the good things stop. If your default state is “happy,” you don't need anyone to cheer you up; you might like it now and then, but you don’t need it. You’ll be just fine whittling on the porch by yourself, and much of the time you prefer it. If your default state is “unhappy,” no one person ever will supply you with enough good things to keep you smiling; you’ll always need to seek out more fun and excitement to break the gloom. Type Ones are rarely ambitious; they think things are just fine so long as there is food to eat, a couch to sit on, and no one bothering them. Type Twos are chronically antsy, dissatisfied, and impatient, but for those very reasons are better motivated to accomplish more.

Type Ones and Type Twos drive each other crazy. They nearly always marry each other.

Do I have any advice? Since my own marriage (yes, a Type One and Two) lasted scarcely more than three years, arguably I’m not well qualified to give any. I’ll give some anyway. After all, said Oscar Wilde, "I always give away good advice. It never is of the slightest use to myself." So, here goes. If you are determined not to be single, just aim for someone who doesn't make you miserable. At least he or she won't get in the way of whatever your default state is.


  1. Love the quote from Oscar. And yeah, I agree. My wife and I have similar personalities, and that's why we get along so well and work as a good team when life throws some curveballs our way. But we are also different enough to keep things interesting. Still I'm the more Type One of the the two of us. I love my couch!

  2. Congrats on the double Type One which is a rare combo. I suppose gender differences alone will keep enough divergences, which brings to mind the classic intro to Defending the Caveman: