The Science of Happily Ever After Book Summary - The Science of Happily Ever After Book explained in key points
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The Science of Happily Ever After summary

Ty Tashiro

What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love

4.5 (28 ratings)
18 mins

What is The Science of Happily Ever After about?

The Science of Happily Ever After (2014) digs into the history of mating throughout the history of the human species and answers the question of why some couples live happily ever after and some don’t. Part history and anthropology lesson, part self-help, it offers explanations and advice for anyone seeking love.

Table of Contents

    The Science of Happily Ever After
    summarized in 4 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 4

    Choosing wisely

    Anna was a senior in high school, a top student, and very organized. One day, she decided that she didn’t want to leave high school with her virginity intact. So she made a resolution that she’d finally have sex with someone.

    When it came time to choose the lucky guy, she decided she wanted someone good-looking, athletic, and Catholic. She set her sights on Jake, who fit the bill perfectly. They went on some dates, and finally, the moment came to do the deed.

    They were so aflame with passion that they forgot to use protection. Almost as soon as it was finished, Anna looked at Jake and started noticing all the things about him that weren’t very attractive. She spent the next couple of weeks in fear that she may have conceived a child with someone she didn’t even like very much.

    This story is the perfect microcosm for what goes wrong in relationships. Before we pick apart Anna’s story to find what she did wrong and what she did right, let’s define love.

    Love, at least for this Blink, is defined as “liking plus lusting.” 

    Liking consists of three traits: loyalty, kindness, and fairness.

    Studies show that lust declines faster than liking, which isn’t surprising. It’s common knowledge that the “honeymoon” doesn’t last forever. With that knowledge, the obvious solution would be for people to prioritize liking someone a bit more heavily than lusting for them.

    If that sounds a little too cerebral and unromantic, then brace yourself for the next part. You get three, and only three, wishes for your future partner. The reason why is a matter of statistics and probability.

    Scientists use the Drake equation to determine the possible number of planets in the universe that might support life. Essentially, it’s a process of elimination. For example, in order to support life, the planet needs to be orbiting a star like the sun. That immediately narrows down the possibilities.

    When it comes to finding a mate, your three wishes also narrow down your pool of possibilities dramatically, especially if you prioritize some of the rarer traits like a guy over six feet tall or a woman with a PhD.

    As unromantic as it sounds, achieving a happily ever after is about statistical probability.

    Let’s take a quick detour into why that sounds unromantic. We’re inundated with fairy tales from our earliest days, and many of us continue partaking in fairy tale stories via movies or romantic novels.

    Meeting someone we’re attracted to is exciting. It floods us with endorphins. There’s a feeling of fate about it. We can only see positive traits. It feels like this was meant to be.

    Unfortunately, it’s the belief that meeting your happily ever after is an act of fate rather than intent that likely leads to only 4 out of 10 couples achieving it.

    Back to those three wishes. Maybe this number is upsetting. Maybe you have a top ten list of traits. Prioritizing your top three wishes isn’t about settling. Most people you meet will have more than three of your favorite traits. But to set yourself up for the best chance at a happily ever after, it’s important to be deliberate and purposeful about prioritizing your top three traits.

    One thing Anna got right was that she chose only three traits – good-looking, athletic, and Catholic. What she did wrong was prioritize lust over liking.

    Fortunately, she didn’t get pregnant and she learned to prioritize liking over lust when choosing her top three traits. In that way, she was able to find someone she has a much higher probability of living happily ever after with.

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    About the Author

    Ty Tashiro, PhD, is an author and social scientist. He’s previously written Awkward and his work has been featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post. He’s also been an award-winning professor at the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado.

    Who should read The Science of Happily Ever After?

    • Love seekers
    • People wondering why it never works out
    • Couples in relationships who want to live happily ever after

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