Tim Urban, creator of the Wait But Why
that to succeed at something big, it helps to break it down into its smallest pieces, and then try to succeed at just one piece.
He suggests that this same approach can be used to understand how successful marriages work.
From afar, a great marriage looks like a sweeping love story — the kind you might find in a book or a movie.
This is a nice, poetic way to view marriage, but as Urban points out, “human happiness doesn’t function in sweeping strokes, because we don’t live in broad summations — we’re stuck in the tiny unglamorous folds of the fabric of life, and that’s where our happiness is determined.”
To identify a happy marriage, we should instead think small. When we look at marriage up close, we see “that it’s built not out of anything poetic, but out of 20,000 mundane Wednesdays.”
A key ingredient for happily enduring those 20,000 days is an “epic friendship” between the two people.
For Urban, an epic friendship is one that passes what he calls the Traffic Test: “when I’m finishing up a hangout with someone and one of us is driving the other back home or back to their car, and I find myself rooting for traffic. That’s how much I’m enjoying the time with them.”
It means he’s lost in the interaction and invigorated by it — the opposite of being bored.
Here are four criteria to determine whether your relationship with someone passes the Traffic Test:
1. A great shared sense of humor: Who wants to spend 50 years fake laughing?
2. An ability to have fun together: Especially in otherwise mundane situations like while running errands or on long drives.
3. Respect for each other’s way of thinking: A life partner “doubles as a career/life therapist,” and if you don’t respect the way someone thinks, you’re going to be less likely to share details about your life with them because you won’t value their opinion.
4. A good number of common activities, interests, and people preferences: If these don’t exist, then the aspects that make you who you are will become a smaller part of your life, and you and your life partner will struggle to find enjoyable ways to spend free time together.