New Research Challenges The Theory of Choice and Happiness

Via Vancouver Courier Newspaper

When it comes to relationships, accountability is a notion we recognize but not always put into practice. We think we know what we want, freedom means options and choice, we see what we want to see to make reality suit our intentions. The truth is whether you see it as rationalization or coping, we constantly alter our sense of reality to make it fit our framework. The power of choice is riddled with responsibility. The finality of a choice can seem daunting but making a decision either ways will actually increase happiness. In fact, we aren’t actually all that great or accurate at predicting future states, particularly how we will feel in the future once we make a certain choice. Harvard researcher Dan Gilbert gave participants two choices:

Choice A: You have to give up a piece of art where it will be sent to another country and will not be returned to you.

Choice B: You give up a piece of art but you can have it back whenever you wish.

Not surprisingly, most people chose option A. The idea that we still have access to something and have two choices (give it up or have it back) versus one choice (just giving it up for good) appealed to most people. However, when Gilbert measured the level of happiness in each group, participants in Choice A scored higher. Doesn’t freedom equate to more choices and with more choices wouldn’t we be happier?

It turns out that when we chose, our brains begin to build a path that moves a person forward rather than perpetually stepping back to other options. Gilbert himself struggled with the decision of whether to marry his partner after nearly a decade of being a couple. Should he stay? Should he go? Will he be happier with someone else out there? Are there other possibilities that can lead to greater happiness? These are all questions we struggle with when we find ourselves at a crossroad in a relationship. Gilbert ended up proposing to his now wife after results of his study surfaced, making a decision to commit. Today he is married and reports being much happier than before he was married.

By choosing a side, your brain begins a process to validate your decision. You see things in a different light. If the buy in is there, you start to build around the idea. Essentially what you’re building is  happiness . Even though happiness is a psychological construct (you can’t actually see happiness as an entity), it is your frame of mind that determines satisfaction. Resilience in a relationship is built on that. The idea that in the end you are happy in the relationship overall will out shadow the little nuances that might otherwise be a deal breaker in other relationships when the buy in of increase in choices equates to happiness.

In my article this week for the Vancouver Courier, I explore the paradox of choice and the fear of loss in options when we choose to settle down. We often see this in internet dating where we are exposed to a high number of potential partners. This has lead to fear, anxiety and indecision which traps so many people in a perpetual pattern. How can you possibly choose when the possibility of a better option is lurking in your mind? If you’ve ever been in a position where you have ghosted, put in a stalling pattern or been iced, this article will provide you with new insights that can help you walk away from potential partners looking to serve their own needs at the expense of your self worth.

Researcher Esther Perel lists four behaviours that you see in modern day romance below:


The subtext of these behaviours is to run while you still can. Investing in it will cost you your sense of security in your next relationship.

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