Kill Your Instinct

Mr Ed and WilburDating and coupling is an area of my life where the power lies with instinct, but success follows intellect. The best outcomes in my life arrive when I carefully select a little of each – instinct is good to acknowledge, but best served with a delicious logical gravy.

Combining the best of the animal side of ourselves with the individuality of our minds sounds like a straightforward deal, but I don’t believe for one second that it is. For one thing, the instinct/mammal in us is a relentless force. Because it’s inherent, the drumbeat of chasing to mate, chasing to mate, chasing to mate…well, you know what that’s like. Yes, the rhythm is different for males and females, but the horsepower keeping us going is that reproductive power plant deep in our DNA. And it’s shared indiscriminately between blokes and sheilas.

Aiming our social/smart side at the instinct/mammal is more of a short-term battle. if we’re going on a date, we can intellectualize the qualities we want to see, the outcomes that matter or the big picture of coupled life that we know is good. But that takes significant energy – like a burst of power from a laser beam – and by definition can’t last. Finding ways for the higher part of us to out-smart the down and dirty part of us is the challenge.

And it’s a challenge worthy of the time and effort, IMO. Yes, we could all operate 100% in the mammalian world, couple up for reproduction and then watch it all fall apart. But the rewards of using (and understanding) that bio-foundation and adding the satisfying and long-lasting constructs of higher intimacy make for an infinitely more valuable life.

Animal + Intellect, but not in the same proportion.

Happiness and Exes: Podcast #42

This week I review and clarify some thoughts on individual and coupled happiness; how the small things create friction; and how exes must be dealt with…up to a point.

Stranger Danger

Imagine you and I design a system in which people meet and agree to create a long-lasting romantic relationship. Would we make it that the place people first look for such a partner is amongst those who are total strangers?


Think of it this way: exes are a reservoir of either goodwill towards you, or resident evil.

Some lucky individuals have the knack of leaving people happy, creating a reservoir full of smiling dolphins and spring water.

Other people are lucky to escape the slimy sludge of their ex-reservoir alive. It’s filled with mutant carp and rusty machine tools.


Are you happy, darling?

I can see myself being happy with her.

What can I do to make you happy?

I couldn’t be happier. How about you?


For Americans (actual citizens, that is, because otherwise it does not apply) it’s right there in the constitution. It is worth quoting:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The pursuit of happiness is a lifelong adventure. My experience is that whilst it can appear ephemeral and fragile – like the polar auroras – there are ways to muscle it up. Practice, for one. Choice, for another. And setting a low bar as one’s threshold helps. For instance the cup of tea that I sip as I write makes me happy. You get the drift.

Separate from our own personal happiness is the matter of happiness within a couple. Maybe it’s too simple to state, but I’ll do it anyway: happy couples are likely to be happy individuals.

You see I think happiness is located not in the world around us, but somewhere between the part in our hair and the gaps between our toes. That pursuit mentioned in the US constitution makes you think of chasing bears, but I think those guys in powdered wigs and hose were smart enough to know that, while it might include chasing any number of animals, lasting happiness comes from tapping what’s within.

I am big on being overt about stuff, especially in coupledom, so why not a plan for happiness with your beloved? Talking about how to be happy with your someone special makes a lot of sense to me, mostly because the very act of combining both of your minds will open up a conversation that happens all too infrequently. The question is:

Let’s be happy. How do we find that together?

Addendum: The Claremont Institute has this nice interpretation:

It is worth remarking that the Declaration does not proclaim a right to happiness itself. Happiness is not something we have by nature. Rather we are born with minds and talents that we may use to pursue happiness.