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Signs you may have found your lobster
How do you know when he’s/she’s The One?
Remember when Phoebe Buffay assessed the prospects for a Rachel-Ross pairing on Friends by telling Ross, “She’s your lobster”? According to Phoebe, lobsters fall in love and mate for life, and you’ll see old lobster couples walking around holding claws in aquarium tanks.
Karl Pillemer, a sociologist, has studied “human lobsters,” conducting an extensive in-depth interview study of people married for 30, 40, and 50 or more years. Before interviewing these “experts,” he asked young people what they wanted to know about love, marriage, and relationships.
Pillemer said, “I had expected the men and women to have markedly different ideas, but to my surprise, there was one burning question for both groups…How do I know for certain that a person is the right one for me?”
Unless you have someone like Phoebe around, it can be hard to assess whether you’ve found The One. So, since we’re knee-deep in cuffing season, I’ve pooled my experience with insights from Pillemer’s experts to compile a list of ten signs you’ve found your lobster:
Having a sense deep down inside that this is it
If you have yet to meet The One, I know that someone saying “when you know, you know” sounds mysterious and not helpful. And yet, I will say that a deep sense of connection with my now-husband and peace about the prospect of tying myself to him permanently was one of the primary ways that I knew this was it.
For this sign to be a proper indicator, you must be willing to acknowledge if you notice a “this is wrong” feeling. Some experts Pillemeir interviewed for his book talked about how they had ignored feelings deep down inside about something being off about their pending unions. If your intuition picks up misgivings, you owe it to yourself and your potential partner to explore what’s troubling you.
You would rather spend time with this person more than anybody else
Being happily content in very mundane circumstances that would be boring with the wrong person and being able to spend long hours together doing nothing in particular bodes very well for compatibility.
When my husband and I were dating, our dates didn’t feature spectacular venues or fancy destinations. But we had just as good a time together, whether we were headed out on the town or grocery shopping and then making dinner together. One of the best Sundays I remember from our college days involved taking a picnic lunch to Valley Forge and camping out to read the newspaper.
It may sound simple, but it’s true—you will spend more time with this person than anybody else, so you better enjoy being around them. If you notice you get sick of somebody after a while, or they routinely rub you the wrong way, I doubt they’re The One. Best to pick someone who would be your favorite companion, regardless of venue.
You would want this person by your side on your worst possible days
A long-term marriage covers a lot of living, and your spouse should be someone able to support you during times of loss, extreme stress, disappointment, and other trying circumstances.
My best friend and her husband once spent an hour searching high and low for his mother’s lost shoe. (His mom had dementia.) It wasn’t my friend’s worst day ever, but it was a reminder that your spouse sees you through difficult life episodes.
Though it would be nice if life with your soulmate was an endless series of jolly holidays, the reality is you will spend most of your lifetime together dealing with the demands of ordinary life. I recommend picking someone who’d be a good partner when searching for lost shoes and dealing with whatever challenges might come your way.
Your beloved exhibits a desire to have a good relationship with your family, and they could say the same about you
Pillemer’s experts say you don’t just marry a person; you marry their family, too. So, unless you or your beloved is estranged from your family, this is critical.
When I was dating my husband, one thing that helped solidify that he was a keeper was his interest in having a good relationship with my family. Once it seemed like he would be around for a while, I decided it was time to expose him to my grandmother, Blanche.
Good old Blanche had no filter and had always had a bias against people of Irish ethnicity because the Irish had run the mines in the little coal patch town where she’d grown up and had managed to keep her and her fellow Poles under their Irish thumbs. Though her ribbing was good-natured, Blanche wondered aloud why I was taking up with the enemy when I told her I was dating Manus McHugh.
Before he met Blanche, I had given Manus the lowdown about what to expect—you don’t send somebody into battle without preparing them first. And he entered the battlefield that day with the most potent weapon—a sense of humor. Manus was witty enough to artfully keep up with Blanche’s jibes in a respectful way.
And since it was Christmas, he was smart enough to disarm Blanche right off the bat by presenting her with a small gift. (I’d mentioned that Blanche was a great fan of candy, so Manus gave her a little glass dish that could hold her current favorites.) And thus, Manus masterfully made an excellent first impression and showed he cared about my family.
You have confirmed that the two of you work well together
Pillemer’s experts advise that you experience what your partner is like in a stressful and challenging situation to assess how good of a fit you are together.
Some possibilities for pressure-testing a relationship include camping, taking an extended driving trip, or painting a room together. I suggest assembling a large piece of Ikea furniture together, as that can be an activity that can test you on many levels.
Plus, if you have children someday, you will be taking on a massive co-management project that will last for decades. Are you capable of collaborating together on the ultimate long-term project?
By the way, the experts say it’s a mistake not to discuss whether you will or won’t have children and your general parenting philosophies before you marry.
Your beloved has many of the same qualities you appreciate in a friend
IMHO, your spouse is ideally your best friend. So they will have some of the same qualities you look for in a bestie.
I highly value a sense of humor because it can help reduce troublesome things to a manageable size. Even before I started dating my husband, I knew he could be funny. When we had been dating for about two years, the relatives from my mom’s side of the family assembled for my uncle’s wedding. One of the first people Manus met was my Aunt Martha, who never failed to bring the crazy.
Upon being introduced to Manus, she asked, “Do your parents have money?” (This totally inappropriate query was also ironic since our family was not part of the silver-spoon set.) What did he say in reply? Nothing—he simply laughed and moved on, proving he had a sense of humor and diplomacy–another quality I appreciate.
Your beloved’s annoying habits are tolerable for the long haul
As much as we might like to think someone will change to better suit us, that’s a risky assumption to make. While people sometimes can change their behavior if they are self-motivated and committed to doing so, you can’t count on it. So, can you live with their troublesome tendencies?
Of course, it does you no good to hold out for someone who never does anything that low-key pisses you off because you are never going to find that person. And even if you believe you have found such a person, you will be in for a rude awakening at some point because no one can perpetually achieve perfection. So, can you tolerate your beloved in all of their humanity?
You want the same things out of life
While relying on your heart and its sense of intuition is essential, your head must also assess whether your beloved is The One.
Logically speaking, are the two of you a good fit? Do you have a similar vision about what you want your future to look like? Are your long-term goals for family, career, etc., the same? If they’re not, how will you navigate those differences? Without similar core values, you’re setting yourself up for a marriage full of continual conflict.
The experts suggest that observing how your beloved plays board games can tell you much about how they approach life. They say actions can speak louder than words.
Marriage is a legal and financial partnership. You’re throwing in your lot with one another. Are your work ethics similar? Are you on the same page about money?
Your beloved is as vested in the relationship as you are
One of the things that clued me into the fact that my husband was The One was that I had the sense that he felt as deeply for me as I did for him. If someone isn’t as into you as you are into them, it’s not a good sign.
You also should have the same understanding of what a permanent commitment really means. If you believe marriage is meant for a lifetime, but your beloved thinks differently, you will be in for challenging times when the inevitable struggles arise.
You’ve given or are willing to give the relationship time before concluding that this is it
Even if you have an inkling early on in a relationship that this is it, you have nothing to lose by biding your time for a while. There’s something to be said for allowing the partnership to exist long enough for one or both of you to face a stretch of life during which things are generally shitty, so you can see how the relationship fares under duress.
Though I had the sense that my husband was The One about 4 months into our relationship, we had a fairly long runway built in because we had to finish school and get jobs before getting married. But even if we were 25, I wouldn’t have run out and gotten engaged right away.
As a rule of thumb, it is wise for a couple to go through all four seasons of the year together before making a permanent commitment. Who wants to be so bowled over in the early stages of a relationship that you decide this is The One, only to discover a few months or years later that you jumped the gun?
I’m not Phoebe Buffay, but I hope these guidelines help. If you’re grappling with whether someone is The One. and you’d like further food for thought, Pillemer’s book, 30 Lessons for Loving, contains many detailed accounts of how the experts grappled with this momentous decision. Their stories might help you evaluate your own situation. Good luck!
Katie Couric, journalist and former anchor of the CBS Evening News, asked the many remarkable people she'd interviewed over the years to share lessons from their lives. The result was The Best Advice I Ever Got.
Stay tuned for more samples from The Best Advice I Ever Got in the next issue.
In the olden days, moms used to clip articles from newspapers for their kids if they thought it was something they needed to know. I’ll be keeping an eye out for things that you might have missed that may be helpful to you.
This week’s clips:
The Family Dinner Project wants to help set the table for a fun and meaningful Thanksgiving. Its special resource page features printable placemats, conversation starters, dinner games, and recipes.
There’s a better-than-average chance of running into relatives or old friends you haven’t seen in a while over the holidays. How do you handle their good news when you might be jealous? Self magazine has some ideas.
If you dread public speaking, small talk, or delivering feedback, author Matt Abrahams has tips for mastering communication in spontaneous situations.
Next Week: No issue. Happy Thanksgiving!
Next Issue: What to Get the People Who Have Everything and Need Nothing The wise women weigh in on what to get your parents and grandparents for the holidays this year
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