That phrase happily-ever-after has a lot of explaining to do.
It sets us up to believe that once we meet the perfect person, our lives will become instantly happier…
And we’ll stay happy forever.
But that doesn’t match our experience.
Yes, meeting an amazing person provides an intense burst of pleasure.
But the longer you’re together, the more that happiness boost dwindles…
Until you’re not ALL that much happier than you were before.
Research backs this up.
Although getting married gives you a boost of happiness, life eventually gets back to normal. Even though you’ve got everything you wanted, and you’re married to the man you love, your day-to-day life doesn’t feel all that different.
It’s all down to something called hedonic adaptation.
Once you understand it, you can hack it…
Ensuring you CAN have your happily-ever-after (just not in the way you think!).
Adapting to Happiness
Human beings have a remarkable gift.
We’re able to adapt to just about anything.
A famous 1978 study compared lottery winners to people who’d been paralyzed in an accident.
Although you’d think that the lottery winners would be much happier than the paraplegics, it turns out that both groups of people ended up feeling remarkably similar.
They adjusted to their new circumstances over the course of a year and got on with their lives.
This is known as hedonic adaptation.
No matter how amazing our lives become, we get used to it.
What Makes Us Happy?
Not only do we get used to nice things fast, but we’re also famously bad at guessing what will make us happy.
Surely getting a raise will make us happier than, say, getting a shorter commute.
But money doesn’t make us as happy as time.
And the big things in life don’t make us as happy as we expect.
So don’t pin your happiness on big events like getting married, having children, or buying a home—though those are all wonderful goals!
Instead, focus on enjoying small pleasures spaced out over time so that you can savor them.
To see how this works, imagine you got a big unexpected bonus. The money is burning a hole in your pocket. What will you buy yourself?
You could splurge on something big, like a new car. You just know that driving a new car will make you happier.
But you could also buy something smaller, like that fancy new coffee maker you’ve been eyeing.
Then, when the pleasure of coffee wears off, you could buy yourself something else that you’ve been wanting. You could do this again and again, until the money is gone.
In the first scenario, happiness is like a triangle. It goes up, and then it goes back down as you get accustomed to your new car.
In the second scenario, happiness is like a wave. It goes up and down, up and down. Each time you become accustomed to the pleasure of your purchase, you do something else nice for yourself, thereby giving yourself more happiness over the long run.
This technique can help extend the honeymoon glow of a new relationship.
Although it’s tempting to plunge forward when you meet someone extraordinary and get into a committed relationship as fast as possible, that’s like getting all your pleasure in one big hit.
You’ll settle into the relationship, and soon it will feel like ordinary life.
Try extending the pleasure of courtship instead.
Draw out the process by taking it slow. Instead of spending Friday night to Monday morning with him, spend just one day together and leave yourself wanting more.
Don’t tell him everything about yourself all at once; enjoy the pleasure of revealing yourself bit-by-bit.
Remember: once you’re in a relationship, you’ll never get to go back to this stage.
Which is a shame, as many couples remember the time when they were dating as one of the memorable and pleasurable stages of their relationship.
Instead of rushing into a relationship, enjoy the dance of attraction. Draw out the delicious pleasure of not knowing where this will go.
The pleasure of anticipation is underrated. (I often think of this on Christmas Day, when the anticipation of the holidays converges on a single morning of frenzied unwrapping. Which delivers greater pleasure: the weeks of preparing for Christmas, or the day itself?)
And when your relationship starts to feel ordinary, don’t set your sights on some big event—like planning your wedding or buying a house—to reinvigorate the spark.
Instead, find new sources of pleasure to enjoy together.
Try a new restaurant. Change up your Friday night routine. Take up a new hobby together. Do something different and fun.
Happiness fades not because our relationships become boring, but because we’ve adapted to what we have.
It’s up to you to shake things up and keep your happiness muscles on their toes.