The Engagement Party and the Secret to Lifelong Fulfillment
Our daughter, Katy McGlynnGilbert, is getting married next month to a wonderful man, Nathaniel Munger. This weekend the families threw an “Engagement Party” for the soon-to-be-married couple. About 80 people trudged through the rain to attend the festivities. The two sets of parents gave short speeches to welcome the bride and groom into their respective families. Katy and Nate thanked everyone for coming. There was of plenty of finger food and beverages. Good humor and love filled the room. Nancy Gilliland’s piano helped the flow. Photos of Katy and Nate were spread around the room.
My favorite activity of the day was audience involvement. People sat at round tables. Each person was given a card and asked to write what advice they would have for a happy marriage. Each table, as a group, decided which was their favorite advice. As the tables worked together, the energy in the room took off like a rocket. I then walked around with a mic and heard from each table. Most of the advice was fairly predictable, “Treat him / her like you’d like to be treated,” “Be honest,” “Compromise and admit when you are wrong,” etc. My favorite: “Have two bathrooms.” At the end I tossed in advice I once heard from that well-known marriage counselor, Phyllis Diller: “Never go to bed angry. Stay up and fight.” A great time was had by all.
The Secret to Lifelong Fulfillment
Ironically, as these two young people plan to commit to each other for the rest of their lives, a book came out this week summarizing an 80-year project from Harvard about how we can find happiness: “The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness.” by Robert Waldinger, PhD and Marc Shultz, PhD. Thousands of people have been followed throughout their lives. They’ve been tested every which way to find out what works and what does not. In sum, what brings happiness is the quality of our relationships. It is not IQ It is not money, It is not education or where we grew up. It all boils down to how many people can you call at 3:00AM with an emergency who will respond.
Some of my favorite quotes from the WSJ review:
- The strongest predictors of aging well, of being happy, and healthy, and living longer was the quality of our relationships.
- Good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Period. If you want to make one decision to ensure your own health and happiness, it should be to cultivate warm relationships of all kinds.
- The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest, mentally and physically, at age 80.
- And a study based in Dunedin, New Zealand, found that social connections in adolescence were better than academic achievement at predicting well-being in adulthood.
- Most of us have friends and relatives who energize us and who we don’t see enough. A few adjustments to our most treasured relationships can have real effects on how we feel. We might be sitting on a gold mine of vitality that we are not paying attention to, because it is eclipsed by the shiny allure of smartphones or pushed to the side by work demands.
- If we accept the wisdom—and, more recently, the scientific evidence—that our relationships are among our most valuable tools for sustaining health and happiness, then choosing to invest time and energy in them today becomes vitally important. It is an investment that will affect everything about how we live in the future.
Take away message: Call up an old friend for lunch or coffee (may be harder for men). Start a Zoom group. People will be pleased to be asked. Help plan a high school reunion. Join a local organization. People are far more interested in connecting than you may think.