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How to choose the best partner for life (and make other important decisions)

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How to choose the best partner for life? Let's use the investment analogy. Here's how it works.

I'm a fan of Warren Buffett, the world's greatest investor. He took $100 and turned it into a multibillion-dollar company. In a recent Forbes "richest people" list, he was declared the second richest man in the world, after Bill Gates.

This is admirable, of course, but it's how he got there that has always interested me -- things about his personality and character. He's known for his cool head about investing, and for sticking with companies he says he "understands." He avoided the NASDAQ rush, and instead invests in such companies as Dairy Queen. He's been known to hold interviews there; he likes the place. So do I. I think they have the best chocolate malts in the world.

Yes, I have eaten in fancy restaurants and had my share of ganache. However, DQ has the chocolate malt I searched for my whole life, so I stop right there. I know what I want, and look for substance, which is what I think Warren Buffett is all about.

I recall Julia Child being asked what were the best French fries, and her reply blew us all away: McDonald's. Wouldn't you agree? I do; when they're freshly fried.

Somehow we feel better when Julia Child gives us "permission" to consider McDonald's French fries so good. There's something a little shady about getting the "best" for pennies. We doubt our perceptions. And this is where Buffett's "cool head" comes in. It's emotional to be in doubt about naming McDonald's French fries "best" because they're fast food. If we do, we are outthinking ourselves, complicating things, bringing in emotion. Likewise if we don't trust our own perceptions and have to ask an expert, like Julia.

I've often used Warren Buffett for examples of emotional intelligence, i.e., being able to manage your emotions and avoid self-sabotage. The stock market is highly emotional, causing individuals to panic, get manic, think and act irrationally. Buffett believes in making a well-thought out decision and then sticking with it. Choose the best. Then don't worry about the rest. (No, he isn't into a diversified portfolio. Interesting, isn't it?)

He also doesn't do "designer" things like split his stock. He also doesn't sell out from under his investors. He's never sold a share of Berkshire-Hathaway, and he's never split the stock. Buy and hold.

Notice it's not "buy low and sell high." (More on this later.)

Okay, now let's apply this investment philosophy and modus operandi to one of the most important decisions you will ever make: your partner.

We have all experienced the effects of the 50 percent divorce rate in the US -- give or take some percentage points. We know how important a lasting and good relationship is to our health -- physical, mental and emotional. We know these things from research:

  • A divorce stresses a man more than smoking a couple of packs a day.
  • People who are married live longer and are healthier.
  • Toxic relationships destroy our immune systems; therefore our health.
  • We need another person to regulate our biorhythms. Not "should have," or "it would be better if," but NEED. (Lewis MD, Amini MD and Lannon MD).

Warren Buffett's Rule Number One is:
Don't lose money. His Rule Number Two is: Don't forget Rule Number One. He has often said an investor doesn't have to be a genius and do a lot of things right, as much as he or she must avoid big mistakes.

Choosing the wrong marital partner is one of the biggest mistakes we can make.

Rule Number One: Don't choose the wrong marital partner.
Rule Number Two: Don't forget Rule Number One.

Buffett has also said, "Investing is like batting a baseball except that you get as many pitches as you want and you never have to swing. Wait for the 'home run ball' before investing."

If you have your act together and good emotional intelligence, you don't have to marry anyone. You can wait for the home run pitch.

This also applies: "The ability to say 'no'," says Buffett, "is a tremendous advantage to an investor. Most investment ideas should be said 'no' to." And what does it take to be able to say "no"? Being centered. Having emotional intelligence. Knowing exactly what you're looking for. Trusting yourself.

This philosophy isn't about "buy low and sell high," and perhaps this should not be your philosophy in relation to marriage either. Why not instead choose the best, stick with it, and reap the rewards?

Buffett has made investments that didn't work out. "I want to [be able to] explain my mistakes," he says. "This means I do only the things I completely understand."

This is around emotional intelligence as well. If you choose a partner for good reasons -- including your intuition (and Buffett says he always trusts his "eyes" above anything else) -- and it doesn't work out, you will understand why.

This is way ahead of doing something without being mindful, without having thought it through carefully. Yes, you are making a decision about romance, a decision of the heart, but it's right in the place where emotional intelligence sits -- at that interface between intellect and emotions.

How so? Here's an example. Let's say you fall in love and you don't do the intellectual foreplay. You fail to investigate about children, for instance, in this impending second marriage. Once married, it turns out, as it did with one of my clients, that you adamantly do not want any more children, while she wants her first child more than anything on earth, including pleasing you.

You see the problem. There is no compromise here.

It would've been difficult to turn away from marrying someone he was so in love with, but not nearly as painful in the long run -- to him, to his children by his first marriage, to his pocketbook, to the woman, and to his self-esteem -- as getting divorced a second time over an issue that hadn't been thought through.

If you both have thought and felt your way into the decision (using your emotional intelligence), you're mindful. If you haven't thought it through, when it doesn't work out you are left struck dumb over the outcome, hit much harder emotionally, clueless, unable to correct and move forward, and worst of all, condemned to do the same thing again. That's what happens when you're on auto-pilot.

Another client of mine said his friend told him when he was dating, "That woman will never set foot on your boat once you two are married." How did the friend know when my client didn't? Thinking in addition to feeling. Emotions can fog our thinking. The emotion of love is most delightful, most seductive... like the NASDAQ was in 1999.

Remember Rule Number One.
Remember Rule Number Two.

Rule Number One was "don't marry the wrong person," because the assumption is you want to marry the right person. Therefore, you must know what the "right person" looks like. Do your homework as carefully as you look 'em over at bat. Then you'll know the home run pitch when it comes across the plate.

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