Do you Pass the Las Vegas Relationship Test?
Thomas G. Plante
Here’s why you should go to Las Vegas before saying “I do.”
While Hollywood highlights the magic of intimate relationships – think movies such as Sleepless in Seattle, Love Actually, and many romantic comedies – quality research on intimate relationships is much more complicated. With about 45 percent of first-time marriages ending in divorce – and even higher rates for second and third marriages – most people don’t realize they have about a coin flip chance staying married when they walk down the aisle, perhaps even in the SCU Mission Church.
Luckily, research helps us determine which relationships are more likely to last. In fact, in the health psychology area we often say that if you want people to stay healthy and lower their risks for physical and mental health problems then we should focus on helping people find and maintain quality and satisfying intimate relationships. In other words, we should be matchmakers!
My advice: if you want to make a good decision in marriage be sure to partner with someone who has good impulse control.
I’ve seen couples in psychotherapy for more than three decades. My advice: if you want to make a good decision in marriage be sure to partner with someone who has good impulse control. Problems with infidelity, money management, overindulgence, anger, poor parenting, and so forth are all predictive from how one manages their impulses. And perhaps the best place on the planet to test your partner’s impulse control is in Las Vegas! So before saying: "I do" take a field trip and do some observational research with your partner in Vegas.
Las Vegas is America on steroids. Everything is big, bold, and will test your impulses when it comes to money, food, drink, sex, sleep, and so forth. How your partner deals with being in Las Vegas for a few days will likely give you a good feel for their impulse control. If they have problems making good choices there then they will likely have troubles making good choices back home, too. Las Vegas is a projective test . . . a big inkblot.
When it comes to relationships one has to think carefully about what kind of person you want to be with for decades. Sadly, too often young people make judgments based on physical appearance and fleeting characteristics. Often what destroys marriages involves problems in behavior that were known, but perhaps ignored, early in the relationship. These behaviors and tendencies typically have to do with impulse control issues such as frivolous spending, drinking too much alcohol, anger outbursts, and infidelity.
Add a good moral compass with good impulse control and you may have a real winner when it comes to a partner. Also add a little humility, a good work ethic, and a sense of humor and you've got gold! So if you take your intended to Las Vegas for a few days before saying "I do" you’ll likely get some important data to help you decide if your partner is someone you want to be with for the long term. If they fail the Vegas test, you might want to consider finding a different partner. Just saying ;)
*A version of this article was originally published by Psychology Today on Nov. 12, 2013.
*Additional details on intimate relationships can be found in my co-authored book with fellow SCU professor Kieran Sullivan here.