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Dilbert Creator Discovers Single Life and Writes New Rules

Scott Adams's 3 pillars of a joyful life, and 1 obstacle to happiness

Scott Adams, creator of the wildly popular comic strip, Dilbert, has gotten a lot of sympathy over the past year or so. Both of his parents died. All of his grandparents were already deceased. He got separated, and as he noted, that "meant losing my wife and step-kids all at once."

How do you think he described his experience of the past year?

Try this: "…this past year was the most fun of my entire life…If I told you what a typical Tuesday looks like for me these days, you'd cry."

No, Adams was not happy about the death of his parents or grandparents and he was not even deriving joy from badmouthing his ex. In fact, what he said about his wife was that she "moved only a block away and we remain best friends. The problem was never our feelings for each other but rather the restrictions of blending two sets of preferences."

What makes Scott Adams cry tears of joy is his single life: "I was free to reinvent my social life in any fashion I liked. And I had the resources to do just that."

In reinventing his life, Adams established three pillars:

  1. No one person would be asked to fulfill all of his needs. "…I looked at all the things I enjoy doing with other people and sought out the right people for those activities…I only spend time with people who are doing what they want to do when they want to do it. And wow, does that make things nice."
  2. He would be honest about what he wanted from other people. He was worried about how people would react to his truthfulness, "But it turns out that people prefer the flawed and honest version of me over my more 'managed' personality."
  3. He would be reasonable about his expectations of other people. "I try to enjoy people for what they are willing to share, as opposed to resenting people for what I thought they should be doing and aren't… if you have unreasonable expectations of other people they will continually disappoint you. But if you can learn to find joy from whatever people have to offer, life is like a candy store."

The principles Adams described are more readily honored in single life than in marriage. In many marriages, people expect their partners to be what I called in Singled Out "Sex and Everything Else Partners." They look to each other to fulfill all of their needs and make all of their wishes come true, and they see that as romantic rather than unrealistic or risky.

As for managing expectations, Adams notes, "Obviously this arrangement doesn't work within marriage because marriage is mostly a bunch of unreasonable expectations you put on each other."

Can you now guess what Scott Adams describes as "the biggest obstacle to happiness in the United States"? Yes, it is traditional marriage.

[Notes: (1) Thanks to Amy Hammond for the heads-up about Scott Adams' blog post. (2) For more on what's great about single life, check out The Best of Single Life. (3) For more writings on honesty in relationships, click here. (4) Tomorrow marks the beginning of Unmarried and Single Americans Week, marked by the Census Bureau with an annual report. It always takes place during the third full week of September, so September 21-27 in 2014. Happy Singles Week, everyone!]

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