How to Rekindle The Yeses in Your Relationship

TLDR Summary

Morph your slothish relationship into a cheetah by using this simple mental model: "Default Yes" over "Default No".

The Default No Struggle

Relationships are hard, really hard. One aspect I've personally struggled with is their tendency to default to no when it comes to doing new things.

When defaulting to no more nights are spent on the couch, or weekends are wasted, or even whole years are devoid of notable moments.

When I've let a relationship get to that place it usually doesn't end well.

Relationships don't start in this "Default No" position but tend to move that way over time, stealthy and slow, like a cat-shushing-ninja-sloth.


The Decision Matrix

Here's a basic decision matrix when there's two people involved.

Adam and Eve Decision Matrix

As you can see, half the time Adam wants to adventure like Bear Grylls (Yes) and the other half he wants to eat potato chips on the couch (No).

Likewise, half the time Eve wants to be out of the house doing something awesome (Yes) and the other half she wants to curl up with a blanket, hot chocolate, and Fifty Shades of Gray (No).

When they are both "Yeses" it's clear they should do that thing. And when they are both "Noes" they should obviously skip it. But what happens when one is a "no" and one a "yes"?

In the Beginning

I bet you a $1 when Adam and Eve started dating they were a "Default Yes" couple.

Want to go cartwheeling down that hill? - Adam

Hell yeah, I want to do everything with you! - Eve

OK, let's go! - Adam

Most relationships start out this way. We seek out newness together and say yes when the other person has a suggestion.

Every idea is awesomoe! Why would you say no?

I kinda want to eat that apple. - Eve

Well, God told us not to, but heck, if you want to I'm game. - Adam

OK, bad example.

Here's what "Default Yes" looks like on our handy decision matrix.

Default Yes

Look at all that green! Everything is peachy, morale is high.

The Eventual State

Whether conscious of it or not the eventual state for many couples is "Default No".

We should go bowling on Wednesday night, I heard there are lasers and stuff. - Eve

I don't really feel like it. - Adam

Are you sure? There will be lasers! - Eve

Nah, let's stay in the cave and eat potato chips. - Adam

The "Default No" position becomes the comfortable conformity. But it means 75% of the time you, as a couple, choose lethargy over energy.

Default No

Sound familiar? It does to me.

Happiness Feedback Loop

"Default Yes" couples are happier. I have zero science to back that claim up but let's think it through for a second.

By saying "yes", even when you feel like saying "no', you'll get to make your partner happy and enjoy the results. For example, your partner's child-like grin lit up by lasers. It may have not been your first choice but it's a win.

The happiness feedback loop is created when they return the favor you did them by saying "yes" to the thing you want to do. And honestly, who doesn't want a happiness feedback loop in their life?

How to Achieve Default Yes

This advice is going to sound simple but is harder than it appears. Like any habit it takes practice, so make a plan with whomever you want to "Default Yes" with and try your best.

There are only two rules to remember.

Rule # 1: Fake It Till You Make It

The person who's feeling "no" has to say "yes" unless they have a good reason.

Once doing the actual activity the "no" person often becomes a "yes" person because they're having fun too. So basically, they need to fake it till they make it.

Rule # 2: No, But Let Me Help

If you're a "no" person with a good reason - that's cool - just do everything you can to support the "yes" person.

Encourage them to do the thing anyways, help them find another "yes" person for their activity, or - if it's just bad timing - then help find a time that will work for both of you.

No Small Thing

At first glance, this seems like no big deal. But imagine your relationship going from doing 25% of all the ideas you guys come up with to 75%.

I don't want to oversell this but that's a 300% increase of thing doing! Or shown visually that looks like this.

Sloth vs Cheetah

Copy and Paste

This mental model can be applied to all relationships in your life. Everyone likes having "yes" friends they can call. Plus, if you work to be that "yes" person you'll find yourself getting invited to all the things.

You can even try using this mental model with any kids in your life, who knows what kind of shenanigans you'll get up to if you start saying "yes" to the crazy ideas your three-year-old comes up with.

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