If you’re in your early or mid 20s and your Birthday or Valentine’s Day has you thinking about your romantic future, consider the 37% Rule.
According to journalist Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths, co-authors of “Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions,” that rule could help you save time looking for a spouse.
What is the 37% Rule?
The 37% Rule basically says that when you need to screen a range of options in a limited amount of time — be it offers for a new job, new apartments, a new business or potential romantic partners — the best time to make a decision is when you’ve looked at 37% of those options before you.
At that point in your selection process, you’ll have gathered enough information to make an informed decision, but you won’t have wasted too much time looking at more options than necessary. At the 37% mark, you’re in a good place to pick the best of the bunch.
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So if you’re looking for love between the ages of 18 and 40, the optimal age to start seriously considering your future husband or wife is just past your 26th birthday (37% into the 22-year span). Before then, you’ll probably miss out on higher-quality partners that could still come around, but after that, good options could start to become unavailable, decreasing your chances of finding a good match.
In mathematics lingo or scope, searching for a potential mate is known as an “optimal stopping problem.” Over 1,000 possibilities, Christian and Griffiths explain, you should pull the trigger on someone 36.81% of the way through. The bigger the pool of options, the closer to exactly 37% you can get.
Research about successful marriages seems to support the age sweet spot of 26.
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In July 2015, Sociologist Nicholas H. Wolfinger discovered that the best ages to get married in order to avoid divorce are between 28 and 32. The range doesn’t align exactly — 28 years old is closer to a 45% Rule — but partners usually decide on each other a while before their actual wedding. Wolfinger’s analysis also revealed that a couple’s chances of breaking up increased by 5% each year after age 32.
The 37% Rule isn’t perfect. Since it borrows from the cold logic of math, it also assumes that people have a reasonable understanding of what they want in a partner by age 26, but doesn’t account for the fact that what we look for in our partners may change dramatically between the ages of 18 and 40.
What the 37% Rule does tell us is that 26 is the age when our dating decisions are most trustworthy — it’s the point at which we can stop looking and start taking those big leaps of faith.
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