Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Uncommon Law

A common law marriage is one in which the partners are not legally married via the “right” kind of ceremony, but which is recognized in many jurisdictions as a legal marriage. Individuals in common law marriages may have the same legal rights as those married in the more common way.

Psychology Today reported a study in which expert chess players were more likely to use a longer but common strategy, overlooking a shorter strategy that was less common but better in certain situations. In other words, the experts tended to get in ruts.

So where am I going with this? We have many common ways of doing things in life. Sometimes the common ways get us in ruts. But sometimes we do the uncommon things, and they turn out quite fine. In doing the uncommon, we avoid falling into a rut.

People are always asking me what the “right” move is, meaning, the more common move. It’s not good to get into a relationship on the rebound, right? I shouldn’t get involved with this guy because he’s still talking to his soon-to-be ex-wife, right? I shouldn’t take my dream job because I’ve just changed jobs and it doesn’t look good to change too often, right? I’m too old to change careers, right? People don’t start running at 50, right? Divorce will hurt my kids, right? Remarriage will hurt my kids, right? Staying single will hurt my kids, right? Oops, wait a minute. Is nothing right?

In psychology, there are classic experiments that demonstrate diametrically opposed truths. Like birds of a feather flock together vs opposites attract. Out of sight, out of mind vs distance makes the heart grow fonder. We can find evidence to support any of these views. Is nothing right?

So, should you get into a relationship on the rebound, i.e., soon after you end a relationship? Common wisdom tells us not to. I think it depends. It depends on the relationship you just ended, the one you just started, and most of all, on you. What do you want? What do you need? What works for you? What doesn’t work for you?

I like reading about people who start med school in their 50s, law school in their 60s or writing in their 80s. Look at Grandma Moses. She was in her 70s when she started painting. All very uncommon.

Think about it. What have you put on the back burner? What’s something you’ve really always wanted to do. What have you thought might be fun to do, or good to do, but you didn’t do, thinking that some will think that you should not do it.

I’m here to tell you, there’s no right or wrong for many choices we make. We just have to do the best we can. Consider whether you might have to do the uncommon thing at times, to find the right path for you. And if it doesn’t work, there’s always the road not taken.

Have a listen to Fanfare for the Common Man (Aaron Copeland). Nothing common about it.

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