The Traffic Test
In Wait But Why’s piece How to Pick a Life Partner, one of the key ingredients to success is an epic friendship.
How do I know if it’s an epic friendship?
They pass the traffic test:
I enjoy spending time with most of my friends—that’s why they’re my friends. But with certain friends, the time is so high-quality, so interesting, and so fun that they pass the Traffic Test.
The Traffic Test is passed when I’m finishing up a hangout with someone and one of us is driving the other back home or back to their car, and I find myself rooting for traffic. That’s how much I’m enjoying the time with them.
Passing the Traffic Test says a lot. It means I’m lost in the interaction, invigorated by it, and that I’m the complete opposite of bored.
To me, almost nothing is more critical in choosing a life partner than finding someone who passes the Traffic Test. When there are people in your life who do pass the Traffic Test, what a whopping shame it would be to spend 95% of the rest of your life with someone who doesn’t.
A Traffic Test-passing friendship entails:
A friendship that passes the Traffic Test gets better and better with time, and it has endless room to deepen and grow ever-richer.
- A great sense of humor click. No one wants to spend 50 years fake laughing.
- Fun. And the ability to extract fun out of unfun situations—airport delays, long drives, errands. Not surprisingly, studies suggest that the amount of fun a couple has is a strong predictor for their future.6
- A respect for each other’s brains and way of thinking. A life partner doubles as a career/life therapist, and if you don’t respect the way someone thinks, you’re not going to want to tell them your thoughts on work each day, or on anything else interesting that pops into your head, because you won’t really care that much what they have to say about it.
- A decent number of common interests, activities, and people-preferences. Otherwise a lot of what makes you ‘you’ will inevitably become a much smaller part of your life, and you and your life partner will struggle to find enjoyable ways to spend a free Saturday together.