Ask Ariely: On Floral Futures, Meaningful Memories, and Dating Decisions

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

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Dear Dan,

I’m planning my wedding, and my fiancée and I disagree about one major topic—the flowers. All of the options we’ve seen are incredibly expensive, and I’m just not comfortable spending so much money on something that’s only going to last a day or two. But my fiancée feels the wedding wouldn’t be complete without flower arrangements at every table. Is there any way I can change her mind?

—Kevin 

If I were you, I wouldn’t attack the cost of the flowers but their symbolic meaning. In your fiancee’s mind, flowers probably represent youth, beauty and nature—all wonderful things to have represented at a wedding. On the other hand, you could argue that flowers are also symbolic of transitoriness—something that is here today but will wilt tomorrow. Why not try telling her that you don’t want a symbol of something short-lived in your wedding? Instead, try to convince your fiancée to spend it on something long lasting such as furniture or a new convertible.. That way, you’ll be spending money on things that are symbolic of your long future together.

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Hi, Dan.

My dog lived to be 14 years old, but the last six months of his life were really hard. This only amounted to about 3% of his time with me, but when I think about him now, it’s his bad last days that I remember most vividly, not the healthy and happy years we had together. Why is this?

—Jeremy 

Psychologists have found that our memories of an experience are strongly influenced by the way it ends—the last day of a vacation, the last scene of a movie. So it’s no wonder that your memories of your dog are colored by the end of his life. I’d suggest that you try to give yourself a new ending to focus on. Write down your good memories about your dog, ask friends to add their own stories and then spend some time just going over these positive memories. They’ll become the new conclusion of your dog’s story.

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Dear Dan,

I have been using the dating app Tinder for a while. When I’m swiping right and left it’s fun, and exchanging texts with potential dates is enjoyable, but when we meet face to face, it’s often immediately clear that things are not going to go anywhere. Then I just try to count the minutes until I can politely say goodbye. What can I do to end a first date quickly but politely? And when a date does look promising, how can I be sure that we are really going to be compatible?

—Andrea

The answer to both questions is the same: Combine the date with an errand! Arrange to meet your date at a coffee shop near a supermarket. After ten minutes of having coffee together, suggest that you continue your date while shopping and take out your shopping list. That way, if the date is going nowhere, at least you are multitasking and making better use of your time. And if the date is going well, research shows that doing an activity together tells you more about compatibility than just interviewing one another in a coffee shop.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.