There are two ways of thinking of satisfaction. One is the passionate/companionate love hedonic view, that the best life would be the one with the most passion in it. The other is a narrative view, that the best life is about building a story.
If you think that the best life would be the one with the most passion in it, then yes, that strategy [of many short relationships] would be much better than getting married. Falling in love is the most intense and wonderful experience—the second-most intense, after a few drugs, which are more intense for a few hours. Short of that, falling in love is the most wonderful thing.
But I didn’t get much work done when I was falling in love with my wife. And then we had kids, we finally had children, and that was totally involving—and it would be weird to be such a romantically-involved couple when you’re raising kids. And now that that insanity has passed, I can return to writing books, which I really love doing. And I have a life partner who I think about all day long. And that’s not tragic. That’s not even disappointing. I have a life partner. We work together really well. We’ve built a fantastic life together. We’re both really, really happy.
If you take the narrative view, there are different things to accomplish at different stages of life. Dating and having these passionate flings are perfect when you’re younger, but some of the greatest joys of life come from nurturing and from what’s called “generativity”. People have strong strivings to build something, to do something, to leave something behind. And of course having children is one way of doing that. My own experience having children was that I discovered there were rooms in my heart that I didn’t even know were there. And if I had committed to a life of repeated sexual flings, I never would have opened those doors.
If you think the whole point of life is to gaze into your lover’s eyes all day until you die—well, then, I wouldn’t want your life.
— Jonathan Haidt, in Aziz Ansari’s Modern Love