7 Mental Models from Charlie Munger for Dating and Relationships

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Whatever you want, try to think of the exact opposite of what that thing is, and then list out things that might help you get that inverted goal. For example, if your goal is to find an attractive, smart, faithful significant other, the inversion of that, or the opposite, would be to find an ugly, dumb, cheater.

a billionaires mental models

To get to your main goal, you simply need to avoid all the places that have all these ugly, dumb cheaters. But, before we continue, you might be wondering who the billionaire is that I mentioned. 

Charlie Munger recently died at the old age of 99. He was a billionaire, his business partner was the famous Warren Buffett, and Charlie was known for the unique way that he thought about and approached business decisions. Fortunately for us, the psychological principles that he used to approach business decisions seem to be universal, and are also applicable to the world of dating and social relationships.

1) Inversion

The first mental model I already covered was the Inversion Rule. Simply put, if you want to find a faithful partner, it may not be useful to secretly start your relationship with someone while they’re still in another one.

If you want to find someone attractive, it may not be useful to search in the hoho aisle at your grocery store, and if you want someone smart, you might avoid superficial social settings like nightclubs, bars, or boring unstimulating environments. 

2) Swiss army knife

The next mental model that Charlie often implemented is what he called the “Swiss Army Knife Mentality”. Essentially, this means being flexible with your thinking. The psychological terminology of this is to avoid “functional fixedness”.

Functional fixedness means your brain has an idea of what something is for, and only uses it for that function. For example, many people think a hammer’s only purpose is to hit a nail, but it can also be used to take out a nail, to tenderize meat, or as a paper weight. 

In your search for romance, look for it everywhere, not just on dating apps. Most often, people who get married are introduced to each other through work, the gym, friends of friends, or being childhood friends - not through dating apps.

Although, on the other hand, most people who have multiple sexual encounters or one-night stands meet each other through dating apps or bars. Don’t think the only way to find a smart, attractive, faithful mate is through an app. 

3) Long Term Thinking

Mental Model 3 is to frame everything from a long term perspective. If your goal is to marry someone and live the rest of your life with them, you shouldn’t be acting as if you want a one night stand. I don’t really need to explain this one too much, but don’t take my brevity as unimportance. Long term thinking is very important. 

4) Aligning incentives

Mental Model 4 is quite a complex mental model, but the technical name is aligning incentives. This means your goals and your partner’s goals should be complementary. Meaning, if you want to find someone to eventually get married to, and have 3 kids and live around their parents in Kansas… you probably shouldn’t be dating someone who just wants to be friends with benefits, who never wants kids, and plans to live out in the mountains in Wyoming. 

When you find someone who has the same goals as you, your life will become much, much easier, because they will literally be there trying to help you with your goals, not against them.

One thing I’ll say here is that you can’t change someone, so if they want to have kids, and you don’t… there’s going to be friction forever because you either won’t be able to change their mind, or if you do, they’ll always feel as if you convinced or manipulated them into not wanting kids, if that makes sense. 

5) The importance of Compounding

If you don’t know what compounding is, it’s when you roll a small snowball down a hill, and all on it’s own, without any extra input from you, the snowball grows very, very quickly. This idea of compounding doesn’t just work for snowballs or your financial situation, it also works for relationships.

As you get to know someone, you learn their desires, their goals, their fears, and their preferences. Over time, you quickly learn what it takes to make them happy, and they learn what it takes to make you happy. This happens slowly at first, but then it seems like you just “know” them, and you can easily guess what they want for their Birthday, or what food they want for dinner, or how to cheer them up when they’re in a grumpy mood.

This stuff becomes second nature when you’ve been dating for 5 years, and even more so when you’ve been married for 20, at least if you both have aligned incentives and don’t need therapy. The relationship you’ll have with one person after being with them for 5 years is much, much more valuable than the relationship you’ll have with 5 other people who you might’ve dated each for 1 year. 

6) Lollapalooza

Number is called Lollapalooza, and it’s when multiple cognitive biases are all mixed in together. What’s a cognitive bias? Well, technically, it is when your brain makes a faulty decision. There are many different cognitive biases, and I even have a video about the most important ones you can watch after this video, but I’ll give you 3 real quick. 


Our brain loves it when people give things to us, and we feel an obligation to owe something to someone when they give us something. We want to reciprocate. For example, if you give a woman some flowers, deep in her subconscious, she may feel the need to give something back, even if it’s her love for you


Our brains also love when we are similar to other people - it makes us feel safe. If you can find the similarities you have with someone, and point them out authentically, you greatly increase their liking for you.

Framing Effect

You can frame a situation in a way to make it easier or harder for someone to see and respond. For example, I could ask my wife “Do you want spaghetti tonight?”, and she might say yes, or I could say “Do you want me to go to the store and get the stuff so that I can make spaghetti tonight? And she’ll factor in the effort I have to  put into making the meal, possibly changing her answer. 

The lollapalooza effect says when you tie multiple biases together, they can make you irresistible. For example, we could find a similarity we have with someone, maybe we both like a certain anime show. Check.

Secondly, we could buy a 3d printed character from the show and gift it to our romantic interest. Check.

Lastly, we could ask them out on a date by lowering the stakes and framing it in a way that saying no would cause friction. We could say “I have 2 tickets to the symphony tonight, would you be opposed to going with me so that they aren’t wasted?” Check.

See how we crafted that question very carefully to make it much easier for them to say “yes” to, than simply “do you want to go on a date with me?”. When all of these are used together in the span of 15 minutes, the gift, the similarity, and the yes-framed question, your chances go up significantly. These are just 3 biases too, imagine if you used all 25!

7) Opportunity Cost

Our last mental model is opportunity cost. Always be thinking about the opportunity cost when dating. If you’re dating someone who’s always nagging at you, the cost of that is that you could be with someone else who doesn't constantly nag at you.

The opportunity cost of being with someone you don’t like is HUGE, you could be single, working on a business, or spending more time with friends, or seeking out someone who is more compatible and ready for a relationship with you.

I understand relationships take work, but at points throughout your relationships, both in dating and with friends, ask yourself “What else would I gain, if I gave up this relationship”, and if it’s more attractive, consider it.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2023, December). 7 Mental Models from Charlie Munger for Dating and Relationships. Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/charlie-munger-mental-models-dating/.

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