Duana Welch is an author and relationship coach known for using social science to solve real-life issue. She is the original author of Love Factually, the first science-based dating book that guides men and women through every phase of dating, from before they meet until they make a commitment. Welch is also a contributor at Psychology Today and eHarmony and a professor teaching psychology at Austin, Texas universities.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up on a small farm in Central Texas. I had a mom, dad, brother, horse, cat, and dogs. My parents were both teachers who believed in the power of education. Being around good people who loved me, with plenty of time and space to be on my own when I wanted to, and lots of acceptance of my curiosity and desire to learn, helped me to become a scientist and, eventually, to create my own career helping others find and keep love.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I wish I’d realized that it was okay to begin writing books sooner. At 42, I had open heart surgery and that’s when it occurred to me that I might not have forever to do the things that were important to me. My first book was released three years after!
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
The bad recommendations are mostly about my area rather than inside it. Examples that science has disproven but which people continue to tell me are: “Don’t look for love or you’ll ruin your chances;” “Love is a matter of luck—most people wind up unhappy;” and “You have to be happy by yourself before you can be happy with someone else.” A close cousin is all the advice claiming a certain timetable to be alone after a breakup before a new relationship can be healthy.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
By far the toughest time of my life was when I faced my own mortality at age 42. One of my heart valves had been degrading; I hadn’t known. It was discovered at a routine checkup. Suddenly, I was looking at needing open heart surgery. Six weeks later, surgeons cracked my sternum and repaired my mitral valve. Facing my mortality made me keenly aware of what I had and had not achieved in my life—what was and was not important. I learned that we don’t always get the chance to do it someday—so if you want it, do it NOW. I had wanted to write my first book, travel to Alaska, and finish raising my son. Now, at age 52, I’ve done all three and am ready for new challenges!
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I think that perseverance is the single biggest factor in success in almost anything. Just stick with what you love, even if you have to do it unpaid or as a side-gig for a while. I wrote my Love Science column for free for several years and taught university to make money, before being able to devote full-time to the career I have now. Every day I wake up, I keep on being the one person who uses science to help people find and keep love. I feel very, very lucky that this is my job! And I plan to do it forever.
What is your morning routine?
I get up around 8 a.m.; get ready for the day; do my emails; and start seeing clients.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I take a walk or hike for at least 4 miles nearly every day, and I’ve done this for almost my whole adult life. A sedentary or indoors life would depress me. Getting outside and moving keeps my body and mind active, healthy, and happy, and keeps me productive and focused when I write and see clients.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I put my phone in airplane mode when I need uninterrupted time with clients and when I’m writing.
I tell myself, “Just write the first paragraph,” and after that, the words flow. Getting started is the hardest part!
I get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, and I keep to the same sleep schedule 7 days a week.
And: I take evenings off, except when I’m obsessed with writing and can’t make myself stop!
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The Evolution of Desire, by Dr. David Buss: proved that human mating psychology is inherited and that men and women want and pursue some very different things when it comes to searching for a lifetime partner
The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, by Dr. John Gottman: used science to show that nearly any committed couple can do simple things right now to be happier
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Yes. If you can find and be someone kind and respectful, your love life will probably go well; and if you can’t, it won’t.
It’s my summary of over 60 years of great relationship science, and I try to live by it every day.