How to Use Data to Pick Your Spouse

I look pretty happy here. Marry me!

Today I stumbled upon a TED talk during lunch about marriage. I’m single right now, so when I saw the title, “What you don’t know about marriage,” I think I was looking for some affirmation that I’m just fine not getting married if that’s how things turn out.

What I discovered, though, was a funny talk about how to increase the odds of success in your marriage by using data to select your spouse and maintain a happy marriage. Here are the key points you need to know if you’re single like me. I’m going to write about this in terms of male/female marriages, but that isn’t meant to be a commentary on whether or not marriage should be limited to a man and a woman.

  1. Men, pick a women who is skinnier than you. Conversely, women, pick a man who is at least a little bigger than you. Apparently it’s the proportion that’s important–the studies don’t indicate that women need to be skinny to have successful marriages and that men need to be fat. Rather, the data says that the man needs to be at least a little bigger than the woman.
  2. Pick someone who looks happy in their childhood photographs. Studies show that people who smile in their childhood photographs are less likely to get a divorce. So before you get serious with someone, spend an evening looking at their photo albums, and then decide if you want to keep seeing them.
  3. Pick someone who doesn’t like romantic comedies. Well, I’m screwed. I love rom coms. But the data shows that watching romantic comedies causes relationship satisfaction to plummet. It’s tough to compare our non-Hollywood lives to the amazing “love” movies show us.
  4. Pick someone whose best friends are happily married (and are likely to stay that way). Studies show that divorce is contagious. When your best couple friends get divorce, your chances of getting a divorce skyrocket.

The talk ends with the speak, Jenna McCarthy, advocating marriage. Married people are happier, live longer, make more money, are physically and emotionally happier, and they have more sex. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

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