As I mentioned last week, New York Times health writer Tara Parker Pope has a new book out. Inspired by her own divorce, For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage is a look into the factors that help keep certain marriages together and force others apart. There's been a flurry of coverage on the book — Marie Claire even did a Q&A with Pope in the June issue (on newsstands now). But because (please look into the crystal I am swinging back and forth in front of your eyes) I'm AWESOME and you love me, I've distilled the five coolest factoids from The Science of a Good Marriage for you.
FACT #1: The Institution of Marriage Is in Much Better Shape Than You Think
As Pope told Salon: The 50-percent divorce rate is really a myth. The 20-year divorce rate for couples who got married in the 1980s is actually around 19 percent...It is true that there are groups of people who have a 50-percent divorce rate: College dropouts who marry under the age of 25, for example. Couples married in the 1970s have a 30-year divorce rate of about 47 percent. A person who got married in the 1970s had a completely different upbringing and experience in life from someone who got married in the 1990s. It's been very clear that divorce rates peaked in the 1970s and have been going down ever since.
FACT #2: Those Idiots Who Say Monogamy Isn't Biologically Natural Can Go to Hell
Also in Salon, Pope refutes those evolutionary biology types who suggest humans shouldn't even bother to try for monogamy because it doesn't seem to be natural to animals.
Her forceful retort: Monogamy...[is] not common in nature, but it certainly does occur. There is no other area of human behavior in which we defer entirely to biology — if we did that, every woman would have 10 kids. The very essence of human nature is the ability to control our impulses and make choices. Almost without exception, men and women say they value monogamy in relationships.
FACT #3: You Can Ensure a Better Match by Looking for a Guy Like This...
Pope told Marie Claire that if you want to lower your risk of divorce, you should find a guy who is over 25 and finished college — because if he dropped out of school, he may drop out of other commitments, too. A guy (or woman) who grew up with both parents, or one parent in a long subsequent marriage, will be more likely to stay married. (Not-so-fun fact: When both partners' parents are divorced, their odds of splitting jump 189 percent.)
FACT #4: Remembering Your First Date in Detail Is a Good Sign
Pope found that the way couples tell the stories of their first date can be a very good indicator of whether or not they'll stay together. Remembering an enormous amount of detail is great. For instance, Pope notes, Michelle Obama once talked about her first date with Mr. Prez, and the First Lady remembered tons of little things — right down to the flavor of ice cream she had. She also used the pronouns "we" and "us" a lot, and told the story with obvious affection. If there's any negativity in the story — or if the story has changed over the years so that there's more negativity in it than there once was — that's not good.
FACT #5: Being on the Pill Can Lead to a Bad Marriage Decision
In Marie Claire, Pope said that the biological instincts of any woman on hormonal contraception, such as the Pill, will be blunted. And if there's a good time to be paying attention to our biological instincts, it's when we choose a long-term mate. Studies indicate that women whose biological instincts are screwed up when deciding on a life partner are more likely to be unhappy in their marriages and to cheat. So, says Pope, use alternative birth control for at least six months before you make any big decision.
Here's another thing you should do: Enjoy your weekend, dammit!