If you want a good marriage, throw a big wedding (150+ guests) and make sure you and your spouse haven’t slept with too many other people (more than a couple) before tying the knot, says a pair of psychology researchers from the University of Denver who conducted a Relationship Development Study (well, my marriage is screwed, I guess). The study included 418 people, all of whom “were single and between the ages of 18 and 40 when they joined the study in 2007 and 2008, and all of whom had tied the knot by the time the researchers checked in with them five years later.” The researchers sought to “identify patterns of behavior that tended to set people up for successful and fulfilling marriages.”
Is it just me, or do you agree that a study identifying patterns of behavior in successful marriages might be better conducted on people who had been married more than a few years? At any rate, the researchers discovered that “past experiences, especially when it comes to love, sex, and children, are linked to our future marital quality.” Yeah, no shit. I could have told them that, but not for the reasons they seem to think.
Though the average number of people study participants slept with is five, 23% of them had slept only with the person they married, and those people scored higher on the marriage quality test than the dirty whores who slept with more than one person. In fact, for women, the higher the number of sexual partners, “the less happy she reported her marriage to be,” according to the report. Also, people who had been married or lived with someone before meeting their current spouse were less likely to have high-quality marriages. The researchers concluded that this is because “more experience may increase one’s awareness of alternative partners, a strong sense of alternatives is believed to make it harder to maintain commitment to, and satisfaction with, what one already has.” In other words: “Ignorance is bliss.” If you have no experience of other mates and nothing to compare your spouse to, it’s easier to believe your relationship is great. But, in that case, how can we believe someone who says his or her marriage is “high quality”? Compared to what? Could it be that people who have spent a majority of their adult lives celibate and/or single are simply basting in the honeymoon glow a little longer and a little more deeply than those who have been around the block a few times? (Again, I’d be interested to hear from these same couples ten, fifteen years from now after they’ve experienced some loss in their lives, after children have brought various challenges to their relationships, and after the excitement of finally having sex is just sex with the same person for fifteen years).
Related: couples who lived together before marriage were less likely to report having “high quality” marriages than couples who waited until they tied the knot to share an address. The researchers theorized that “once men and women had meshed their finances, furniture, and pets, the effort required to get out of a less-than-ideal relationship was simply too great.” Apparently, it’s just easier to slide into marriage than break up, move out, and split all your stuff. You know, because planning a wedding is so effortless.
And let’s talk about weddings:
Among the 418 study volunteers, 11% did not have a formal wedding ceremony, and only 28% of these couples had a high-quality marriage. Meanwhile, 41% of couples that did have formal weddings achieved high-quality marriage status.
The researchers speculated that “couples who are struggling or less happy in their relationship may be less likely to want to celebrate getting married.” They also noted that “the act of having a public ceremony … symbolizes a clear decision to commit to one’s marriage.”
Apparently, the larger the guest list, the bigger the statement. The researchers found that 47% of couples that got hitched in front of 150 or more guests had high-quality marriages, compared with only 31% of those who had 50 or fewer guests. That means that couples who had big weddings were 52% more likely to have high-quality marriages than couples who had smaller weddings.
The researchers speculate that having more witnesses at a wedding puts greater pressure on a couple to keep their promises. Hmm, ok. Considering that ALL 418 people in this study were single seven years ago, and that some of them had probably just gotten married when the researchers checked in on them last year, another possibility is that those who had big weddings were still happy in their marriages BECAUSE THEY WERE STILL ON THEIR HONEYMOONS. (Or maybe hadn’t had time to focus on anything else except writing thank-you notes and organizing their wedding albums). Seriously, next time the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development wants to fund a marriage study like this, I hope they include couples who have known each other longer than my toddler has been alive.
[via LA Times]