I like to consider my marriage a scientific experiment, complete with an oft-revised hypothesis (“If we have more sex, he will do whatever I say”) and a complex set of variables that include, but are not limited to: Money, kids, household chores, the mysteriously rage-inducing question of who will decide what we’re having for dinner.
As a matrimonial empiricist, I’m always eager to read any longitudinal study, personal essay or Jehovah’s Witness pamphlet that claims to offer the secret to a happy marriage, and lately there seem to be a lot of people writing on the subject. Of particular interest to my inner science geek was Salon.com’s interview with NYT blogger Tara Parker-Pope, author of, “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage” (the title alone makes my heart go pitter patter).
Parker-Pope goes so far as to introduce actual mathematics into her equation for love, recommending that couples have at least five small positive interactions (smiling, touching, offering to don a HazMat suit to change baby’s diaper) for every negative one (and we all know what those are). Her admonition to be nice during fights might not be rocket science, but interestingly, she suggests that couples who must cope with snoring are more apt to divorce.
Also, I like her argument for why monogamy is not too much to ask of the human species: “It’s true that monogamy and sexual fidelity are 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.”
As for my own marriage, I’ve kept a running list of experience-based outcomes, witticisms and advice that I hope to share with my children when their time comes to get hitched. But in the meantime, here’s a taste. Lab coats on? Notebooks at the ready? Proceed:
- “Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.” — Wendell Johnson
- Before saying anything to your spouse, ask yourself: Is this true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
- Don’t make assumptions … have the courage to ask questions instead.
- For your wedding day (or for your anniversary), buy a new perfume or cologne that you adore. Post-nuptials, wear the same fragrance every once in a while to remind yourself of why you married the person you did.
- Lead the least secretive life you can lead.
- Never do anything that would embarrass you if anyone knew about it. Full stop.
- When in doubt, take the high road.