Are attractive people more likely to divorce? This week’s headlines suggest that this might be the case, but you may want to examine the data before jumping to conclusions. Jess discusses her interpretations of four studies on The Morning Show with Jeff McArthur in the video below.
Summary of the research findings and Jess’ thoughts:
- The first study examined the marriages and divorces of 130 celebrities; researchers found that the best-looking couples were most likely to split.
- The second study looked 238 high school yearbook photos and found that those who were rated highly attractive had shorter marriage durations.
- The other two studies examined the “derogation of attractive alternatives” concept, which refers to a relationship preservation strategy in which we rate attractive alternatives as less attractive (e.g. I look at someone attractive and I tell myself they’re less attractive in order to preserve my relationship). These studies found that those who are more attractive exercise this relationship preservation strategy to a lesser extent. BUT — seeing others as attractive doesn’t necessarily equal divorce. You can look without touching. You can desire without acting.
What the research says about divorce: you’re less likely to divorce if…
- You got married after having kids.
- You completed post-secondary education.
- Your parents did not divorce (and your risk of divorce is exacerbated if your parents divorced, but they kept the marital strife behind closed doors out of their kids’ sight).
- You got married between the ages of 28 and 32.
- You share housework.
- You own a house together.
But divorce isn’t the only measure of a relationship. Some people stay together and they’re miserable. Sometimes, divorce is in fact the sign of a healthy relationship. I see relationships in which divorce is the absolute best option. We have a wealth of research indicating that there are some behaviours that successful and happy couples share:
- You maintain the 5:1 ratio of positive versus negative interactions.
- You have small fights which help to stave off the big ones.
- You laugh together often (even if you fight).
- You change your routine (which activates the reward and anticipation centres of the brain).
- You take and give personal space (rooted in self-expansion theory).
- You make sex a priority; you don’t have to do it all the time, but one study found once/week is the magic number.