The Daily Beast has posted a roundup of cockamamie-yet-entirely-believable studies that purport to tell us whether we’re predisposed to divorce. Risk factors include some obvious things (marriage before age 18; couples where one person wants kids much more than the other) and some not so obvious but plausible ones (women in the military; travel + stress = frayed marriages, I guess). But then there’s this:
7. If you didn’t smile for photographs early in life, your marriage is five times more likely to end in divorce than if you smiled intensely in early photographs. Two tests, the first involving college yearbook photos and the second involving miscellaneous photos taken during participants’ youths, yielded this finding. “People who are optimistic— and that’s what smiles tend to show in childhood—find it easier to get along with people,” including the people they’re married to, asserts Coontz, who is also the author of Marriage: A History. Optimistic types “also find it easier to put up with periods in life that might be difficult.” Nonetheless, she warns: “Optimism is certainly not going to protect you from everything, so it’s no guarantee.”
FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY? My wife and I both routinely grimace in front of the lens. Does that mean, in the aggregate, that our risk of divorce is ten times what it might be? A full order of magnitude? C’mon now.
On the other hand, we’re both fatalists, so maybe our own pessimism inoculates each of us against the other’s similarly dark outlook. That is, neither of us ever expects anything to go right, and we are rarely disappointed–which means we get along uncommonly well.