Today’s “I Can’t Believe Someone Funded That” award goes to the recent study from DePauw University described in CNN’s article “Hunting for the Secrets of a Happy Marriage.” According to the researchers at DePauw’s psych department you can divine your chances for future happiness by checking out your beloved’s childhood school photos, or high school yearbook.
Surprisingly, a possible clue about whether you stay married or get divorced may be contained in your photo album. Researchers analyzed photos taken in childhood or young adulthood from hundreds of people and rated their expressions on a “smile intensity score.”
The less intensely the subjects smiled, the more likely they would be divorced later in life, while the biggest smilers had lower divorce rates, according to a study published online this month by the journal Motivation and Emotion.
Oh for fuck’s sake. I don’t think you can judge anything from my childhood pictures other than that I spent much of my childhood with bad hair–a bowlcut in the 80s and a fluffy perm in the 90s–and a strong dislike of cameras. As for the intensity of my smile…well, if you were going by school pictures you’d expect me to have a marital track record like Elizabeth Taylor’s. I despised school photos and did not photograph well. I was always nervous in front of the camera because A) my front teeth were crooked and B) I was a slightly awkward nerd who didn’t like performing on command.
Apparently the performing well on command may have something to do with my future chances at matrimony:
“It may be that people who smile in response to a photographer are more obedient people and obedience may help in a marriage. (ed.: Yes, y’all, he went there.) I really don’t know the explanation.”
I really don’t know the explanation either. But I know that ain’t it. Now, granted, he’s not being gender-specific, but I’m sorry, I’m gonna bristle anyway. No one ever tells a man his marriage will go better if he’s obedient. There’s a reason that historically the “love, honor and obey” vow is spoken by women only. If I were going to give him the benefit of the doubt, I’d hope that he meant something more like “co-operative” rather than “obedient.”
If there’s any take-away from this study, it’s than that you should try to marry someone who’s happy, which strikes me as solid, if no-brainer, advice. Whether you can tell if that person is happy by looking at photos taken decades earlier seems iffy to me, and even the so-called experts involved cop to that.
Before you run to check your spouse’s yearbook photo, keep in mind one picture can’t tell the whole story, psychologist Nadine Kaslow said.
“I think the issue really is both getting a sense of a whole set of pictures and also the level of positivity that [people] bring into life and relationships,” she said.
At any rate, let’s be thankful that my yearbooks and school pictures currently reside somewhere in my mom’s basement in Seattle, so I think I’m safe from any future Mr. Sharper trying to judge who I am now from what I looked like then.