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Can a Formula Predict Marriage Success?

Can a Formula Predict Marriage Success?

There are a lot of factors that we can probably agree contribute to marital happiness—communication, stress, quality time, and intimacy, just to name a few—but is there such a thing as a formula that can predict the success of your marriage?

Yes, according to a series of studies done in the 1970s. And it’s a simple formula at that:

frequency of lovemaking minus frequency of quarrels

Work out the number for the past week or month. Is it a positive number? You’re in the clear. Negative? You may be heading for trouble. The formula came from a few studies—one, looking at married couples at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, found that almost all self-described happy couples had sex more often than they argued, while all the self-described unhappy couples argued more than they had sex. A small study of 26 couples in 1974 had similar results—all 23 self-described happy couples had sex more, and all 3 self-described unhappy couples argued more.

Of course, we don’t recommend making any rash relationship decisions based off your score. John Howard and Robyn Dawes, the researchers behind the 1974 study, make a good point when discussing their findings in “Linear Prediction of Marital Happiness”:

“If a previously positive difference shifted to a negative score, the couple would at least be forewarned, and might seek the cause (and cure) of their problems.”

And if you’re thinking of solving your arguments by just having more sex, think again. Howard and Dawes do admit that correlation does not imply causation—and even if it did, there’s the whole chicken-or-egg argument to consider, too: Do you fight more because you have less sex or do you have less sex because you’re fighting more? Howard and Dawes caution, “It does not, for example, follow that we can increase marital happiness of people who argue a lot by encouraging them to have intercourse more often–but it would be an interesting technique to try.”

Read more: Dating, Love, Relationships, Sex

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Diana Vilibert

Diana Vilibert is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. You can be blog-friends with her at dianavilibert.com, or tweet her at @dianavilibert.

74 comments

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8:29AM PDT on Jul 16, 2014

There are way more variables involved in a good lasting relationship to consider. I believe it is several "formula's", that make it last, one of them being conflict resolution. Practicing selflessness is another, thinking of the other person & what his or her needs are & what simple tui GS one can do to make that person feel special & cherished & loved & appreciated. If those variables are met, than the sex will follow, if not, then it might be sex, but not intimacy & lovemaking.

6:11AM PDT on Apr 28, 2013

Berny is right.

6:09AM PDT on Apr 28, 2013

Lots of sex and no disagreement? Marry an inflatable doll!

2:10AM PDT on Apr 28, 2013

I agree, the formula should be:
mutual respect +(communication x2) -( infidelity x2) +common commitment = divided by 0.

11:58PM PST on Feb 28, 2013

Thanks.

3:28AM PST on Feb 21, 2013

There isn't likely any formula to relationship since it's communication and respect the trick

9:11PM PST on Feb 20, 2013

ty

5:02AM PST on Feb 1, 2013

Noted....

11:35AM PST on Jan 24, 2013

Honesty and alone time are crucial to a good marriage!!!!

2:55PM PST on Jan 20, 2013

You can have a happy marriage even if you dont have sex often....what about people who had an accident ...they are still married and have a happy life!
Sex is not everything!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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