Marriage isn’t all fun and games. In the past I’ve posted about marriage making you poorer, killing sex drive, and making you fat. So if you’re gonna do it, do it right. But how do you know who to marry? Should you just trust your feelings or pick the person who “looks good on paper”? Luckily, science has answers for us:

1) Find someone who you idealize and who idealizes you. (I’ve posted about the benefits delusion has on love before.) If you’re already cynical about the person by the time you hit the altar, you’re in trouble:

This study examined the long-term consequences of idealization in marriage, using both daily diary and questionnaire data collected from a sample of 168 newlywed couples who participated in a 4-wave, 13-year longitudinal study of marriage. Idealization was operationalized as the tendency for people to perceive their partner as more agreeable than would be expected based on their reports of their partner’s agreeable and disagreeable behaviors. Spouses who idealized one another were more in love with each other as newlyweds. Longitudinal analyses suggested that spouses were less likely to suffer declines in love when they idealized one another as newlyweds. Newlywed levels of idealization did not predict divorce.
Source: “Positive Illusions in Marital Relationships: A 13-Year Longitudinal Study” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

2) Marry somebody with high self-esteem. Ladies, you’re probably already attracted to this. Guys, watch out for women who don’t feel good about themselves:

A model of the commitment-insurance system is proposed to examine how low and high self-esteem people cope with the costs interdependence imposes on autonomous goal pursuits. In this system, autonomy costs automatically activate compensatory cognitive processes that attach greater value to the partner. Greater partner valuing compels greater responsiveness to the partner%u2019s needs. Two experiments and a daily diary study of newlyweds supported the model. Autonomy costs automatically activate more positive implicit evaluations of the partner. On explicit measures of positive illusions, high self-esteem people continue to compensate for costs. However, cost-primed low self-esteem people correct and override their positive implicit sentiments when they have the opportunity to do so. Such corrections put the marriages of low self-esteem people at risk: Failing to compensate for costs predicted declines in satisfaction over a 1-year period. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved)

Source: “Commitment insurance: Compensating for the autonomy costs of interdependence in close relationships.” from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

3) Ladies, want a husband who is actively involved with his kids’ lives? Find a guy with higher socioeconomic status. Plus it’ll make your kids smarter. (Money never hurts, does it?):

Previous studies in developed-world populations have found that fathers become more involved with their sons than with their daughters and become more involved with their children if they are of high socioeconomic status (SES) than if they are of low SES. This paper addresses the idea proposed by Kaplan et al. that this pattern arises because high-SES fathers and fathers of sons can make more difference to offspring outcomes. Using a large longitudinal British dataset, I show that paternal involvement in childhood has positive associations with offspring IQ at age 11, and offspring social mobility by age 42, though not with numbers of grandchildren. For IQ, there is an interaction between father’s SES and his level of involvement, with high-SES fathers making more difference to the child’s IQ by their investment than low-SES fathers do. The effects of paternal investment on the IQ and social mobility of sons and daughters were the same. Results are discussed with regard to the evolved psychology and social patterning of paternal behaviour in humans.

Source: “Why do some dads get more involved than others? Evidence from a large British cohort” from Evolution & Human Behavior”

Finding a rich guy may even give you more orgasms:

There has been considerable speculation about the adaptive significance of the human female orgasm, with one hypothesis being that it promotes differential affiliation or conception with high-quality males. We investigated the relationship between women’s self-reported orgasm frequency and the characteristics of their partners in a large representative sample from the Chinese Health and Family Life Survey. We found that women report more frequent orgasms the higher their partner’s income is. This result cannot be explained by possible confounds such as women’s age, health, happiness, educational attainment, relationship duration, wealth difference between the partners, difference between the partners in educational attainment, and regional location. It appears consistent with the view that female orgasm has an evolved adaptive function.

Source: “Partner wealth predicts self-reported orgasm frequency in a sample of Chinese women” from Evolution & Human Behavior

3) Guys, you want to avoid that whole “involuntarily celibate” situation that men fear after years of marriage? Don’t marry a woman who is sexually submissive:

Women are bombarded with images of women’s sexual submission and subservience to male partners. The authors argue that women internalize this submissive role, namely, they associate sex implicitly with submission. The authors propose that this association leads to submissive sexual behavior, thereby reducing sexual autonomy and arousal. Study 1 found that women implicitly associated sex with submission. Study 2 showed that women’s implicit association of sex with submission predicted greater personal adoption of a submissive sexual role. Study 3 found that men did not implicitly associate sex with submission. Study 4 demonstrated that women’s adoption of a submissive sexual role predicted lower reported arousal and greater reported difficulty becoming sexually aroused; sexual autonomy mediated these effects.

Source: “Sexual Submissiveness in Women: Costs for Sexual Autonomy and Arousal” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

4) Find someone who is conscientious and even a bit neurotic if you want a long and healthy life together:

The present study tested the effect of conscientiousness and neuroticism on health and physical limitations in a representative sample of older couples (N= 2,203) drawn from the Health and Retirement Study. As in past research, conscientiousness predicted better health and physical functioning, whereas neuroticism predicted worse health and physical functioning. Unique to this study was the finding that conscientiousness demonstrated a compensatory effect, such that husbands’ conscientiousness predicted wives’ health outcomes above and beyond wives’ own personality. The same pattern held true for wives’ conscientiousness as a predictor of husbands’ health outcomes. Furthermore, conscientiousness and neuroticism acted synergistically, such that people who scored high for both traits were healthier than others. Finally, we found that the combination of high conscientiousness and high neuroticism was also compensatory, such that the wives of men with this combination of personality traits reported better health than other women.

Source: “Compensatory Conscientiousness and Health in Older Couples” from Psychological Science

5) Don’t want to get cheated on? Here is where you should trust your instincts. Research shows cheaters may actually look different from non-cheaters:

Cosmides and Tooby argue that humans possess a domain-specific cheater detection module, which allows them to keep track of who has honored and who has violated social contracts. Consistent with this logic, others demonstrate that humans better recognize faces of known cheaters than those of known cooperators. We show, in Experiments 1%u20133, that humans better recognize faces of cheaters than those of cooperators when they do not know who are cheaters and cooperators. Experiment 4 demonstrates, however, that humans think they recognize cheaters’ faces even when they have not seen them before. The results of these experiments suggest that cheaters might look different from cooperators, possibly due to beliefs and personality traits that make them less ideal exchange partners, and the human mind might be capable of picking up on subtle visual cues that cheaters’ faces give off.

Source: “You can judge a book by its cover: Evidence that cheaters may look different from cooperators” from Evolution and Human Behavior

6) What about attractiveness and happiness? Everybody is happier when the wife is better looking than the husband is.

Some stats on weddings are here. And once you get married, you may ask yourself whether it will last. You may also want some tips on how to stay together.

Okay, so that’s what science tells us. What has experience told you? Post comment and let’s get to the bottom of this.

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