We liken relationships to clouds in the sky—no two identical and (try as we may) impossible to generalize or wager an accurate guess on their outcome. People are too complicated and inconsistent for that, no? Which was why we raised a skeptical eyebrow when we saw a headline about an Oxford professor's mathematical model having a near perfect track record in predicting a couple's success.
We've seen math models used in economics—which of course involve people and their actions involving consumption—but how is one to turn the whimsies of husband X and the moods of wife Y into a mathematical formula on their marriage's success?
According to Professor James Murray, a math expert at Oxford University, it all boils down to a couple's argument style. After analyzing 700 couples and taping them bicker for 15 minutes about an important issue, he thinks he can pinpoint who's going to ultimately pay a divorce lawyer in the near future.
Sort of like a debate, the researchers awarded points to the husband and wife while they argued. Whoever seemed the most open, level-headed and humorous about the issue received the most points (which ranged from four to negative four), while the spouse who showed the most contempt was given the least amount.
The scores were then computed into the model and displayed on a graph. The professor and researchers then based the marriage's vitality on where the husband and wife's points met.
While graphs and mysterious mathematical models may sound complicated, Murray assures us it isn't.
"It is not so much of an equation, it is trying to assess and quantify how a couple interact by giving them a scoring system. We take those figures and plot them on to a graph. If either the husband or the wife is consistently negative then they are going to get a divorce."
After doing 700 of these things, he's also classified five categories all married people fit into.
The validating couple: the BFF's of all the couple's, who like to share experiences together, are calm, collected and supportive.
The avoiding couple: The anti-confrontational couple that sweeps all of life's problems under the proverbial rug.
The volatile couple: The Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown of all the couples. They are passionate with very high high and low lows.
The hostile couple: Sort of like the avoiding couple, but one actually wants to solve problems, the other doesn't, thus creating a strong sense of hostility.
The hostile-detached couple: One is a hothead ready to throw dishes, the other just wants to slam the door and watch T.V. alone. If you catch our drift.
Out of all the aforementioned couples, he gives the first two the highest success rate. While the movies tell us we should have the high, highs of the volatile couple, the most long-lasting couples view the partnership as just that. A partnership. As unromantic as it may sound, a marriage is just a companionship between two people.