January 11, 2018

The Mathematics of Divorce.

“That’s it—I’m divorcing your father!”

By the age of 10, I must have heard my mother screech these words as she floored the accelerator on her 1976 Plymouth Duster at least a hundred times, as me and my two older brothers held on for our lives in the back seat.

It was a tempting thought for me though. I was so envious of my friends who had divorced parents. They got away with so many things I never could. They stayed outside later, they had twice as many toysand they had two residences in different towns.

It got to a point where it began to seem like another empty promise that my crazy and mercurial mother would consistently make. I say empty promise because, not only was I jealous of my latchkey friends, but I found my parents constant bickering to be distasteful…to say the least.

As I got older, I faulted my mother less and less. I mean, she and my dad married when they were still in their teens, she had three children by the time she was 23 years old, and there was really no denying how overwhelmed she was by her circumstances.

I took these lessons with me into adulthood and I tended to avoid conflict and confrontation at all costs. My last relationship, which lasted a little over five years and netted me two small children, was absolutely devoid of any and all fighting whatsoever. I mean, the relationship even came to a conclusion without so much as a harsh word spoken between us.

Unfortunately, it turns out that there is a mathematical equation to why my relationship ended after several years and my parents stayed together until they died. It looks like this:

Wt +1= w + rwWt + IHW (Ht)

Hannah Fry, the author of The Mathematics of Love, discussed a study that was conducted by mathematicians where they monitored couples who spent 15 minutes discussing the most contentious aspects of their relationship—money, in-laws, sex—and then were tested for heart rates, amount of perspiration, facial expressions, and the like.

It turned out that the scientists were able to predict whether two people were going to divorce with a close to 90 percent accuracy.

Allow me to break down the equation:

Wt+1= the wife.
w+rwWt = the wife’s mood and the wife’s mood when she’s with her husband.
IHW (Ht) = how the wife reacts to the last thing her husband says in the conversation.

What all of this can be distilled down to is what is commonly referred to as the “negativity threshold,” or as Hannah Fry puts it, “how annoying the husband can be before the wife starts to get really pissed off.”

Now you’d think that couples with a really high negativity threshold would be the better for it, but you’d be wrong. While it may be a good idea in certain arenas to pick one’s battles carefully, it is not so with marriage.

Mathematically speaking, your relationship has a much better chance of withstanding the test of time if you nit-pick the hell out of each other.

This is usually illustrated time and time again when you walk into any fast food restaurant and see two senior citizens picking each other apart for the entire meal. More than likely, they have been together for 50 years and that’s never going to change. And, while this sort of thing may lead to intestinal distress and general malaise, it sure seems to make for a strong marriage.

So, to conclude, science has proven that it is never in your best interest to go to bed angry. As a matter of fact, a constant state of relationship maintenance is actually your best bet. While the results of living like this may vary on an anecdotal level, at the very least, the odds will be in your favor!


Author: Billy Manas
Image: Marian Raol Lihoaca/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron


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