What you don’t know about marriage | Jenna McCarthy


Every year in the United States alone, 2,077,000 couples make
a legal and spiritual decision to spend the rest
of their lives together — (Laughter) And not to have sex with anyone else. Ever. He buys a ring, she buys a dress. They go shopping for all sorts of things. She takes him to Arthur Murray
for ballroom-dancing lessons. And the big day comes. And they’ll stand before God and family and some guy her dad
once did business with, and they’ll vow that nothing — not abject poverty, not life-threatening illness, not complete and utter misery — will ever put the tiniest damper
on their eternal love and devotion. (Laughter) These optimistic young bastards
promise to honor and cherish each other through hot flashes and midlife crises and a cumulative 50-pound weight gain, until that far-off day, when one of them
is finally able to rest in peace. (Laughter) You know, because they can’t hear
the snoring anymore. And then they’ll get stupid drunk and smash cake in each other’s faces
and do the Macarena. And we’ll be there, showering them with towels and toasters
and drinking their free booze and throwing birdseed at them
every single time … even though we know, statistically, half of them will be divorced
within a decade. (Laughter) Of course, the other half won’t, right? They’ll keep forgetting anniversaries and arguing about where to spend holidays and debating — (Laughter) Which way the toilet paper
should come off of the roll. And some of them will even still
be enjoying each other’s company when neither of them can chew
solid food anymore. And researchers want to know why. I mean, look — it doesn’t take
a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to figure out what makes
a marriage not work: disrespect, boredom, too much time on Facebook, having sex with other people. But you can have the exact
opposite of all of those things — respect, excitement, a broken Internet connection, mind-numbing monogamy — and the thing still can go
to hell in a handbasket. So, what’s going on when it doesn’t? What do the folks who make it all the way
to side-by-side burial plots have in common? What are they doing right? What can we learn from them? And if you’re still happily sleeping solo, why should you stop what you’re doing
and make it your life’s work to find that one special person that you can annoy
for the rest of your life? Well, researchers spend
billions of your tax dollars trying to figure that out. They stalk blissful couples and study their every move and mannerism. And they try to pinpoint
what it is that sets them apart from their miserable
neighbors and friends. And it turns out, the success stories
share a few similarities, beyond that they don’t have sex
with other people. For instance, in the happiest marriages, the wife is thinner and better-looking than the husband. (Laughter) Obvious. Right? It’s obvious that this leads
to marital bliss, because women — we care a great deal
about being thin and good-looking, whereas men mostly care about sex, ideally, with women who are thinner
and better looking than they are. The beauty of this research, though, is that no one is suggesting
that women have to be thin to be happy. We just have to be thinner
than our partners. So instead of all that laborious
dieting and exercising, we just need to wait
for them to get fat — (Laughter) Maybe bake a few pies. This is good information to have,
and it’s not that complicated. (Laughter) Research also suggests that the happiest couples are the ones
that focus on the positives. For example: the happy wife. Instead of pointing out
her husband’s growing gut or suggesting he go for a run, she might say, “Wow, honey, thank you
for going out of your way to make me relatively thinner.” (Laughter) These are couples
who can find good in any situation. “Yeah, it was devastating
when we lost everything in that fire. But it’s kind of nice sleeping
out here under the stars. And it’s a good thing you’ve got
all that body fat to keep us warm.” (Laughter) One of my favorite studies found that the more willing
a husband is to do housework, the more attractive
his wife will find him. Because we needed a study to tell us this. (Laughter) But here’s what’s going on here. The more attractive she finds him,
the more sex they have; the more sex they have,
the nicer he is to her; the nicer he is to her, the less she nags him
about leaving wet towels on the bed, and ultimately,
they live happily ever after. In other words, men,
you might want to pick it up a notch in the domestic department. Here’s an interesting one. One study found that people
who smile in childhood photographs are less likely to get a divorce. This is an actual study,
and let me clarify: the researchers were not looking
at documented self-reports of childhood happiness, or even studying old journals. The data were based entirely
on whether people looked happy in these early pictures. Now, I don’t know how old all of you are,
but when I was a kid, your parents took pictures
with a special kind of camera that held something called “film.” And, by God, film was expensive. They didn’t take 300 shots of you
in that rapid-fire digital video mode and then pick out the nicest,
smiliest one for the Christmas card. Oh, no. They dressed you up, they lined you up, and you smiled for the fucking camera
like they told you to or you could kiss
your birthday party goodbye. But still, I have a huge pile
of fake happy childhood pictures and I’m glad they make me less likely
than some people to get a divorce. So, what else can you do
to safeguard your marriage? Do not win an Oscar for best actress. (Laughter) I’m serious. Bettie Davis, Joan Crawford,
Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon — all of them single,
soon after taking home that statue. They actually call it the Oscar curse. It is the marriage kiss of death
and something that should be avoided. And it’s not just successfully
starring in films that’s dangerous. It turns out, merely watching
a romantic comedy causes relationship
satisfaction to plummet. (Laughter) Apparently, the bitter realization
that maybe it could happen to us, but it obviously hasn’t
and it probably never will, makes our lives seem
unbearably grim in comparison. And theoretically, I suppose if we opt for a film
where someone gets brutally murdered or dies in a fiery car crash, we are more likely to walk out
of that theater feeling like we’ve got it pretty good. (Laughter) Drinking alcohol, it seems,
is bad for your marriage. Yeah. I can’t tell you anymore about that one because I stopped reading it
at the headline. But here’s a scary one:
divorce is contagious. That’s right, when you have
a close couple friend split up, it increases your chances
of getting a divorce by 75 percent. Now, I have to say,
I don’t get this one at all. My husband and I have watched
quite a few friends divide their assets and then struggle
with being our age and single in an age of sexting
and Viagra and eHarmony. And I’m thinking they’ve done
more for my marriage than a lifetime of therapy ever could. So now you may be wondering:
Why does anyone get married ever? Well, the US federal government
counts more than a thousand legal benefits to being someone’s spouse. A list that includes
visitation rights in jail, but hopefully, you’ll never need that one. But beyond the profound federal perks, married people make more money. We’re healthier,
physically and emotionally. We produce happier, more stable
and more successful kids. We have more sex than our supposedly
swinging single friends, believe it or not. We even live longer, which is a pretty compelling argument
for marrying someone you like a lot in the first place. (Laughter) Now, if you’re not currently experiencing
the joy of the joint tax return, I can’t tell you how to find
a chore-loving person of the approximately ideal size
and attractiveness, who prefers horror movies and doesn’t have a lot of friends
hovering on the brink of divorce, but I can only encourage you to try, because the benefits, as I’ve pointed out, are significant. The bottom line is: whether you’re in it
or you’re searching for it, I believe marriage is an institution
worth pursuing and protecting. So I hope you’ll use the information
I’ve given you today to weigh your personal strengths
against your own risk factors. For instance, in my marriage,
I’d say I’m doing OK. One the one hand, I have a husband who’s annoyingly lean
and incredibly handsome. So I’m obviously going
to need fatten him up. And like I said, we have
those divorced friends who may secretly or subconsciously
be trying to break us up. So we have to keep an eye on that. And we do like a cocktail or two. On the other hand, I have the fake happy picture thing. And also, my husband does
a lot around the house, and would happily never see
another romantic comedy as long as he lives. So I’ve got all those things going for me. But just in case, I plan to work extra hard
to not win an Oscar anytime soon. And for the good of your relationships, I would encourage you to do the same. I’ll see you at the bar. (Laughter) (Applause)

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