6 extremely weird facts about marriage

The bigger the wedding, the greater the odds of a successful union, and other surprising factoids

Published September 22, 2014 12:00AM (EDT)

    (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-123808p1.html'>Phase4Photography</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(Phase4Photography via Shutterstock)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet Here are some odd facts and recent revelations about that very interesting state, matrimony.

1. If the wife likes her marriage, her husband feels better about life. But the reverse is not true.

new study from Rutgers University analyzing data from nearly 400 long-term married couples shows that a wife’s contentment in the marriage is the critical factor in a satisfying arrangement, more so than the husband’s.

To assess their state of happiness, individuals were asked how often the spouse got on their nerves, how often arguments occurred, how they felt doing chores, and whether they felt appreciated. Overall, men felt slightly more happy in their marriages than women. A wife’s dissatisfaction spelled less contentment for her husband, though interestingly, the husband's lack of contentment didn't have the same impact on his spouse. Deborah Carr, a professor in the Department of Sociology, School of Arts and Science, suggested this is because “when a wife is satisfied with the marriage she tends to do a lot more for her husband, which has a positive effect on his life.”

Guess it doesn’t work the other way around.

2. Wives become unhappy if their spouses become ill, but husbands not so much.

The same Rutgers study found that women's contentment in their marriages dropped when their husbands got sick, but men's attitudes didn’t seem to change when their wives fell ill. What gives? Researcher Deborah Carr divined the answer: “We know that when a partner is sick it is the wife that often does the caregiving which can be a stressful experience….But often when a women gets sick it is not her husband she relies on but her daughter.”

3. Short men tend to stay married, and compensate for their shortness by earning a higher relative share of income.

According to researchers Abigail Weitzman and Dalton Conley of New York University, height has a significant impact on marriage. They found that tall men tend to marry more educated women, older women and women of the same race, but are more likely to divorce. Among short men, however, the rate of divorce was significantly lower than among average and tall men. Men of shorter stature were also more likely to marry much younger women, and earn more than their spouses.

So what’s going on? The authors stated that their research “further confirms an existence of height-based status exchange in which short men compensate for their lower physical status with higher proportional earnings, while tall men appear more likely to use their status to attract women with higher relative earnings.”

4. A big wedding seems to boost the odds of a successful marriage.

Psychology researchers from the University of Denver studied 418 people as part of their Relationship Development Study, with a goal of sussing out elements that contributed to a successful marriage. Eleven percent of participants had no formal wedding ceremony, and of these, only 28 percent of the couples reported having a high-quality marriage.

On the other hand, 41 percent of couples that had formal weddings were happy in their marriages. The researchers opined that couples who were less happy or certain about being together might be less likely to want a big wedding, and they also noted that the decision to have a public ceremony symbolizes a commitment which may influence the mindset of couples. According to the study, the bigger the wedding, the better the couples reported the marriage to be: 47 percent of couples that had 150 or more guests had good marriages, compared with only 31 percent of those who had 50 or fewer guests.

5. You may be genetically predisposed to cheat.

A recent study by researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York has revealed that about half of us inherited a gene that makes us more likely to have one-night stands and to stray if we are in an ostensibly monogamous relationship.

The culprit? A little gene called DRD4. When you carry a variant of that gene, which is a dopamine receptor, you are more likely, according to researcher Justin Garcia, “to have a history of uncommitted sex, including one-night stands and acts of infidelity.” That same gene appears to make us want to hit the bottle and the blackjack table. Dopamine is involved in the brain’s pleasure and reward system. In cases of uncommitted sex, the risks may be high but the rewards are high, too, which can produce a big ol' dopamine rush.

The study may shed some light on why some people report feeling very much in love with and attached to their partners, yet still commit acts of infidelity.

6. Maybe we should come up with new words.

The word “wife” is thought to come from the Proto-Indo-European root weip (“to turn, twist, wrap”) or ghwibh, which has a root meaning “shame” or “pudenda.” Neither of which sounds particularly promising.

The word “husband,” on the other hand, derives from the Old Norse husbondi or “master of the house.” The word “spouse” seems to carry less baggage: it has its origins in the Latin wordsponsus "bridegroom" (fem. sponsa "bride"), which comes from the term spondere,meaning "to bind oneself, promise solemnly."

Some of you may not be surprised to learn that the term “marriage” comes from the Latin wordmas meaning “male” or “masculine.” The earliest known use of the word in English dates from the 13th century.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

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