Back in 2011, researchers from Rice University and the University of Nebraska—Lincoln analyzed data collected from more than 5,000 couples in order to identify similarities among spouses and how much these elements played a role in the success or failure of a couple.
They found that some similarities play enormous role in the success of a marriage, while others play almost no role at all.
On a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 means perfectly matched, physical traits (body shape, weight and height) only score between 0.1 and 0.2 among spouse pairs. Personality traits, such as extroversion or impulsivity, are also weak and fall within the 0 to 0.2 range.
However, researchers found that spouses’ strongest similarities were in church attendance and political attitudes, outweighing personality and physical appearance by wide margins, and that these were key indicators of a successful marriage.
Simply put, opposites don’t attract. Couples with more similarities tend to fair much better than those that don’t.
As a reluctant atheist, I have always felt that I married into the perfect religion, since (as a Jewish friend once said) Jews are just agnostics with complex backstories.
This isn’t far from the truth when it comes to Elysha.
The study, published in the Journal of Politics, lists traits they found similar in spouses, rating them from super-alike to not alike.
Eight years ago, when the report first published, I went through the list to determine how Elysha and I rated on these scales, and we did well. Apparently I set a reminder way back then to review the list in 2019, because one popped up on my calendar this week.
I guess I thought it was worth updating the list to see how we stand today. Maybe I was worried that things would change. I get a lot of reminders from the past version of me, and I’m never quite sure what I’m trying to say to my future self.
Happily, this turned out well.
Here are the results:
Church attendance: Alike
Political attitudes: Super alike
Drinking frequency: Somewhat alike
Education: Super alike
Smoking frequency: Super alike
Sleep length: Not alike
The only one of these to change in the last eight years is drinking frequency, going from alike to somewhat alike. While Elysha will have a glass of wine with dinner, particularly when we’re out with friends, I can’t remember the last time I drank alcohol.
Our politics, thanks in part to the racist old horny burger goblin who literally steals children from poor people in the White House, have probably become even more similar in the last two years. Galvanized, in fact.
Here is a selection of specific issues and attitudes that couples had similar views on, again rated from super-alike to not alike:
School prayer: Super alike
Gay rights: Super alike
X-rated movies: Huh?
Death penalty: Super alike
Divorce: Super alike
Women's liberation: Alike
Nuclear power: Not alike
Astrology: Super alike
Willingness to take a dangerous drug: Super alike
Modern art: Somewhat alike
Censorship: Super alike
Belief that it's better to follow the rules: Not alike
Liking to intimidate other people: Somewhat alike
Having been "fresh" to their parents as a child: Not alike
In these categories, “modern art” went from alike to somewhat alike. Elysha loves modern art. I don’t like it better or worse than any other period. I’m surprised I felt differently eight years ago.
Maybe I was just trying to impress Elysha.
“Liking to intimidate other people” also changed, going from not alike to somewhat alike. Elysha has no desire to ever intimidate other people. I still find it very useful, but I’m more nuanced today. I don’t immediately turn to intimidation but instead consider my options first.
I’m maturing, perhaps. Or simply becoming more methodical and ruthless.
Lots of changes have taken place since I first wrote about this survey.
Charlie was born.
I began telling stories for The Moth. Performing on stages around the world.
We launched Speak Up.
I published two more novels and a book of nonfiction.
I started teaching storytelling and public speaking around the world.
Both of our children went off to elementary school.
We lost our dear pets, Kaleigh and Owen, and adopted two new cats from Egypt.
Elysha learned to play the ukulele. She gardens, now. No longer kills plants indiscriminately.
The Patriots won three more Super Bowls.
We’ve made new friends. Watched with heavy hearts as others have moved away.
We launched a podcast.
Elysha went back to work as a kindergarten teacher.
While the last eight years have brought us so many changes, the important things have changed very little. Based upon this study, we are destined to remain in wedded bliss.
Unless I screw something up.