What you don't know about marriage | Jenna McCarthy | Summary and Q&A

February 14, 2012
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What you don't know about marriage | Jenna McCarthy


In this humorous and insightful talk, the speaker discusses the factors that contribute to successful marriages and shares tips for maintaining a happy relationship.

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Key Insights

  • 🌟 Marriages are a common and significant commitment in the United States, with over 2 million couples tying the knot each year.
  • 🤣 Despite the optimistic promises made at weddings, statistically, half of these marriages will end in divorce within a decade.
  • 👥 Researchers strive to understand why some marriages succeed while others fail, studying happily married couples for insights.
  • 💑 The most successful marriages tend to have spouses who focus on the positive aspects of their relationship.
  • 📸 Childhood photographs can indicate a lower likelihood of divorce if individuals appear happy in them.
  • 🏆 Winning an Oscar for Best Actress has been associated with a higher chance of divorce, leading to the "Oscar curse."
  • 🍿 Watching romantic comedies may decrease relationship satisfaction by creating unrealistic expectations.
  • 🍷 Drinking alcohol has been linked to negative effects on marriage, though further details are not provided in the content.


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 come... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the main topic of the video?

The main topic of the video is marriage and what factors contribute to a successful marriage.

Q: What are some common factors that can lead to a marriage not working?

According to the video, some common factors that can lead to a marriage not working include disrespect, boredom, excessive time on social media, and infidelity.

Q: What are the similarities among couples who have successful long-lasting marriages?

The video suggests that successful couples share a few similarities. One similarity is that the wife is thinner and better-looking than the husband. Additionally, these couples focus on the positives in their relationship, they have good communication, and the husband is willing to contribute to household chores.

Q: How does smiling in childhood photographs relate to the likelihood of getting a divorce?

The video mentions a study that found people who smiled in childhood photographs were less likely to get a divorce. This suggests that early happiness and positive experiences may play a role in marital satisfaction later in life.


In this video, the speaker discusses the complexities of marriage and the factors that contribute to its success or failure. She highlights various research findings and explores commonalities among happy and long-lasting marriages. The speaker also touches on the benefits of marriage and encourages individuals to pursue and protect this institution.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are some common factors that contribute to a successful marriage?

Beyond factors like not having sex with other people, successful marriages often involve the wife being thinner and better-looking than the husband. Additionally, happy couples focus on the positives and find good in any situation. They also prioritize a balance of household chores and have a willingness to do housework. Smiling in childhood photographs has also been associated with lower divorce rates.

Q: How does watching romantic comedies impact relationship satisfaction?

Watching romantic comedies actually causes relationship satisfaction to plummet. This may be due to the unrealistic expectations that these movies create, making real-life relationships seem less fulfilling. Conversely, watching films with darker themes, such as murders or car crashes, can make individuals feel more content with their own lives.

Q: Does drinking alcohol negatively affect marriages?

While the specifics are not mentioned, it is stated that drinking alcohol is bad for marriages. However, the speaker does not provide further details beyond the headline of the research study.

Q: Is divorce contagious?

Yes, according to research, divorce can be contagious. When a close couple friend goes through a divorce, it increases the chances of their friends getting divorced by 75 percent. However, the speaker personally finds that witnessing friends' divorces strengthens her own marriage, and she sees it as a positive influence.

Q: What are the benefits of marriage?

There are numerous benefits to being married. The US federal government recognizes over a thousand legal benefits to being someone's spouse, such as visitation rights in jail. Married individuals tend to make more money, experience better physical and emotional health, raise happier and more successful children, have more sex, and live longer.

Q: Is marriage worth pursuing and protecting?

Yes, the speaker believes that marriage is an institution worth pursuing and protecting. She encourages individuals to weigh their personal strengths against their risk factors and acknowledges that marriage requires work. Despite the complexities and challenges, the benefits of marriage are significant, making it a worthwhile endeavor.

Q: What are some personal factors the speaker considers in her own marriage?

The speaker reflects on her own marriage and identifies factors that can impact its success. She mentions having a husband who is lean and handsome, which she sees as a risk factor and intends to fatten him up. She also acknowledges the influence of divorced friends on their relationship and the shared enjoyment of having a cocktail or two. On the positive side, she mentions the presence of fake happy childhood pictures, her husband's willingness to do household chores, and his aversion to romantic comedies.

Q: How can individuals safeguard their marriages?

The speaker suggests various ways to safeguard marriages. These include focusing on the positives, finding good in every situation, sharing in household chores, and not winning an Oscar for best actress. She also emphasizes the importance of personal awareness and effort in maintaining a successful marriage.

Q: How does the speaker feel about marriage?

The speaker holds a positive view of marriage and encourages others to value and protect it. She believes that the benefits outweigh the challenges and believes that marriage is an institution worth investing in.

Q: What is the speaker's final message regarding marriage?

The speaker concludes by encouraging individuals to make conscious efforts to maintain their marriages and avoid potential pitfalls. She highlights the importance of personal choices and considerations in building a successful and fulfilling marriage. She ends with a lighthearted invitation to meet at the bar, underscoring her optimistic outlook on marriage.


Marriage can be a complicated institution with various factors contributing to its success or failure. Research suggests that successful marriages often involve a thinner and better-looking wife, focusing on the positives, sharing household chores, childhood happiness reflected in photographs, and avoiding the negative influence of winning an Oscar or watching romantic comedies. Despite the challenges, marriage offers numerous benefits, including financial advantages, improved health, happier children, more fulfilling sex lives, and longer lifespans. Marriage is an institution worth pursuing and protecting, and individuals should make conscious efforts to safeguard their own relationships.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker discusses the highs and lows of marriage, highlighting both the optimistic and challenging aspects that couples may face throughout their lives.

  • Researchers try to understand why some marriages succeed while others fail, studying factors such as physical appearance, positivity, domestic responsibilities, and childhood photographs.

  • Despite the challenges, the speaker believes that marriage is worth pursuing and protecting due to the numerous benefits it can bring, including financial stability, emotional well-being, and longevity.

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