A picture, even a school yearbook picture, can be surprisingly prophetic. Fr. Neuhaus’ Lutheran seminary snapshot, for example, shows a confident young man gazing determinately out from behind a friend’s scrawled “Pope.” The scribbler, perhaps, was on to something.
Now, from the eminent Journal of Motivation and Emotion comes a study correlating yearbook smiles and marital success. The process: Rank the intensity of the spouses’ yearbook smiles, one to ten. The conclusion: “None of the people who fell within the top 10 percent of smile strength had divorced [according to one study], while within the bottom 10 percent of smilers, almost one in four had had a marriage that ended.” A curious statistic, most likely pointing to something true about the link between cheerfulness and marital resilience. But something’s missing from the picture: With almost 50 percent of first marriages ending in divorce, as a national average, the study’s most lackadaisical participants are doing remarkably well. The moral: 62 percent of statistics aren’t to be trusted, and marriage is about more than a smiley face.