Can we predict celebrity divorces? These guys think they can.

In 2006, John Tierney and Garth Sundem–science, math and culture writers and self described “geeks”–published an equation for predicting celebrity divorces. They created a complex statistical model based on variables such as relative fame of wife and husband, age, length of dating, and sex-symbol factor.

Now with five years of data, they can evaluate and refine their equation. And it’s pretty spot on. So far, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher; Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock; and Brittany Spears and Kevin Federline have all divorced as predicted. The equation also foretold the demise of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, but they are still married. The two cute couples who were predicted to make it through have: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garnder, and Matt Damon and Luciana Barroso.

So how have the authors adjusted their equation? The original formula was overly pessimistic in certain predictions of celebrity divorces. It gave Ashton and Demi half the time it took them to divorce, and predicted that Katie Holms and Tom Cruise would be over (they’re not). It turns out that factoring in overall celebrity wasn’t enough. The equation had to take into account the type of celebrity: positive or negative. The authors did so by dividing number of mentions in the New York Times by mentions in The National Enquirer.

The new equation is made of this variable plus the couple’s combined age (younger couples have a radically higher chance of divorce), length of courtship (short courtship=quicker divorce), and sex-symbol factor of the bride. They found that the husband’s notoriety doesn’t matter as much as the wife’s, and the age gap between the two is unimportant.

Some of this seems like common sense, and other parts just bring up more questions. Why does the wife’s sex-symbol factor and tabloid reputation matter so much more? One possible answer lies in the fact that women initiate 70% of breakups. Also, the double standard of infidelity: a woman’s affair is statistically more likely to lead to marital breakup than if her husband is unfaithful. So tabloid infamy is an insight into the wife’s risky and wild behavior. The more unstable the women is, the more unstable the relationship is.

Check out the article for the full range of celebrity divorces predictions. In a way, the lack of a perfect model for divorce predicting is encouraging. It means that marriages can survive against all odds. No one is destined to divorce. I truly believe that learning solid relationship skills–whether with a $400 per hour celebrity counselor, or with online marriage counseling like Power of Two–is the key having a long, strong marriage, no matter who you are!

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