Do they look like a couple on the verge of a break-up?

Apr 03, 2012, 08:24 IST | Tunali Mukherjee

Yes, according to two journalists who believe that math can predict the success of a celebrity union. The revised formula reveals that it's the quality, not quantity, of the fame that plays a key role in determining the 'Happily Ever After'

New York Times Science reporter John Tierney and statistician Garth Sundem recently refined the Sundem/Tierney Unified Celebrity Theory in March 2012, a 2006 equation that would determine the success or failure of a celebrity marriage. The idea was that certain variables, including celebrities’ ages, length of courtship, marital history and relative fame, could help predict whether a celebrity marriage would last at least five years.

According to the formula, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett will probably not make it to their 15th anniversary. The Hollywood power couple celebrate their fifteenth anniversary on December 2012. Pics/AFP 

Sundem and Tierney did make a few successful predictions based on the formula (they predicted Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock; and Britney Spears and Kevin Federline would split up, and that couples Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, and Matt Damon and Luciana Barroso would stay together), but they did also get a few wrong: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, for instance, are still together, and Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s marriage lasted five years — four more than the duo predicted.

Turns out that quality is more important than quantity, when it comes to fame. So, while the old equation measured fame by counting Google hits, the new equation uses a ratio of two other measures: the number of mentions in The Times divided by mentions in the American tabloid The National Enquirer. A wife with a high NYT/ENQ ratio is likely to be one-half of a long-lasting union, which is why they claim that Chelsea Clinton and Kate Middleton have a higher chance of staying married than the Kardashian sisters.

Tough to predict
“Predicting the success of a marriage is tricky business, and in this case, doesn’t work for us as our culture is different compared to that of the West,” says consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr Avinash DeSousa. “The institution of marriage is looked upon very differently here. We’ve seen a lot more successful celebrity marriages here than in the West.”

Pyschotherapist Janki Mehta says that there can’t be a fixed formula to determine the success of any marriage — celebrity or otherwise. “Though, there are factors that do matter,” she says. These are: Social Upbringing, Financial background, Understanding of Sexual roles, Adaptation and Conflict management, and Living with and as a Family.

Cultural background also matters, according to DeSousa. “Indians tend to work harder on keeping their marriages together,” he says, adding, “Compatibility is very important. A strong family background also matters, as couples in India receive a lot of support from elders.”

Dating a potential mate for a longer period doesn’t necessarily guarantee a successful union, either. “The courtship period is more pleasant. You see each other only for limited time. Once married, you’re together always, sharing everything from the bathroom to common activities. That’s when you have to learn to adjust and accept,” says DeSousa.

Get real
Acceptance is integral for any successful union. “It is very tough to find anyone who will fulfill all the qualities you want in your ideal spouse. The list of, say, 20 qualities, will diminish over the years, post marriage. That doesn’t mean that the person has changed. It just shows that one has become more accepting of the partner and the relationship,” says DeSousa.

Refusal or the inability to adapt or accept a partner’s shortcomings are also one of the reasons celeb marriages are short-lived says psychologist Anjali Chhabria.

“It is normal for two good-looking people to be attracted to each other. They are both successful, go-getters and enjoy the attention, which also makes them narcissistic, to an extent. They aren’t used to criticism, so they might want to break up as soon as things start to get rough,” she says.

For a successful relationship both partners need to be aware of their expectations from a relationship, as well as be willing to set their egos aside, according to experts. “The more hedonistic or narcissistic a personality, the tougher it is to be in a relationship. You need a strong support system to fall back on. You need the help of your family and friends to help you through rough times,” says Chhabria.

“Getting into relationship impulsively means that one can even get out of it impulsively” says Chhabria. It is important to distinguish between love and infatuation. “The major difference is that love grows slowly, and infatuation dies fast.”

Committed for life
It takes work and commitment from both partners to make a marriage work. “Apart from having a lot of love and respect for each other, you need to be tolerant. Ego won’t help. You need to realise that there will be ups and downs in every relationship. You need to be able to communicate, and be able to say sorry to each other,” says Chhabria.

Mehta adds, “Parents also give a lot of advice that makes sense, so don’t dismiss it as being traditional and archaic.”  And it’s never too late or too taboo to seek professional help. “No problem is too big if both partners want to make their marriage work. It always helps to be a good listener, as communication is vital for a healthy relationship. Have a flexible personality, let go of ego, and understand that anyone can have a bad day. The important thing is to realise that the two of you are in it together for life,” concludes DeSousa.

Ahhh, missed! Famous couples who didn’t


Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock 

Married on: July 29, 2006

Divorced: November 27, 2006


Britney Spears and Kevin Federline

Married on: September 18, 2004

Divorced: July 30, 2007

Made it! Famous couples who passed the ‘test’

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner

Married on: June 29, 2005


Luciana Barroso and Matt Damon

Married on: December 9, 2005

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