LESLEY STAHL: Tara Parker-Pope, welcome to wOw. We are thrilled that you are here with us because you have written this wonderful book about marriage called For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage. If you’re married, if you’re thinking about getting married, if you have been married, if you have a child who’s getting married – you have to read this book. It’s just chockablock full of nuggets and surprises and just stunning. You say that if you go to a scientist they will tell you whether your marriage is going to make it or not make it, right?
TARA PARKER POPE: It’s kind of surprising. You don’t really think that science and marriage really go together.
TARA: We like to think that the mysteries of love and matters of the heart are somehow removed from science. But what we’ve learned is that you really can study human relationships and learn a lot of really useful advice that can be applied to everyday relationships. Unfortunately, I wish we could all go into a lab and have some of these experts evaluate our relationships. Obviously that’s not practical, but there’s a lot from the science that we can apply to our own lives.
|But if, when you argue, that argument lacks warmth … it’s as bad as if you were a regular smoker, in terms of what they see in your heart.|
LESLEY: I love that you say that they listen to the pronouns we use to describe each other, and they look not at what we fight about but how we fight.
TARA: I have to say, this simple little revelation has changed my life. This pronoun thing is really telling, and they study pronouns a lot. You know, criminologists and police listen to pronouns. Language is something that offers a lot of clues into what you’re thinking and feeling in all aspects of life. But in marriage it’s really interesting to start to listen to couples talk, and one of the things they do is ask the people, “Well how did you meet? How did the two of you meet?” We ask that question all the time. But if you listen to the narrative that comes back at you, you really can get some clues. Is a couple saying, “Well you did this and I did that,” or “This was how it was.” Or are they saying, “Oh, we had this experience. It was a great time for us.” Is there a level of connectedness in their story?
LESLEY: “We” is good. We could use the word “we-ness.”
TARA: We-ness, I like that. But you really do start to hear it. I was actually listening to Michelle Obama talk about her first date and it’s fascinating because I had just learned about this research and I was listening to her tell the story and there was an amazing amount of detail. She remembered the flavor of ice cream; she talked with such affection and warmth, and it was really clear that this was a marriage – even though this was a story that had happened years earlier, this was a relationship that today was definitely very connected and very strong. And you know this, and I knew in my own story. You know, negativity was sort of creeping in and I wish I’d known about this. So this is kind of a way that you can almost self-diagnose your feelings, what you’re hearing. So I think it’s a really fun and useful bit of information for couples.
LESLEY: I want to repeat that every five or six pages you were blowing me away. So here’s another blow away: Women are most attracted to men with completely different genes, and the way we women detect whether someone has different genes – are you ready everyone? It’s by sniffing. Now tell us about this – M.H.C.