It’s 10:03 A.M. Friday, January 24, 2003. In a couple of days the Oakland
Raiders will be facing off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in
Superbowl XXXVII. The Raiders are favored by 4 points, but I don’t think
its going to be that close. It has been my opinion that a winning team
wins until it cools down and a losing team loses until it heats up. It’s my
belief that the Raiders have peaked early while the roar of the Bucs has
yet to be heard.
Of course this is just a prediction. For all I know the Raiders will end up
trouncing Tampa (although I don’t think so). All of us are forced at one
time or another to do a little predicting in our own lives. Which college
would be best for me; what career path do I wander down; which job offer
will help me achieve my goals? Sometimes our predictions pan out and
other times they don’t. Even with the best information all of our best laid
plans can go out the window.
For this months newsletter I revisit a question, an important question that
I asked 200 women 15 years ago. Then, predictions were made based
on how they answered that question. I hope you enjoy the piece and take
time to do a little reflecting on what if anything we have uncovered. If
you’re a sports fan, enjoy the Superbowl. If not, might I suggest reading
The Lovely Bones a novel by Alice Sebold.
Talk to ya later!
Trade Up Syndrome
Is it possible that there is one single question you could ask a
newly engaged woman that could predict the success of their upcoming
marriage? Read on’¦.
In 1988, 200 newlywed brides were carefully selected to participate
in a clinical study. To participate they had to have never been
married and received a newly purchased engagement ring during their
prenuptials. There were 68 participants ages 19-29, 66 participants
age 30-39 and 66 participants ages 40-49. In each age group there were
approximately the same numbers of Whites, African-Americans, Asian-
Pacific Islanders and Hispanics. Each group also was purposely
compiled having the same number of people with certain educational
attainments. (Less than high school, high school graduate, some
college, bachelors degree and more).
The participants were all asked the following question:
‘IF GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A BIGGER, BETTER QUALITY
ENGAGEMENT RING, WOULD YOU TAKE THE RING IF IT MEANT YOU
HAD TO GIVE UP (TRADE IN) YOUR EXISTING RING?’
Fifty four percent of the women replied no and 46% replied yes.
After the question was asked and answered they were purposely
misinformed that the reasoning behind the question was to help men
in choosing the perfect engagement ring. They were told that men would
be advised that if they believed their ‘fiancÃ© to be’ was in the 54% group
then they should opt for a larger diamond (something she could grow
into) since she was going to be wearing it for the rest of their life. The
men who believed their new bride would opt to ‘trade up’ should buy
smaller since this wasn’t the ‘forever’ diamond, but a stand-in until the
permanent replacement or replacements would follow down the line. The
participants were asked to keep in touch if they were going to move
because the interviewers wanted to see if their attitudes changed as the
years went on. Anyone who disagreed with the ground rules was
replaced with a like person. It was agreed that all the participants’ names
and information would be kept confidential.
Unbeknown to the participants, the study was not designed to study
behavioral patterns in size preferences, but to track marital success rates.
Interestingly enough, no correlation could be found on the way the
question was answered due to any particular age, ethnicity or educational
background. Just as many in each group was on either side of the fence
on the question. Those in the 54% group had the same mantra, ‘No
one’s taking my diamond! This diamond is priceless! I don’t care if you
got a 10ct diamond in your hand to give me, it can’t replace the
sentimental attachment this diamond has to me. I know it’s not perfect or
the biggest rock on the block but its mine. My symbol! My love! My eternal
love! I can tell you to the last detail everything about the day I received it.
What my man said, where we were, what song was on the radio and the
first person we told. Nope, I’m sorry if the deal that’s on the table is I only
get the new one by giving up old faithful you can forget about it. Now if
you’re saying I can keep my old diamond and introduce it to a new friend
well, now, maybe we can talk. My diamond has said to me a couple of
times it gets lonely.’
The 46 % group was pretty adamant on their side too! ‘Are you kidding?!
Where’s the recycle bin?! If bigger and better comes along, you take it!
Look, you don’t keep the first house you ever get. If I want a memory, I’ll
take a picture! Where’s my new ring?’
Not being a clinical psychiatrist myself I was curious what predictions a
top, board-certified psychiatrist might have as to which group (the 54%
romantics, the 46% materialistics) would have a better chance at happily
ever after wedded bliss. Dr. Frank Montalvo M.D. Ph.D. predicted that after
15 years the materialistic group would be pummeled with divorce.
Prediction: 15-18% would still be around to celebrate another anniversary
and 82-85% would have already been through divorce court.
Prediction: The romantic group would stave off divorce far better.
His prediction was that approximately 80% would still be together with
20% having left for greener pastures.
Five Year Mark
At the five year mark it appears that the doctor is barking up the wrong
tree. The romantic group has suffered approximately a 10% divorce rate
and the materialistic group a 9.8% divorce rate. At this point there
appears to be no discernible differences between the groups. The
materialistic group is not on course to do any better or worse based on
Ten Year Mark
By the ten year mark something unexpected happened. The romantics’
divorce rate had slowed down and the materialistics had raced forward.
Fifty-two percent of those that would trade in were now divorced and 16%
of the romantics, were divorced. While there had been a 60% increase of
the romantics to divorce the materialistics numbers had increased five
Fifteen Year Mark
When the final numbers came in I was dumfounded, and in awe of Doctor
Montalvo’s remarkable, almost psychic ability to nail his predictions.
Eighty one percent of the group that said they would gladly upgrade were
now divorced while their apparently overly romantic counterparts enjoyed
a 78% martial success rate! The only question that I had now was why?
‘The answer is quite simple,’ said Dr. Frank Montalvo. ‘There are a great
many of us, to put it bluntly that don’t like ourselves. They use the
trappings of success as a cloak to disguise this disdain that they have to
try to make themselves feel better. Selfishness is another reason.
People that are always asking what’s in it for me with little regard for
others, tend to make a poor mate.’
Finally, we have found that if a person is hard-wired to up-grade their ring
for a bigger and better one; their car for a bigger and better one; their
house for a bigger and better one; it is not too much of a reach to see that
if a bigger or better mate comes along they won’t think twice about trading
him or her in either!
Interestingly, as the years went by each of the participants were asked if
they would reconsider their original decision. By the 15th year 79.1% of
the romantics who said they would never consider trading in their original
diamond had actually now reconsidered. While their emotional
attachment towards their original rock was still quite high, they felt that it
no longer represented who they were now. Many of them opted for new
mountings (platinum settings) and others traded in the whole thing. (Half
of the 79.1% kept and retired their old ring to be passed down to the next
generation while the other half waved it goodbye.)
It appeared there was not an actual connection between trading in or
upgrading the original ring. It was the initial belief that they could see
themselves easily trading in the ring from the beginning that turned out to
be the fly in the ointment. In other words, it signaled a lack of
The final head scratcher I pondered is, of the 22% of the original
romantics that ended up in divorce, 97.4% never wavered on their original
answer. Is it possible that a bride or groom that was unwilling to change
their attitudes ended up stagnating in their relationship because they tried
to hold on so desperately to that original love without allowing it to grow
and mature? I don’t have all the answers. But what I can tell you is this.
In the end those that anticipated a change and those that refused to
change ended up in the same place. Back where they started.