13 Predictors of a Happy Marriage: The Cracker Barrel Test

by Leigh Anderson
Originally Published: 
©anthony kelly/flickr

John and Julie Gottman, a husband-and-wife team of psychologists, have identified a set of behaviors that allow them to predict with remarkable accuracy whether a relationship will succeed or fail. But what if a quiz were widely available to the layman, administrable on the Internet, that would allow couples—especially couples intending to have children—to analyze the durability of their relationships?

In this spirit, I’ve constructed my own, totally unscientific, marriage predictability quiz.

1. What does “clean the kitchen” mean to you? Does it include wiping the counters and mopping the floor? Does it include rinsing out the sink strainer? If you agree, +2 points. Disagree? -2.

2. A task: Cooperate to put a duvet cover on a duvet. Is someone going to do it the right way, which is defined as just shoving it in and sleeping under the ensuing lump, or is someone going to insist on a complicated starting-with-an-inside-out cover first and then a flip maneuver which never ever works, and then you sleep under the ensuing lump? Check in with your body and your breath: Are you sweating and mildly irritable? If sweating and mildly irritable, -2.

3. Say the following sentence: “Honey, did you mean to leave the burner on?” What is your subtext—is it just a friendly question? Or is it an indictment for being a shiftless moron who’s never accomplished anything? There’s no “one size fits all” answer here; it’s just important that you find what works for you as a couple.

4. Do you have weird squabbles like “Is couscous a grain, or is it a very tiny piece of rice?” And when one of you says, “who would bother to mill rice smaller, that doesn’t make any sense,” does the other double down on the tiny-rice theory? Look, there are people in this world who will drag you into insane arguments where you are not living your best life. Don’t marry those people.9.

5. When you rent a Chevy Captiva for a long road trip, you will notice that the dashboard satellite system can be linked to one’s iPhone. Previous occupants of this car named their phones “Sebastian’s iPhone,” “Brett’s iPhone,” and “Vag vag.” Sebastian and Brett are long forgotten, but at regular intervals the dashboard will optimistically announce, “connecting to Vag vag,” followed by a plaintive “cannot connect to Vag vag.” Which one of you is going to try to dismantle the notification? When that proves impossible, are you going to be furious for the 20-hour road trip, or will you just stoically endure many sad updates about failure to connect to Vag vag? If you agree on this, +5.

6. When you are loading your family-of-four bags onto the luggage cart at the hotel, how many times are you going to say, “Man, we used to travel light, I can’t believe the amount of stuff we have”?

7. How many times are you going to say it.

8. How many times are you going to note that the luggage cart really should have more hooks.

9. When the toddler is throwing up in the backseat as you’re driving on a winding mountain road, and you’re kneeling backwards on the front seat trying to get a bucket in front of him, and the four-year-old says, “Who is Vag vag?” Are you going to freak out and smash the dashboard satellite system? Or will you just endure. Endure, +4, smash, -10.

10. How long are you going to drive around a random subdivision in Roanoke looking for a Panera, which is “healthy,” and one of you is, you know, trying to be healthy, before you give up and go to Cracker Barrel? Agree on an outer limit now.

11. When your toddler is banging Ye Olde Kerosene Lamp at Cracker Barrel on the table, which one of you is going to put a stop to it before the lamp smashes? This is a fun game of chicken. Fun games cement a relationship. +10.

12. When your toddler is freaking out in a Cracker Barrel and you try to lift him out of his high chair, but the Cracker Barrel high chair has an old-timey leather belt strap instead of the modern and quicker plastic clasp, which one of you is going to set fire to the restaurant?

13. Is Cracker Barrel good or not good? Don’t marry someone who has a different opinion.

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