What’s the sitch with farting in relationships?
There are few actions both as ubiquitous and as controversial as farting. The uncomfortable truth is, everyone farts. But not everyone has agreed upon the appropriate reaction when one ‘happens’ in their vicinity.
Responses range from nonchalance to embarrassment, laughter to disgust, depending on a variety of factors, including the acoustic volume, scent severity, and geographic proximity. Perhaps the most important variable influencing the reaction to a nearby fart is one’s relationship with the suspected flatulator.
A young mother on a crowded elevator will react differently to an audible triple-brap coming from her swaddled newborn as compared to one leaking from her grinning husband, regardless of each fart’s rotten-egg-index score. An adolescent male won’t react the same to his best friend silently spraying stink (with a proud admission of guilt) as he will to his elderly grandmother doing so at the dinner table.
We here at whatsthesitch.com are particularly fascinated by fart-responses within committed relationships. Our research and development team has spent much of the past five years observing the flatulence patterns of over 400 couples, with a particular focus on the spontaneous reactions following one another’s toots. During the study, we collected an array of data, including the basic characteristics of each episode (decibels, stench, etc.), video recordings of the facial changes throughout each episode, as well as post-episode surveys to assess emotional response.
Some of the couples were enrolled in the study just prior to their first date, in order to capture flatulence response data at the earliest stages of a romance. Others were enrolled at random time points into a relationship, with the aim to gather a broad chronology of data. A significant number of individuals were studied during multiple relationships, as one ended and another began. Because of the longitudinal nature of our study design, we were able to observe flatulence response variation through the entire courtship process, from first date to marriage, as well as through the difficult breakup process (whether said separation was due to flatulence or not).
We found well-conserved differences in fart-reaction trends between those relationships with positive outcomes and those relationships that didn’t last. There were also interesting themes observed in the fart-reactions of those who have divorced but stayed in close contact, most often due to shared custody of children (whose farts we also recorded).
While our full manuscript has been accepted for publication in late 2017 by the prestigious Journal of North American Flatuler Studies (JNAFS), we felt some of the general findings were too important to keep from the public during the intervening time. What follows is a broad, qualitative categorization of fart-response stages over the course of a committed relationship. We pooled results into different time periods based on patterns that emerged during data analysis.
It should be noted, these preliminary insights are made only from analysis of the ‘male farting in front of a female’ data, for simplicity’s sake, and because we found this was significantly more likely to be the direction of gas exchange. But our full study did include data on male responses to female farts, as well as on same-sex couple fart responses. We also chose to exclude breakup and divorce results at this time because the gas trends surrounding those events are highly complex, and will require lengthy analysis using powerful modeling software.
First date: There was quite a bit of variability in reactions to audible farts on first dates. That said, fartees were more likely than not to endorse feelings of dislike or disgust toward the farter, even though positive reactions were observed sporadically. On average, relationships lasted significantly longer when first date farts were kept inaudible.
Early Compatibility (2 weeks to 2 months): At this juncture, both members of a relationship are assessing the baseline level of interest from their counterpart. This is a complex calculation that generally includes the perceived amount of effort invested from the partner. With this in mind, high-decibel farts were not appreciated during this Early Compatibility Interval. Post-fart surveys showed many women felt unrestrained flatulence at this stage in a courtship indicates disinterest from the man.
Sustained Compatibility (2 months to 1 year): In the Sustained Compatibility Interval, baseline attraction to one another has been established, and levels of comfort within a relationship are generally increasing. It is in this period that we observed a large spike in Primary Audible Flatulence Episodes (PAFEs) in couples that had not yet recorded a first fart experience. In couples where the PAFE was delayed until this Sustained Compatibility period, there were remarkably low levels of disgust-only reactions.
Persistent Compatibility (1 year to 3 years): Having maintained a romantic relationship for more than one year, we hypothesized that rates of Close Proximity Flatulence Episodes (CPFEs) would stabilize during this Persistent Compatibility Interval. Interestingly, across all types of relationships, we observed an increased concentration of CPFEs during this interval, as well as an increased rate of change. The frequency of CPFEs had not tapered to a natural baseline after one year; it was reaching the maximum slope on a logistic curve. This suggests many men have a lot of gas, and that they only begin to release truly significant volumes after approximately one year in a committed relationship.
Cultural Steady-State (3 years and beyond): While we did observe the eventual stabilization in CPFE rate that we had hypothesized, we also noticed more subtle changes taking place during this Cultural Steady-State Interval. Flatuler decibel levels increased significantly, and average distance from partner during episodes decreased. We also saw a dramatic increase in “Dutch Oven,” incidents. These changes were met with a mild to moderate increase in levels of annoyance from women partners, as well as a significant decrease in humor on the response index.
Engagement: While this interval could take place at any point chronologically in a relationship, we observed interesting fart-responses features during the period between asking for marriage and the wedding itself. There was a sharp decline in almost all gas metrics, including CPFE rate, average episodic proximity, and flatuler decibel levels. We did notice a small but significant increase in median stench intensity, which we attributed to longer periods of gas retention, though increased stress, celebratory feasting, and the well-described “bachelor party effect,” may also contribute.
Wedding: Remarkably, we were only able to record one episode of close-proximity flatulence across the more than 50 weddings that occurred during our study. Unfortunately, that marriage ended soon after, but we hesitate to draw any conclusions from this individual outcome.
Marriage Equilibrium (1 year anniversary and beyond): By this point, overall CPFE rates and characteristics stabilize, much like our data during the pre-marriage Cultural Steady-State Interval. Importantly, controlling for decibels, proximity and stench, reactions to farts were significantly more mellow in the one year post-marriage cohort.
Children: After having children, levels of ambivalence in post-fart surveys skyrocketed. We suspect couples have more important things to worry about during this interval. There was also an interesting increase in ‘female farting in front of a male’ episodes, with the two genders achieving near fart-rate-equality in couples with two or more children.
Natural Steady-State (20 year anniversary and beyond): Arguably our most novel findings, that we hope will push the field forward in exciting new directions, were observed in couples who had been married for 20 years or more, most of whom had all of their children out of the house. There were only 32 such couples enrolled, so our sample size was admittedly small, but we recorded remarkable flatulence behavior patterns in this cohort.
Firstly, we observed a final bump in some fart characteristics after a prolonged period without any significant change. Once again, decibel levels and average proximity increased, even though we thought these couples couldn’t fart any louder, or be any closer during said farts. Frequently, we found couples were actually in physical contact when episodes occurred.
But the truly fascinating observation in this cohort was the complete secession of emotional reaction to farts of any kind, even those of the high-decibel, strong-stench, close-proximity variety. This appears to represent the “Natural Steady-State” of social flatulence, the patterns of fart that would have occurred in our hominid ancestors, or as close to those patterns as can be observed in our modern society. These couples have seemingly extinguished culturally encoded reactive fart emotions, as well as the conscious component of fart retention.
Notably, in these couples, there continued to be sporadic jokes made about farts, though almost never with the aim to embarrass the one who, “dealt it.” This seemed to be important to maintaining overall relationship morale. We believe, based on our data, that the loss of emotional fart reactivity does not necessarily equate to an improvement in overall relationship happiness. As we all know, gas exchange has the ability to heal as well as to offend. Nearly 100% of the successful lifelong couples enrolled in our study found unique ways to keep flatulence funny, even after their unconscious reactions to each other’s farting faded with time.
Conclusion: We have thus far tried to avoid definitive guidelines for fart timing within a romantic relationship. Again, these are only preliminary results, and there is significant individual variability inherent to fart reactions. That said, we would like to offer one recommendation, based on our data, for how to proceed when you are both near your partner and have gas building up in your colon:
Honesty is the best policy… but it is never wrong to take a few steps away from your partner when you feel like being “honest.”