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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"What makes for a stable marriage?"

A friend sent this article the other day, about the factors which predict whether a marriage will last.

One factor is how long you were dating before the marriage. Unsurprisingly, the longer you dated, the less likely you are to divorce.

Another factor is how much money you make. The more (up to a level of $125,000+ a year), the less likely the marriage is to end up in divorce.

The frequency with which you go to church is a little more complicated. People who attend "sometimes" are 10% more likely to get divorced than those who never go, but those who attend "regularly" are 46% less likely.

Your attitude toward your spouse is also important: men who care more about their wive's looks are more likely to end up divorced, and women who care more about how much money their husband makes are more likely to as well. I have to wonder how they measured this. I would think the majority of wives would care about what kind of provider their husband would be, and the overwhelming majority of men care about what their wives looked like.

The number of people who attended the wedding is also a factor: the more who attend, the less likely a divorce. But here's a surprise: the more you spend on your wedding, the more likely a divorce. (One would think there would be a positive correlation between the number of guests and the cost of the wedding. One would also think there'd be a correlation between income -- a positive indicator -- and the cost of the wedding.)

Couples who had honeymoons are less likely to divorce. (That's probably correlated with how much money there is.)

In any case, all those factors are interesting, but I can think of several more which should have a stronger impact.

The greater the difference between the spouses' IQ's, the more likely a divorce. One will feel bored and disgusted, the other condescended to and resentful.

The frequency of sex, both early on and later, must correlate. My guess, couples who has sex frequently early on are slightly more likely to remain together. (But if sex is all that the marriage is about, that could have a negative correlation with stability.) But I would think the far stronger correlation would be with couples who continue to have regular sex past the ten year mark: they are more likely to remain together since it means they can still stand each other.

I would think the age at which the partners married would have a lot to do with it: couples who marry early, in their impetuous youths, would seem more likely to grow apart as they age and (theoretically) mature.

The number of children in the family must have an extremely strong effect on the stability of a marriage. When was the last time you heard of a couple with six children getting divorced?

The existence of a mental disorder must also have an extremely strong negative impact. It's very hard being married to a sociopath, or someone who's bipolar, or has borderline disorder. I've heard that 80% of marriages where one partner has Aspergers end in divorce, though I can't confirm that. And even the presence of a garden variety narcissist must the marriage difficult for the partner: it's hard being married to someone who will never, ever admit he's wrong.

I would think the strongest negative indicator must be the existence of a prenup, which presupposes that the marriage was more rental than purchase, right from the start.


Anonymous said...

John, I sometimes wonder if delaying the start of a family is a factor, too. Being alone as a couple for a while and adjusting to married life without the pressure of a baby allows the relationship to develop -- not to mention that it also provides an opportunity to see if the relationship really works. When a woman is eager to start a family right away and her husband is not, it puts a lot of pressure on the man and I think creates a lot of resentment, which continues to build. It is very important to be in sync about expectations for the number of children and apx. when to have them. It's amazing the number of people who make assumptions about this issue before marriage, failing to discuss it openly and directly, or assuming that once they are married their spouse will come to see things as they do. Julie

John Craig said...

Julie --
I agree with everything you said. Your opinion about having a few years before children is similar to what the survey said about the stability of a marriage being correlated with a longer dating period.

And yes, the number of children should be discussed beforehand, along with a number of other things.

One of the things we all learn in marriage is that nobody ever changes, and thinking you're going to change someone -- no matter how misguided they may be -- leads only to frustration.

Pavonine99 said...

Another possible factor-introversion vs. extroversion. I'm sure two mature individuals with different social needs could get along very well, but in my experience if one partner is significantly more introverted or extroverted than the other, it's more likely that the relationship will fail.

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
That makes sense. One wants to chat, the other wants to be left alone. One wants to see friends, the other would prefer to stay in.

Glen Filthie said...

I think it is like any other long term investment, John. Marriages take hard work and commitment up front and pay off later in life. Contrary to the liberals and their alternative family units - traditional marriage is still the best deal out there for men and women. You can split labour, pool resources and play to your strengths and weaknesses as a team.
Marriage is just one more facet of the loss of character going on in North American society. Half of us are not saving for retirement. Half of us would be financially ruined if interest rates spiked. Obesity and sloth is rampant.
All success and marriage require is basic maturity - and a growing minority of us simply don't have it.

John Craig said...

Glen --
It's definitely hard work….I agree that most people don't pay enough attention to planning for their futures.