In the US and Australia, the divorce rate has been steadily declining since the 1980s.
That’s quite a surprise to me in this ever increasing self absorbed world we’re living in.
However, the latest research reported in The New York Times suggests about one-third of current marriages will end in divorce — not the 50 per cent statistic that gets thrown around time and time again. Unfortunately, that means there’s still a decent chance you and your partner will split up, even after pledging lifelong devotion to each other. That idea leaves room for a lot of questions:
What makes a divorce more likely? What will happen to our kids if we do split up? What will happen to my health? To help address some of these queries, let’s take a look at the relevant research on the predictors and consequences of marriage failure.
Before we start have you ever wondered about whether the stress and expense of putting on a lavish wedding has on the long term outcome of a marriage? According to the researchers: “As compared with spending between $6000 and $15,000 on the wedding, spending less than $1500 is associated with half the hazard of divorce in the sample of men, and spending $25,000 or more is associated with 1.6 times the hazard of divorce in the sample of women.”
Remember that full blown wedding of Salim Mehajer?
All the bells and whistles didn’t stop that marriage ending acrimoniously.
Now before we begin keep in mind that all these studies mentioned below offer general takeaways about modern relationships — no one can predict with 100 per cent accuracy what will happen to yours.
1. You are less likely to divorce if you marry in your late 20s
Research led by Nicholas Wolfinger, a professor at the University of Utah, found that contrary to a long-held belief, waiting longer to wed doesn’t necessarily predict a stronger marriage.
Instead, the best time to marry seems to be between the early 20s and early 30s. If you wait until you’re older than 32, your chances of divorce start to creep up (though they’re still not as high as if you get married in your teens).
As Wolfinger writes on the Institute for Family Studies blog, “For almost everyone, the late twenties seems to be the best time to tie the knot.”
2. You are most likely to divorce in after a major holiday period
2016 research presented at the American Sociological Association found that post major holidays bring spikes in divorce applications.
In the paper, they suggest that holidays represent something like “optimism cycles” — we see them as a chance to start anew in our relationships, only to find that the same problems exist once they’re over. The researchers also suspect that oftentimes our holiday experiences can be stressful and disappointing, laying bare the real issues in our marriage. As soon as they’re over, we’re ready to call it quits.
3. Husbands who work less may be more likely to divorce
Well who would of thought that less work would result is marriage unhappiness.
However, a recent Harvard study couples suggests that it’s not a couple’s finances that affect their chances of divorce, but rather the division of labour.
When the researcher looked at heterosexual marriages that began after 1975, she learnt that couples in which the husband didn’t have a full-time job had a 3.3 per cent chance of divorcing the following year, compared with 2.5 per cent among couples in which the husband did have a full-time job.
Wives’ employment status, however, didn’t much affect the couple’s chances of divorce.
The researcher concludes that the male breadwinner stereotype is still very much alive, and important for marital stability.
4. The myth that women who have had more sexual partners are more likely to divorce
Wolfinger conducted another analysis that found, among heterosexual couples who married in the 2000s, women who had between three and nine sexual partners were in fact less likely to divorce than women who’d had two partners (their husband and one other person).
Women who had at least 10 partners were most likely to divorce.
Meanwhile, among heterosexual couples who married in the 1980s and 1990s, women who had two or three sexual partners were more likely to get divorced than were virgins or women who had at least 10 sexual partners.
In a statement, Wolfinger distilled the lessons from this research: “If you’re going to have comparisons to your [future] husband, it’s best to have more than one.”
5. Couples closer in age are less likely to divorce
One study found that the odds of divorce among heterosexual couples increase with the age gap between the spouses.
As Megan Garber reported at The Atlantic: “A one-year discrepancy in a couple’s ages, the study found, makes them 3 per cent more likely to divorce (when compared to their same-aged counterparts); a 5-year difference, however, makes them 18 per cent more likely to split up. And a 10-year difference makes them 39 per cent more likely.”
6. Lavish weddings may predict less successful marriages
Well as previously mentioned, it ain’t the size of your cake that makes a marriage work.
In fact, spending a lot on your wedding doesn’t necessarily bode well for the marriage itself.
According to the researchers: “As compared with spending between $6500 and $15,000 on the wedding, spending less than $1500 is associated with half the hazard of divorce in the sample of men, and spending $25,000
or more is associated with 1.6 times the hazard of divorce in the sample of women.”
At the same time, the study found that having a lot of guests at your wedding predicts lower odds of divorce. My Thai friends will certainly be relieved to know that, where less than 100 guests is seen as odd. Couples with 200 or more invitees are 92 per cent less likely to divorce than couples who don’t invite anyone, The Atlantic reported.
So a simple wedding with lots of friends seems to be the perfect combo!
A pity dear Salim couldn’t work that out.
7. Divorce may contribute to heart problems in women
Recent research suggests that women who get divorced are more likely to suffer a heart attack than women who stay married.
As Time‘s Alice Park reported: “Women who divorced at least once were 24 per cent more likely to experience a heart attack compared to women who remained married, and those divorcing two or more times saw their risk jump to 77 per cent.”
For men, however, the chances of suffering a heart attack only went up if they divorced two or more times.
8. Divorce itself might not have a negative impact on kids
Instead, as Rebecca Harrington reported at Tech Insider, it seems to be conflict between parents that takes a toll on their children.
In fact, in one recent study, children whose parents fought a lot and then divorced were less likely to get divorced as adults than children whose parents fought a lot and didn’t get divorced. The researchers say that’s possibly because the divorce put a kind of end to the ongoing family conflict.
9. Couples who display contempt are more likely to divorce
Well I guess this is certainly stating the obvious but there are studies to prove it.
Relationship expert John Gottman’s research, which suggests that contempt — a mix of anger and disgust that involves seeing your partner as beneath you — is a key predictor of divorce.
It’s not simply getting into a fight; it’s how you respond to your partner afterwards: Do you try to see things from their perspective or just assume they’re an idiot?
If it’s the latter, try replacing the behaviour with a more positive, patient reaction. It could save your marriage.
Don’t forget to check out all our free legal resources on family law HERE.
[With thanks to Business Insider for some content contribution]