divorce and science

The best time to get married is when you feel ready, and when you’ve found someone you think you can spend a lifetime with. Don’t force anything — or put it off — because a study told you to do so.  There are many criteria that  go into getting divorced.

That said, research does suggest that couples who marry in their teens and couples who marry in their mid-30s or later are at greater risk for divorce than couples in their late 20s and early 30s. The risk is especially high for teenage couples.

When the researcher, Alexandra Killewald, looked at heterosexual marriages that began after 1975, she learned that couples in which the husband didn’t have a full-time job had a 3.3% chance of divorcing the following year, compared to 2.5% 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 can affect marital stability.

 It doesn’t seem fair that couples who spend more time in school are less likely to get divorced. But that’s what the research suggests.

“The chance of a marriage ending in divorce was lower for people with more education, with over half of marriages of those who did not complete high school having ended in divorce compared with approximately 30 percent of marriages of college graduates.”

It may have to do with the fact that lower educational attainment predicts lower income — which in turn predicts a more stressful life.

“What I think is going on is it’s really difficult to have a productive, happy marriage when your life circumstances are so stressful and when your day-to-day life involves, say three or four bus routes in order to get to your job.”

John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington and the founder of the Gottman Institute, calls certain relationship behaviors the “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” That’s because they predict divorce with scary-high accuracy:

  1. Contempt: Seeing your partner as beneath you. (Gottman calls this behavior the “kiss of death” for a relationship.)
  2. Criticism: Turning a behavior into a statement about your partner’s character.
  3. Defensiveness: Playing the victim during difficult situations.
  4. Stonewalling: Blocking off conversation

If you’re not inclined to hug and kiss and hold hands as newlyweds, that might be a problem. But if you practically have to be pulled apart, well, that might be a problem, too.

Psychologist Ted Huston followed 168 couples for 13 years — from their wedding day onward. Huston and his team conducted multiple interviews with the couples throughout the study.

“As newlyweds, the couples who divorced after 7 or more years were almost giddily affectionate, displaying about one third more affection than did spouses who were later happily married.”

“[C]ouples whose marriages begin in romantic bliss are particularly divorce-prone because such intensity is too hard to maintain. Believe it or not, marriages that start out with less ‘Hollywood romance’ usually have more promising futures.”

 When your partner tries to talk to you about something tough, do you shut down? If so (or if your partner is guilty of that behavior), that’s not a great sign.

A 2013 study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, found that husbands’ “withdrawal” behaviors predicted higher divorce rates. This conclusion was based on the researchers’ interviews with about 350 newlywed couples living in Michigan.