Engaged couples spend endless amounts of time planning for their special day. In the excitement of wedding showers, choosing the flowers and the cake, and finding the perfect dress, some wonder if they can make it work. They don't necessarily question their love for each other, although some actually do. It’s more about wondering if they can defy the odds of divorce.
Most scholars agree that couples marrying today face a substantial risk of divorce. Many couples, however, don’t realize that certain factors increase their risk.
“While there are academic arguments about how great the average risk is, there is a lot less argument among scholars about the relative risks,” says Dr. Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Relationships at the University of Denver. “Some people face a higher risk of divorce and others a very low risk. What follows is not an exhaustive list, but it will hit the highlights.”
Individual Characteristics Linked with Higher Rates of Divorce:
- Marrying at a young age (younger than 22)
- Getting less education
- Having parents who divorced or never married
- Being a more reactive personality to stress and emotion
- Having a prior marriage that ended
- Prior to marrying, having sex with or cohabiting with someone other than your mate
- Having a very low income or being in poverty
“While some people face a higher risk of divorce than others, many people who have a very low risk nevertheless worry about divorce happening to them,” Stanley asserts. “Some people avoid marriage because of their fear of divorce, but avoiding marriage won’t really reduce one’s chances of experiencing heartache and family instability.
"To really avoid the possibility of such pain, one would need to avoid love, sex and children altogether. For some, avoiding marriage may actually increase their likelihood of experiencing the very thing they fear—heartache and break-up—because marriage can be a potent force for clarifying and reinforcing commitment between two people.”
Stanley contends that BEFORE MARRIAGE is when you have the most power to affect your eventual likelihood of divorce. He suggests the following 7 tips as you proceed.
- Take it slow. Waiting allows you to see a person’s behavior over time versus a snapshot in time.
- Don’t ignore red flags. Bad behavior will likely not get better once you walk the aisle.
- Look for someone who shares your beliefs and values. Chemistry is great, but it is not the binding glue in a relationship. Love does not conquer all.
- Look for mutual dedication to the relationship. Both people should be willing to make sacrifices.
- Establish mutual commitment to be together. Avoid sliding into staying in a relationship because of constraints such as signing a rent agreement or purchasing furniture together.
- Get premarital training. There is solid evidence that completing premarital preparation together can improve your odds in marriage.
- Be realistic about potential mates. There are no perfect people, but two imperfect people can walk the road together and be transformed by a life of loving commitment.
“Marriage involves a choice to risk loving another for life, but that is different from gambling with your love life,” Stanley says. “Just make sure you are deciding rather than sliding your way into your future.”