I was in my late 20s and Jay was 30 when we decided to marry. Both of us are children of divorce. I also had a lot of debt from putting myself through college, and I loved Jay and totally thought he was “the one.” But, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t have some anxiety about what might happen to us in the future. I had heard the statistics about the chances of divorce and felt like we were entering into marriage with the odds stacked against us in some ways.
At the time, I worked in mental health care. I remember asking one of my colleagues if he would consider doing some premarital work with us. With eyebrows raised, he said, “What for? Are you having problems already?” Even Jay looked at me quizzically when I mentioned we should sit down with someone who could help us prepare for the journey.
I didn’t know it then, but although we had risk factors for divorce, we actually had a lot more going for us than against us.
Experts studying marriage and divorce through the years found there are some factors that significantly decrease your chances of divorce. For example:
- Those who marry after age 18 have a 24 percent reduced risk of divorce.
- Only 27 percent of college graduates will divorce by middle age.
- Having still-married parents reduces divorce risk by 14 percent.
- Having a combined income of $50,000 or more is associated with a 30 percent lower divorce risk.
- Those with a strong shared faith who attend services regularly are 47 percent less likely to divorce.
- Couples who participate in premarital preparation are generally up to 30 percent less likely to divorce.
- Having one’s first child after marriage can reduce one’s divorce risk by 24 to 66 percent.
There are some factors that place couples at higher risk for divorce. For instance:
- Couples who disagree on whether or not to have children are at considerably higher risk of divorce.
- Being previously divorced markedly increases one’s risk for divorce.
- Having divorced parents.
Looking back over our 27 years of marriage, neither one of us would say it has been challenge-free. From raising a precocious, strong-willed child to brain surgery, job transitions, death of parents, financial concerns and more, the struggle is real. But, realizing that we’ve endured all of those things together has made us stronger.
If you asked us how we did it, we would say that the premarital preparation definitely helped us look at our potential areas of risk and talk about them instead of putting our heads in the sand. That was a good thing.
Our faith has certainly played a role. Surrounding ourselves with people who believed in our marriage has been helpful. Honestly, choosing intentionality and commitment to the relationship has also been huge. It gives us freedom to be angry, scared, sad, or hurt, and to know that our married is a safe place where we can be real with each other. That makes all the difference.
This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 29, 2017.