Determining Your Risk of Divorce

divorced-couple-001I wrote a blog last year on the “Four Horsemen of Marital Doom” — and I think it’s still sound, and it deals  with behaviors that lead couples to a higher risk of divorce.  But there is another aspect:  Risk factors that are socio-demographic and other circumstantial predictors of divorce.

1. You are married to someone who is bipolar.

Bipolar divorce occurs in an alarming 90 percent of marriages in which one partner is suffering from bipolar disorder. The most obvious reason for this disintegration is the substantial social morbidity that results from the bipolar individuals maladaptive behavior. Serious social drawbacks associated with reckless behavior like abuse of alcohol or drugs, accidents from excessive risk taking, financial burden from over spending, inability to remain gainfully employed have the potential to unravel even the most loving of relationships.  And I’ve seen this one — the best friend of my wife is married to a bi-polar man. His erratic behavior is almost beyond belief.  They are in the process of divorce. If you think you are involved with someone bi-polar, RUN DO NOT WALK to the nearest exit.  And if you are already married, don’t make children with them.  You’ll be sorry if you do.

2. You married when you were teenagers.

Study after study shows that age at marriage is one of the most powerful and consistent predictors of marital stability. . If a couple is younger than 20 years old, the chance of divorce also increases 24 percent, as compared to those who marry at a later age.

3.  You lived together before you were married.

This one is counter intuitive to most people because they assume that living together will increase the quality of their marriage. However study after study is showing that that divorce rates are constantly higher for those who live together before they are married.  A lot of people find this puzzling, but  the statistic is true for a good reason — people that live together tend to take commitments less seriously that those that wait for marriage. They are more likely to run at the first sign of trouble in a marriage.

4. Your parents were divorced.

If you are your spouse come from a divorced family you are more likely to get a divorce. However if one of you comes from a home where there was a good marriage model then these risks actually go down.

5. You get pregnant before you are married.

The good news is that couples with children actually have lower divorce rates however, if their child is born seven months or before they are married then their risk for divorce actually goes up.

6.  You haven’t been married very long.

Most divorces happen early, often in the first year and about half by year 7. It makes sense to stick it out and let your marriage have a chance.

7. You make less than $25,000 a year.

Issues around money are some of the most common and deadly to marriages.  Those that make below $25K a year have a 30% increased risk of divorce than those who make more than that.

8.  There’s a wide age gap.

Wide age gaps (5 years or more) between spouses can create sexual discord and other disagreements. And if the woman is older, there is a statistically higher rate of divorce compared to those where the man is 2-3 years older.

9.  You or your Partner Has Lower Intelligence.

If both partners have an IQ higher than 130, they have a lower rate of divorce

10.  One or both partners were previously divorced.

67% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.  This occurs because sometimes people go to the next marriage without sufficient time to really learn the lessons from the previous marriage. In addition, they also are likely to take commitment less seriously and see divorce not so much as a tragedy than those who have never divorced.

11.  You have a personality that makes divorce more likely.

If there are commonalities to divorcing couples, might there be common personality traits? Brian D’Onofrio, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, thinks so. He conducted research on twins to understand whether genetic factors might play a part in divorce. He found that issues like depression and addiction, which can be genetically predisposed, may be issues that are more likely to cause divorce.  He said there are no specific “divorce genes.” He researches personality traits that might lead to divorce. He looks at twins to understand the differences between genetic and environmental effects. “When we talk about genetic factors on any complex behaviors, we are talking about how genetic factors affect personality factors or behaviors that then go on to affect divorce,”  D’Onofrio said.

He said it has long been accepted that one particular personality trait makes it more likely for one to experience divorce: people who respond negatively to life events. “We’ve known from numerous psychological and sociological studies that people who are more likely to respond to stressful events negatively, that they are more likely to get divorced,” D’Onofrio said.

Which means that people who worry a lot, get stressed out quickly and easily, get overly upset when bad things happen, are more likely to have failed relationships, he said. That trait seems to have a strong bearing on how partners relate to each other, he said.

In many of these situations, he said, the key to trying to save the relationship is finding some kind of help or treatment. “We always encourage people who are going through difficult times in ther marriage from marital counseling,” D’Onofrio said. “Sometimes I think people wait to long to get the help that they need.”

Infidelity and Divorce:

Of course some of my readers are saying, “hey, isn’t Infidelity a big predictor of divorce?”  Yes and no.

Here’s the rub:  The problem with trying to collect data on rates of divorce for adultery and infidelity is that adultery is usually considered a symptom that the marriage is not working, rather than the main reason the marriage ended. In a situation where one spouse was unhappy for some time before starting a new relationship, it’s hard to truly tell if the affair is the sole reason for the divorce.  Another difficulty with getting accurate information about the numbers of people who are committing adultery is that not everyone is going to respond to a survey question honestly. The answer a person gives may depend on the way a particular question is worded.

For example, if the word “adultery” is taken literally, meaning consensual sexual intercourse needs to occur to fit the definition, other forms of intimate contact (kissing, fondling, etc.) are not included in the person’s answer. Therefore, a married man or woman could have engaged in questionable behavior with another person and still answer the question, “Have you ever committed adultery?” with a “No” and be telling the truth.

And if I am to believe other surveys, most affairs are never discovered.  Maybe less than 20%.  And some of these couples go on, and some get divorced (for whatever reason). So it’s difficult to quantify the ’cause and effect’ of adultery on the divorce rate for this and other reasons already discussed. That being said, when an affair is discovered or disclosed, it would appear that the divorce rate hovers around 70%.

In conclusion, demographics do not hold as fast and firm rules. Some people overcome the odds.  And there is no way to quantify the risk if your marriage has, let’s say, 3 or more of these factors.  And yes, there are other demographic factors — depending on which country you live in, you will a lower or higher divorce rate. If one partner is a smoker, the divorce rate is higher.  There are different racial divorce rates, depending on where you live.  But in general, the ones above are the biggies and the ones that seem to be most universal.

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