About 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce. This statistic can make marriage seem like a bad gamble with a high probability of failure. But are the statistics really that cut-and-dried? Is there anything you can do to make marriage less risky?
In Las Vegas, the odds are heavily in the favor of the casinos. Yet people pour billions of dollars into the industry every year. Regardless of how skilled at gambling you are, your chances of winning are relatively slim. Compared to a little ball randomly slamming around a roulette wheel (a 5 to 8 percent shot at winning), a 50 percent chance starts to look pretty good.
So why do we have such confidence in our ability to beat the odds in Vegas and so little confidence in our ability to beat the odds when it comes to divorce? You aren’t totally at the mercy of fate when it comes to marriage. You aren’t even wholly at the mercy of your partner — although his or her conduct definitely influences the viability of the marriage. (You can’t force someone to love you or stay with you).
However, you have much more control over the outcome of your marriage than you do over many situations.
Moreover, the 50 percent divorce rate figure is misleading: Not everyone has the same probability of divorce. Some people have only about a 30 percent chance of divorce; others have a considerably greater risk. This statistical discrepancy isn’t simply due to good luck or compatible astrological signs. Rather, there are some concrete variables that influence a person’s prospects when it comes to staying married. Below are several ways to stack the odds in your favor:
Lowering Your Risk of Divorce
Wait until your mid-20s or so to marry
Marrying young can substantially increase the possibility of getting divorced. If you don’t think you can wait until age 25 or older to marry, postponing marriage even a few years can help. (It’s not a rigid cut-off point — it’s more of a sliding scale.) Delaying marriage beyond your late 20s, however, does not statistically enhance your likelihood of preventing divorce.
Be aware of broken family dynamics and marriage mindsets
You are not doomed to repeat your parent’s mistakes. However, children of divorce are more likely to divorce. Negative relationship patterns modeled for you in childhood can seep into your adult relationships. Commit to understanding any unhealthy expectations or interactions demonstrated by your parents. Then work to mold your own relationship dynamics into something more positive.
Don’t live together without a clear commitment to marry in the future
Giving marriage a “trial run” by living together first may seem like the smart thing to do. But cohabitation — especially without first making a commitment to marry — can actually hurt your chances of staying married once you do tie the knot.
Have a healthy (but not crippling) caution
Many Americans have swung too far in terms of their pessimism about marriage — so much so that they won’t even give marriage a chance. But it is also dangerous to be too cocky about your ability to sustain a marriage. A certain amount of caution is wise and can help you enter marriage with greater confidence, knowing that you didn’t make a hasty decision.
Try premarital counseling
The phrase “premarital counseling” doesn’t sound fun. But premarital counseling can reduce your likelihood of divorce by 30 percent. So if you are serious about making your marriage work, premarital counseling is definitely worth consideration. And you'll likely get to know your partner better through this experience.
Understand that second marriages have even worse odds
Many people see divorce as the solution to their relationship problems. That is to say, they see their spouse as the main source of the problem. However, second marriages (and third, and so on) carry even higher risk of divorce (60 percent and up). Clearly, a new spouse doesn’t always resolve the situation. History has a way of repeating itself unless we make a conscious effort to break old cycles. Addressing your own issues is a prerequisite to not recreating the same mistakes.
Money can’t buy happiness, but…
An annual income of $50,000 (versus $25,000) can drop your risk of divorce by 30 percent. Higher income is often tied to higher education levels, so try to get your college degree before you wed. Even some college can help. Individuals with some college reduce their risk of divorce by 13 percent compared to high school dropouts.
One other critical factor for improving your marital outcome should be mentioned: determination. Even if you married under every conceivable risk factor for divorce, you can still beat the odds — if you work hard to do so. It will require the commitment of both you and your spouse, but statistical averages are just that: averages. They are not true for every couple, particularly couples who work to keep their relationship healthy and uphold their vows to each other.