What Research Tells Us About Divorce
Every marriage is unique. It would be untrue to say that there's one specific factor in your relationship that will doom you to inevitable divorce, just as there's not another factor that ensures your happy union stays forever happy.
However, decades of research in the field have indicated certain trends that can provide some insight into the success of any marriage.
How age affects divorce rates
The age at which you get married is a significant predictor of your likelihood of staying together.
Unsurprisingly, one of the best ways to reduce your risk of divorce is to wait until you're past your teenage years. Data from 2006 to 2010 found a 32 percent chance of divorce for teen marriages. The divorce rate decreases to a low of 14 percent for people who wed between ages 30 and 34. After age 34, the chance of divorce jumps back up to 19 percent.
Other studies have shown that before age 32, each extra year you wait to get married lowers your risk of divorce by 11 percent. Divorce rates level off around 32, but the chance of divorce then goes up by 5 percent per year of age at marriage.
For most people, waiting until your late 20s or early 30s provides the best chance of staying together. Your peers may also be getting married around this time, reinforcing your decision and supporting a more marriage-friendly social life.
However, holding off until you're too settled can make it difficult to adjust to the compromises necessary in a successful marriage. It's possible that after age 34, people get too comfortable living on their own. Trying to merge lives with another person is more of a challenge than it may have been a few years earlier when your lifestyle was more flexible.
Another issue you'll have if you don't want to marry until later in life is that the dating pool can be limited as potential mates have already paired off. The desire to join others in the newlywed club can prompt you to accept a less than ideally compatible match, and that's far from a satisfactory way to start a marriage.
Divorce and education level
By age 32, you're likely settled into a career and starting to build financial stability, which reduces the strain of money troubles in marriage. If a couple got married before age 20, it is likely that further education may drop off around the same time. Couples who wed after their mid-20s are more likely to have completed some higher education, and that's an independent marker of marriage longevity.
College-educated men and women remain in their marriages longer compared to their less-educated counterparts. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 78 percent of women with a bachelor's degree can anticipate a 20-year marriage minimum. In contrast, only 40 percent of women with a high school education or less can expect the same.
This trend is also true for men, but the difference isn't as stark. Men with a bachelor's degree or higher have a 65 percent chance of a 20-year marriage or longer, compared to 50 percent for high school grads. In addition, higher-educated men marry more often than less-educated men.
Avoid becoming a divorce statistic
The good news is that most couples who get married don't get divorced. It's essential to go into any new endeavor—including marriage—with a positive outlook. The assumptions about why certain factors increase the chances of divorce are based mostly on conjecture. Statistics can point us toward making assumptions, but every love story is unique.
Marriage takes work, especially if you want it to last a lifetime. Learning to fight fairly, overcoming challenges as a team and communicating effectively are skills that don't always come naturally. If you feel like your marriage is heading toward difficulties—or even if you just want to improve your relationship's quality and strength—seek couples counseling for tools and support to help turn the situation around.