7 Scientific Ways You Can Predict Impending Divorce

Sometimes love lasts forever, and sometimes it doesn’t.

There’s no way to predict if the love between two people is going to last with a hundred percent certainty, but social scientists have figured a few ways that are getting pretty close. They do this by analyzing the characteristics of couples, the way they resolve conflict, and the way they describe each other. Social status, level of education, and financial status also play a role in either ending or prolonging a marriage.

According to the Business Insider, here are the 7 indicators of impending divorce.

1. Age of Spouses Greater Than 32 Or Less Than 20

Nicholas Wolfinger, a researcher and professor at the University of Utah, claims that his findings indicate that the best time to get married is in the late 20s and early 30s. Those who marry in their teens or past their early 30s have been found to have a greater risk for divorce, with the former having the worst odds.

He also found that after the age of 32, the couple’s chances of divorce increased by 5 percent every year.

As he wrote in a blog post for the Institute for Family Studies, “For almost everyone, the late twenties seems to be the best time to tie the knot.”

Another study in 2015, published in the journal of Economic Inquiry, found that the larger the age gap between spouses, the higher the risk of divorce.

Here’s what Megan Garber, a reporter at The Atlantic had to say: “A one-year discrepancy in a couple’s ages, the study found, makes them 3 percent more likely to divorce (when compared to their same-aged counterparts); a 5-year difference, however, makes them 18 percent more likely to split up. And a 10-year difference makes them 39 percent more likely.”

Having said all of that, you should not put off love or force it. You’re the only one who knows your relationship best!

2. The Male Partner Doesn’t Work Full-Time

A study at Harvard, published in the American Sociological Review of 2016, suggests that the actual division of labor between the couple matters even more than their combined finances. Researcher, Alexandra Killewald, looked at heterosexual marriages that began after 1975 and discovered that when the husband didn’t work full time the couple had a 3.3. percent chance of divorcing the following year, as opposed to 2.5 percent when he did have one.

On the other hand, the status of the wife’s employment did not really contribute to whether the couple stayed together or not. The researcher concluded that the stereotype of the male breadwinner is still alive and well, and can also affect the stability of one’s marriage!

3. Level of Education

Research suggests that those who have a higher level of education have a higher chance of staying married.

The website for the Bureau of Labor Statistics has a post that relates the results from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979), which studied marriage and divorce patterns of a group of young baby boomers. The post reads:

“The chance of a marriage ending in divorce was lower for people with more education, with over half of marriages of those who did not complete high school having ended in divorce compared with approximately 30 percent of marriages of college graduates.”

Researchers also speculate that this could be because a lower level of education indicates a lower income, which means a more stressful and financially unstable home.

Psychologist Eli Finkel conveyed her thoughts to Business Insider:

“What I think is going on is it’s really difficult to have a productive, happy marriage when your life circumstances are so stressful and when your day-to-day life involves, say three or four bus routes in order to get to your job.”

4. Contempt, Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling

John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington and the founder of the Gottman Institute, says that he’s found certain characteristics and behaviors in a relationship that are some of the best indicators of impending divorce. They are so accurate that he calls them the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”.

They are:

1. Contempt: Seeing yourself as better than your partner (Gottman describes this behavior as the “kiss of death” for a relationship.)
2. Criticism: Turning a mistake or action into a negative statement about your spouse’s character.
3. Defensiveness: Playing the victim in order to escape taking responsibility.
4. Stonewalling: Blocking communication.

Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin reports that these indicators weren’t just pulled out of thin air, it actually has significant backing in the form of studies and research. One such study was one that studied 79 couples living across the US Midwest over a 14 year time period, conducted by Gottman and Robert Levenson, a psychologist at the University of California-Berkeley.

5. Being Overly Lovey-Dovey As Newlyweds

Obviously, as newlyweds, you and your partner will feel more lovey-dovey and affectionate towards one another. But if you are so engrossed with each other that you can’t stand to be away for a few minutes, that might spell trouble!

Psychologist Ted Huston studied 168 couples for 13 year, conducting multiple interviews with the couples throughout the study, starting from the day of their marriage. He published his findings in the Journal of Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes in 2001 with one astonishing finding.

“As newlyweds, the couples who divorced after seven or more years were almost giddily affectionate, displaying about one third more affection than did spouses who were later happily married,” it read.

As Aviva Patz summed it up in Psychology Today: “[C]ouples whose marriages begin in romantic bliss are particularly divorce-prone because such intensity is too hard to maintain. Believe it or not, marriages that start out with less ‘Hollywood romance’ usually have more promising futures.”

6. Ineffective Conflict Management

Another sign that your marriage is heading for the dumps is if you or your partner shuts down when a problem arises, instead of talking about it and resolving it.

A study that was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in 2013 surveyed over 350 newlyweds living in Michigan. It reported that couples where the husband displayed “withdrawal” behaviors were more likely to end in divorce.

Another study conducted the following year was published in the Journal Communication Monographs, and it reported that couples who showed “demand/withdrawal” (one person pushing the other and receiving silence in return) had unhappy marriages.

The lead researcher of the study, Paul Schrodt of the Texas Christian University, says the pattern keeps repeating itself and is hard to break because both spouses are convinced that they are right. He says that its important for both parties to look at their own behavior and how it might be contributing to the issue, so that they can come up with better conflict resolution together.

7. How You Talk About Your Relationship

In 1992, Gottman and other researchers at the University of Washington asked couples to talk about different aspects of their relationship, in a procedure they called the “oral history interview”. By looking at the way the spouses tended to talk about their relationship, they were able to predict which couples were close to getting a divorce.

Another study published in 2000 in the Journal of Family Psychology by Gottman and his colleagues used the same oral history interview on 95 newlyweds. They used certain indicators to measure the strength or weakness of a couple’s marriage. These indicators were:

  • How much they “liked” one another,
  • How much unity was present in the marriage; how often they referred to themselves as “we”,
  • Expansiveness: How much each partner is able to understand and elaborate on the words of the other,
  • Negativity,
  • Disappointment in the marriage,
  • The level of chaos the couple thinks is present in their marriage.

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