There’s no guaranteed way to divorce-proof your marriage, but there are some research-backed predictors for how long your relationship might last. They have nothing to do with chemistry — instead, they’re all about the money-related aspects of your life.
We don’t know why some of these factors strain or strengthen a marriage. It’s important to note that they correlate with higher divorce rates, not that they necessarily cause divorces (so if you sprung for that ring but are happily married, remain calm). Either way, keep an eye on these predictors of strain so you can sidestep unnecessary conflict and keep your relationship strong.
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1. The Price of the Ring
You may be tempted to spend more on an engagement ring, thinking a bigger investment in the ring means a bigger investment in the commitment. But that doesn’t hold true.
If you want your marriage to last, skip the urge to splurge, say Emory University economists who studied 3,000 couples. Their data shows that you’re 1.3 times more likely to split down the line when you spend $2,000 to $4,000 on an engagement ring as compared to those who spent $500 to $2,000. (Go ahead and throw that difference into savings for your future together). But heads up: Those who spend less than $500 on a ring also see higher divorce rates.
2. Your Wedding Budget
Weddings are expensive, with the average soiree adding up to $28,427. But the more money you spend on a wedding, the more likely you are to break up, says University of Pennsylvania researcher Dr. Randal S. Olson, who analyzed data collected by Emory University economists. Spend $20,000 or more on your big day and you’re 46 percent more likely to divorce than those who spend between $5,000 and $10,000.
3. Whether You Spring for a Honeymoon
When you’re taking measures to cut your wedding-related spending, stay away from your honeymoon budget, according to Emory’s data. The study shows that people who take a honeymoon decrease their chance for divorce by 41 percent compared to those who skip the trip.
4. Your Debt and Assets
Utah State University findings couldn’t be more blunt: Marital debt is an “equal-opportunity marriage destroyer,” writes the author of a study on couples and their money. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re old, young, male, female, or used to living in luxury or hand-to-mouth. Debt can hurt us all. People who remain debt free in marriage are the most likely to stay together, and the reason is simple: Financial stress causes more fights, and as a result couples become less happy with the union over time.
On the other hand, the same study reveals that assets (such as an owned home) in a marriage actually strengthen the union and offset the stress related to financial demands. This makes sense: If you have a home or savings, you’re likely to feel more secure. Couples who had no assets were 70 percent more likely to divorce within 36 months than those with $10,000 in assets.
5. How Often You Fight About Money
After analyzing the stability of more than 4,500 U.S. couples, Kansas State University researchers found that frequent fights about finances correlated to higher divorce rates, no matter how rich or poor the couples were. Study authors concluded that money fights were the top indicator of divorce, since they affected couples at all income levels.
Are you and your partner finding yourselves in a lot of disputes over money? KSU study author Sonya Britt recommends seeking financial counseling from the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education to turn these disagreements into a productive dialogue.
But when you’re struggling with financial woes in your relationship, a marriage counselor may be one of the last things you want to pay for. University of Rochester psychologists may have a low-cost alternative for you: Watch a relationship movie instead, and then talk about it. When their research subjects discussed five movies about fictional couples over the course of a month, they reduced their separation or divorce rate from 24 percent to 11 percent in three years. Want to give it a try? The study authors offer a list of movies to watch and related discussion questions.
6. Your Household Income
Here’s a less-than-uplifting fact: Wealthier couples are more likely to stay married. Are you and your partner bringing in $50,000 to $75,000 a year? You’re 39 percent less likely to get divorced than a couple making less than $25,000. As household incomes rise, divorce rates fall.
Does this mean couples with lower incomes are less suited for marriage? Of course not. Perhaps it’s a matter of the higher-income couples feeling less stress about finances, leading them to fight less — and they simply have the means to pay for counseling when they hit rough patches.