What makes for a stable marriage?

Written by: Randy Olson

Primary Source: Randal S. Olson

Perhaps another important — but unsurprising — finding was that couples who attend church regularly have much stabler marriages. In fact, couples who never go to church are 2x more likely to divorce than regular churchgoers.

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Your attitude toward your partner

If your partner’s looks or wealth are an important factor in whether you want to marry them, then I’ve got bad news for you: Your marriage is more likely to end up in divorce than if you couldn’t care less about wealth and good looks. These findings even more stereotypical when we break the categories down by gender. Men are 1.5x more likely to end up divorced when they care more about their partner’s looks, and women are 1.6x more likely to end up divorced when they care more about their partner’s wealth.

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How many people attended the wedding

If you’re following the above guidelines, you’ve been dating your partner at least 3 years before getting engaged, making a combined $125k salary, go to church together regularly, and don’t worry about your partner’s wealth nor looks. The Big Day is coming up and you’re set to be happily married for life, right? Wrong!

Crazy enough, your wedding ceremony has a huge impact on the long-term stability of your marriage. Perhaps the biggest factor is how many people attend your wedding: Couples who elope are 12.5x more likely to end up divorced than couples who get married at a wedding with 200+ people. Clearly, this shows us that having a large group of family and friends who support the marriage is critically important to long-term marital stability.

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How much you spent on the wedding

The last graph would have us think that if we want a long-lasting marriage, we better be prepared to burn a hole in our pocket paying for a huge wedding. Yet the findings below completely contradict that intuition: The more you spend on your wedding, the more likely you’ll end up divorced. The particularly scary part here is that the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is well over $30,000, which doesn’t bode well for the future of American marriages.

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In the research paper, the authors suggest that the financial burden incurred by lavish, expensive weddings leads to financial stress for the couple, which ultimately tears the marriage apart. They found that women, in particular, are vulnerable to divorce after expensive marriages: women in couples who spent $20,000 or more on their wedding are 3.5x more likely to end up divorced than their counterparts who spent less than half that.

In other words, Bridezilla = Divorcezilla. Don’t let advertisers fool you into spending your life savings on your wedding.

Whether you had a honeymoon

Whatever you do after your marriage, don’t skimp on the honeymoon!

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Randy Olson is a Computer Science graduate research assistant at Michigan State University in Dr. Chris Adami’s lab specializing in artificial intelligence, artificial life, and evolutionary computation. He runs a research blog where he writes about Python, scientific computing, evolution, and AI. Randy is an ardent advocate of open science and regularly travels the U.S. to teach researchers scientific computing skills at Software Carpentry workshops.