What separates good marriages from bad marriages? It is true love, never going to bed angry, good communication? Or is it something more… predetermined?

Fear of failure grips many brides and grooms as they approach the altar and say their “I do’s,” particularly children of divorce.

Whether you’ve been married two years or twenty, it’s hard to ignore talk of rising divorce rates – especially when you’ve witnessed it in your own family. But in reality, blanket statements about the risk of divorce have nothing to do with your own marriage.

If you look closer at several key risk factors, you’ll get an accurate picture of where you might be headed and whether your marriage will stand the test of time – or fall short of what you expected.

1. Your parents divorced before age 10

While it might not come as a surprise that your own parents’ divorce put you at higher risk for divorce, what you might not know is that gender is also a factor. Daughters of divorced parents have a 60% higher divorce rate in marriages than children of non-divorced parents, while sons have a 35% higher divorce rate.

In addition to gender, age plays an important factor as well. As explained at length in Daniel Goleman’s book, “Emotional Intelligence”, the neurons in your brain are formed and strengthened during your first 10 years. These neurons are imprinted by the behavior of the adults that raise you and if your parents divorced during this critical time in your life, you are more susceptible to divorce in your own marriage.

Did your parents remarry? According to Nicholas Wolfinger, Understanding the Divorce Cycle, Cambridge University Press, 2005 if your parents remarried after divorcing, you are 91% more likely to get divorced yourself.

2. You’ve been divorced once before

Ever heard the saying history repeats? When it comes to marriage and divorce, there’s no denying there’s some truth in that statement when 67% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

While there are many reasons for this high failure rate, topping the list are people who fail to understand the mistakes from their first marriage and subsequently repeat the same mistakes or marry the same kind of person in their second, third and fourth marriages.

Additionally, fear of the unknown is no longer a factor for those who have experienced divorce. Men and women who have already gone through a divorce might find that since they’ve handled divorce once, they can do it again. They might even recognize the same warning signs from their first marriage and react quicker in an attempt to minimize the pain and agony their second time around.

3. Your relationship with your father was weak or non-existent

Little is discussed in terms of a mother and father’s role in a child’s development. If you compare the childhood relationship between fathers of notorious dictators and fathers of our most influential leaders, you’ll begin to see a consistent theme:

Strong emotional bond between father and child between ages 1-10 = happy, successful adult.

When a child’s relationship with his or her father is weak or non-existent, they suffer as adults, particularly if the did not have a strong mother or influential adult in their life.

Look to your own life or those around you. Think of the most happy, successful person you know. How was their relationship with their father between the ages of 1-10? Now think of the most troubled person in your life. Was their father there to support and encourage them as a child or was he “just kind of there” – or non-existent?

4. You cohabitated before marriage

While this statistic may seem straight out of the 1950’s, in addition to being credited for decreasing the number of divorces, cohabitation is still a big risk factor for divorce.  Multiple studies have proven that couples who cohabitate face a 12% higher risk of divorce. There are many theories surrounding this risk factor, from lack of commitment to a greater sense of “self” than “us”.

5. You argue about finances once a week

Money problems are a huge marriage killer. According to Jeffrey Dew, “Bank on It: Thrifty Couples Are the Happiest,” University of Virginia/National Marriage Project/The State of Our Unions, 2009, if you argue about finances once a week, your marriage is 30% more likely to end in divorce than couples who argue less frequently about finances. According to this study, when one spouse earns a significantly higher salary while the other spends an exorbitant amount of money, a divorce can be 45% more likely to occur (as you might expect). Regardless of financial status, setting a budget the two of you can mutually agree upon goes a long way toward building a stronger marriage and fending off divorce.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

Love this article?

Read full content