For a Happy Marriage, Choose a Man Your Age

(H/T: Say Whaat, MM)

It is well understood that women have a strong preference for men the same age as themselves, give or take:


Source: Dataclysm, OKCupid data

A recent study of 3,000 married and recently divorced Americans confirms the wisdom of that evolved preference. Megan Garber writes in The Atlantic:

The closer a couple is when it comes to their respective birth years, the greater their chances of avoiding divorce.

…Once you enter large-gap territory—the 20-year difference, the 30-year difference—the odds of divorce are … almost never in your favor.

If your partner happens to be 15 years older or younger than you are, that’s not automatically a bad omen: Statistics, of course, are not destiny. But, as predictors, the study’s findings stand to reason. Marriage is, above all, about 50-50 partnership; differences in ages also mean differences in life experience and cultural reference points.

Generations may be an invention, but they are meaningful nonetheless. So, with all the necessary caveats about love’s vagaries and mysteries, if you want a marriage that lasts, you should probably try to marry someone your own age.

Stats guru Randal S. Olson has once again illustrated the increased divorce risk as age differences between spouses increase:


Another Olson chart worth noting is the increased risk of divorce when spouses have different levels of education:


This is especially relevant in an era when 60% of college students are female. Some who wish to marry may be forced to marry a man with less education.

And finally, the stats show that if you stick it out ten years, your risk of divorce is minimal:


It’s interesting, though counterintuitive, that the risk is highest immediately after marrying.

As per usual, correlation not causation blah blah blah.

New Prediction Factors for Divorce

In Your Chances of Divorce May Be Much Lower Than You Think  I summarized a Pew Research report on the factors that decrease divorce risk, including:

  • Marrying after age 25
  • Earning a college degree
  • Making over 50K per year
  • Religious affiliation
  • Coming from an intact family of origin

It’s no secret that marriage is increasingly becoming an institution most prized by the educated elite. A recent study examining the relationship between wedding expenses and marriage duration turned up interesting findings about wedding expenses and other factors.

Things that decrease the risk of divorce:

1. Dating more than three years at the time of proposal. 

2. Taking a real honeymoon.

3. Getting an education.

Those couples with “some college” or less are most likely to divorce. Divorce rates decrease with a 2 year degree, even more with a 4 year degree, and most of all with a graduate degree.

4. High household income.

As income goes up, divorce rates go down.

5. Living in the Western U.S.

Highest divorce rates are in the south, followed by the midwest and then the northeast.

6. Having children.

Born in wedlock is best, but even before marriage is better than no kids.

7. Regular religious attendance.


Things that increase the risk of divorce:

1. Viewed partner wealth as important at time of proposal.

The effect was present for both sexes but stronger for women.

2. Viewed partner’s looks as important at time of proposal.

True for both sexes but extremely strong for men.

3. Being employed part-time. 

4. Age difference with older male.

5. Race difference.

6. Different education levels.

7. No engagement ring. 

Interestingly, stronger effect on the men.

In the sample of all persons, greater differences in age and education between husband and wife and reporting that one’s partner’s looks were important in the decision to marry are both significantly associated with a higher hazard of divorce.

On the other hand, relatively high household income, regularly attending religious services, having a child with one’s partner, relatively high wedding attendance, and going on a honeymoon are all significantly associated with a lower hazard of divorce.

Computer scientist Randal Olson created some graphics in his blog post What Makes For a Stable Marriage? to highlight some of the findings. Of particular interest is this one:


If you prioritize your partner’s looks as a prerequisite to commitment, your chance of divorce goes up 40%! And despite the fact that higher earning households divorce less, making partner wealth a priority bucks that trend.

Clearly, the low divorce couples live traditional, conventional lives that are carefully planned. They delay marriage until they are financially stable, and their prospects are good.

In contrast, the high divorce rate couples avoid assortative mating and make shallow choices.

The findings re wedding expenditures were mixed and/or inconclusive. They did conclude that lavish weddings do not increase the duration of marriage.

Does anything here surprise you?

Newest Pew Report on American Marriage

A new report on marriage from Pew Social Trends indicates a continuing decline in marriage rates. In 1960, the statistical “high point” of American marriage, just 10% of men and 8% of women had never been married by age 25. Those numbers began to grow in the 70s and today they’re considerably higher. The gap between the sexes has also been widening since 1970.

marriage gender gap pew

Beneath this general trend, however, is a web of complex factors. Overall, the trend reflects a shortage of marriageable men and resulting reduction of female and male interest in marrying.  Continue reading

How to Make a Bad Marriage

You chose poorlyThough I don’t have any personal experience to rely on for this post, there is a wealth of new research that isolates specific risk factors in a mate. This list is by no means comprehensive! To ensure a bad marriage, though, try the following:

Marry someone with low conscientiousness.

The guy who loves spontaneity, has poor impulse control, has no concept of duty and does not aim for achievement is your man.

This will actually hamper your own career success, according to a study of 5,000 married people of all ages. Specifically, your spouse will:

  1. Let you handle most of the day-to-day household chores and responsibilities.
  2. Set a poor example of diligence and reliability, which may rub off on you.
  3. Add stress by creating conflict at home.

Choose a guy who likes to keep you guessing. Continue reading

How to Make a Happy Marriage

Til Death do us partYesterday Mr. HUS and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. We got married on a day much like today – sunny, warm and breezy, with just a hint of fall in the air. It was a lovely and memorable wedding.

This weekend our kids surprised us by preparing a fantastic celebration dinner. Because the traditional gift for the 30th anniversary is pearl, we started with a raw bar of shucked oysters. It was all special but I was moved to tears by my son’s toast:

“Thank you for teaching us what true love is and what a happy marriage looks like.”

He’s newly engaged, so the words really hit home. He’s right about our marriage. I give thanks every day for the life my husband and I have created together.

Today I want to share with you what makes a marriage strong and happy. I didn’t get everything right from the start – over the years I’ve learned what’s important, and what to let go. Nor do I assume that my formula for a healthy marriage is the only successful one. But I do know that after 30 years we’re still in love with one another, and we love our life together. Continue reading