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How to Predict Your Chances of Getting a Divorce

Updated on October 26, 2016
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Sadie Holloway is a workshop facilitator who teaches interpersonal communication skills to help people strengthen their relationships.

Is there a way to predict if you’re going to get divorced? If you're worried about the state of your marriage, knowing the number one predictor of divorce might help you start building a stronger, healthier, and more resilient relationship with your partner.

Is there any way to predict if this happy new couple will get a divorce? Researchers may have the answer.
Is there any way to predict if this happy new couple will get a divorce? Researchers may have the answer.

Even the happiest couples will tell you that healthy marriages include arguments. That’s just part of being in a mature, loving relationship. But just because arguments are a normal part of any relationship, that doesn’t mean that all fights are equal. Some conflicts are riskier than others. In fact, a researcher at Kansas State University has discovered the number one predictor of divorce: fights about money.

What is the leading cause of divorce?

Of all the things that couples argue about—children, sex, in-laws, household budgets or conflicting work schedules—constant fights about money are the number one predictor of divorce, reports Sonya Brit, a researcher and professor of family studies and human services and program director of personal financial planning at the University of Arkansas.

Britt’s study, Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce, was conducted using data from more than 4,500 couples as part of the National Survey of Families and Households and was published in Family Relations, an interdisciplinary journal of applied family studies.

Is there a surefire way to predict whose marriages will stay in tact and whose will fall apart and end in divorce?
Is there a surefire way to predict whose marriages will stay in tact and whose will fall apart and end in divorce?
What is the number one predictor that a married couple will get divorced?
What is the number one predictor that a married couple will get divorced?

Does being rich or poor predict who will get divorced and who will stay together? The study controlled for debt, income, and net worth and so being a wealthy or middle-class family didn’t predict divorce. In other words, it wasn’t the amount of money a couple had that predicted divorce. It was that they argued about money; that’s what predicted divorce.

Why are arguments about money so hard on couples? Why are financial fights the number one predictor of divorce? Britt believes that it’s because it’s harder to get over an argument about money that it is to make up over fights about other issues. She says money arguments are It takes longer to recover from money are more intense and last longer than other disagreements. She also says the language couples use when they fight about money is harsher than with arguments about other issues. When it comes to arguments, fighting about money seems to have the biggest impact on a couple's chances of staying together.

But what if you’ve only started arguing about money recently? Let's say you are going through a rough patch right now and money is tight, so you seem to be fighting about finances more often. Does that mean you are still heading for divorce? Not necessarily. The researchers found that couples who have argued about money since the beginning of their relationship are going to have a harder time keeping it together. The study suggests that arguments about money lead to poor relationship satisfaction and the ongoing arguments about money erode the marriage.

But do disagreements about money cause so much tension in a marriage? Why are they one of the things that couples seem to argue about the most? According to comments in a recent Huffington Post article, the study’s co-author Jeffrey Dew surmised that disagreements about money—how to spend it, how to save it---could be a sign of other unresolved issues in the relationship. If one partner is angry and stressed out about losing their job, that could add extra stress to the marriage. When our identity is so closely tied to our jobs and our ability to make a living and provide for the ones we love, it’s no wonder that worrying about a job loss would lead to fights about money.

If you are worried that your disagreements about money will lead to divorce, then there is no better time than right now to start improving how you and your spouse discuss money issues. If you aren't sure if you can stop arguing about money, at the very least, you can try to have arguments about money that are fair and not toxic.

If one of you likes to spend money, and the other one likes to save money, does that mean you are incompatible?
If one of you likes to spend money, and the other one likes to save money, does that mean you are incompatible?

Do you think constant arguments about money inevitably lead to divorce?

See results

A recent and widely circulated study suggests that couples who start off their marriages by having a big lavish wedding are more likely to end up getting divorced than those couples who chose to have a more modest, affordable wedding celebration. The researchers surveyed 3,000 U.S. adults who had once been married for more than 13 years and discovered the following:

  • Men who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring were 1.3 times more likely to get divorced than those who spend between $500 and $2,000.
  • But going low-cost on the wedding ring also has its risk. The study showed that spending less than $500 on an engagement ring also led to higher divorce rates.
  • Spending $20,000 or more on the cost of your wedding was linked to higher divorce rates than those couples who spent between $5,000 and $10,000 on the big day. And if you want to have an even smaller wedding, say less than $1,000, then you’re decreasing your chances of a divorce down the road. The study found that spending under a grand on your wedding is associated with the lowest risk of divorce.

Opting for a modest wedding increases the chances that your marriage will last.

Bigger isn't always better when it comes to wedding rings. Researchers believe that the size and cost of an engagement ring can be a strong predictor of a couple's chances of getting divorced.
Bigger isn't always better when it comes to wedding rings. Researchers believe that the size and cost of an engagement ring can be a strong predictor of a couple's chances of getting divorced.

If you're worried about your marriage, don't be afraid to ask for help.

On top of reading articles and books about money issues for couples, if you are deeply worried about the state of your marriage and you don't want to see it end in divorce, consider reaching out for help from a marriage counsellor. To get practical tips and advice on how to manage your money better so that you and your spouse don't always fight about money, consider seeking the guidance of a professional financial planner, or a credit counsellor if you and your spouse are fighting about money because you are deep in debt.

Sources:

  • Study: Financial Arguments Early In Relationship May Predict Divorce, Huffington Post
  • Early financial arguments are a predictor of divorce, Science Daily

Image Credits: Pixabay

© 2015 Sadie Holloway

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