Here's when you're probably getting divorced

  • The Census Bureau tracks patterns in marital status by age among Americans.
  • In recent years, older Americans are more likely to have been divorced, separated, or in a second or later marriage than in previous decades, while younger Americans are more likely to be never married or in a first marriage.


A lot of people get married. And if things work out, they'll stay happily married.

But things don't always work out.

Last week, to commemorate Valentine's Day, we looked at the likelihood of Americans being married at each year of age. Now, with the day celebrating love and romance behind us, we're turning to the odds of marriages ending.

Using individual-level Census data from the Minnesota Population Center's Integrated Public Microdata Sample project, we took a closer look at different marital outcomes by each year of age in 2016, the latest year for which data is available.

RELATED: Science says these signs predicts divorce 

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7 things science says predict divorce
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7 things science says predict divorce

Getting married in your teens or after age 32

The best time to get married is when you feel ready, and when you've found someone you think you can spend a lifetime with. Don't force anything — or put it off — because a study told you to do so.

That said, research does suggest that couples who marry in their teens and couples who marry in their mid-30s or later are at greater risk for divorce than couples in their late 20s and early 30s. The risk is especially high for teenage couples.

That's according to research led by Nicholas Wolfinger, a professor at the University of Utah. After age 32, Wolfinger found, your odds of divorce increase by about 5% every year.

As Wolfinger wrote in a blog post for the conservative-leaning Institute for Family Studies, "For almost everyone, the late twenties seems to be the best time to tie the knot."

Other research, published in 2015 in the journal Economic Inquiry, found that the odds of divorce among heterosexual couples increase with the age gap between spouses.

As Megan Garber reported at The Atlantic:

"A one-year discrepancy in a couple's ages, the study found, makes them 3% more likely to divorce (when compared to their same-aged counterparts); a 5-year difference, however, makes them 18% more likely to split up. And a 10-year difference makes them 39% more likely."

Having a husband who doesn't work full-time

A 2016 Harvard study, published in the American Sociological Review, suggests that it's not a couple's finances that affect their chances of divorce, but rather the division of labor.

When the researcher, Alexandra Killewald, looked at heterosexual marriages that began after 1975, she learned that couples in which the husband didn't have a full-time job had a 3.3% chance of divorcing the following year, compared to 2.5% among couples in which the husband did have a full-time job.

Wives' employment status, however, didn't much affect the couple's chances of divorce.

The researcher concludes that the male breadwinner stereotype is still very much alive, and can affect marital stability.

Not finishing high school

It doesn't seem fair that couples who spend more time in school are less likely to get divorced. But that's what the research suggests.

A post on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website highlights a result from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979), which looked at the marriage and divorce patterns of a group of young baby boomers. The post reads:

"The chance of a marriage ending in divorce was lower for people with more education, with over half of marriages of those who did not complete high school having ended in divorce compared with approximately 30 percent of marriages of college graduates."

It may have to do with the fact that lower educational attainment predicts lower income — which in turn predicts a more stressful life. As psychologist Eli Finkel previously told Business Insider:

"What I think is going on is it's really difficult to have a productive, happy marriage when your life circumstances are so stressful and when your day-to-day life involves, say three or four bus routes in order to get to your job."

Showing contempt for your partner

John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington and the founder of the Gottman Institute, calls certain relationship behaviors the "four horsemen of the apocalypse." That's because they predict divorce with scary-high accuracy:

  1. Contempt: Seeing your partner as beneath you. (Gottman calls this behavior the "kiss of death" for a relationship.)
  2. Criticism: Turning a behavior into a statement about your partner's character.
  3. Defensiveness: Playing the victim during difficult situations.
  4. Stonewalling: Blocking off conversation.

As Business Insider's Erin Brodwin reported, these conclusions are based on a 14-year study of 79 couples living across the US Midwest, which Gottman conducted along with University of California-Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson. And while that particular study was small, another decade of research supports the findings.

Being overly affectionate as newlyweds

If you're not inclined to hug and kiss and hold hands as newlyweds, that might be a problem. But if you practically have to be pulled apart, well, that might be a problem, too.

Psychologist Ted Huston followed 168 couples for 13 years — from their wedding day onward. Huston and his team conducted multiple interviews with the couples throughout the study.

Here's one fascinating finding, from the resulting paper that was published in the journal Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes in 2001: "As newlyweds, the couples who divorced after 7 or more years were almost giddily affectionate, displaying about one third more affection than did spouses who were later happily married."

Aviva Patz summed it up in Psychology Today: "[C]ouples whose marriages begin in romantic bliss are particularly divorce-prone because such intensity is too hard to maintain. Believe it or not, marriages that start out with less 'Hollywood romance' usually have more promising futures."

Withdrawing during conflict

When your partner tries to talk to you about something tough, do you shut down? If so (or if your partner is guilty of that behavior), that's not a great sign.

A 2013 study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, found that husbands' "withdrawal" behaviors predicted higher divorce rates. This conclusion was based on the researchers' interviews with about 350 newlywed couples living in Michigan.

Meanwhile, a 2014 study, published in the journal Communication Monographs, suggests that couples engaged in "demand/withdraw" patterns — i.e. one partner pressuring the other and receiving silence in return — are less happy in their relationships.

The lead study author, Paul Schrodt at Texas Christian University, says it's a hard pattern to break because each partner thinks the other is the cause of the problem. It requires seeing how your individual behaviors are contributing to the issue and using different, more respectful conflict-management strategies.

Describing your relationship in a negative way

In 1992, Gottman and other researchers at the University of Washington developed a procedure called the "oral history interview," in which they ask couples to talk about different aspects of their relationship. By analyzing the conversations, the researchers are able to predict which couples are heading for divorce.

In one study, published in 2000 in the Journal of Family Psychology, Gottman and colleagues put 95 newlywed couples through the oral history interview. Results showed that couples' scores on certain measures predicted the strength or weakness of their marriage. Those measures included:

  1. Fondness for each other
  2. "We"-ness: How much each spouse emphasizes unification in the marriage
  3. Expansiveness: How much each partner elaborates on what the other is saying
  4. Negativity
  5. Disappointment in the marriage
  6. How much the couple describes their marriage as chaotic
SEE ALSO: 13 facts about divorce every couple should know before getting married
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Based on responses to questions about marital status and number of marriages, we found the proportion of the population at each age that had never married, was in a first marriage, was widowed, or was in a situation in which a first marriage had ended. That last group combines people who responded they were divorced, separated from their spouse, or in a second, third, or later marriage.

In 2015, about 10% of 30-year-olds had already ended one marriage. The proportion of people who were divorced, separated, or married multiple times maxed out at age 62 when about 42% of respondents fell into this category. That was just shy of the 43% of 62-year-olds who were in their first marriage:

marital status 2016 v2Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from Minnesota Population Center

We also compared the 2016 proportions of people who were divorced, separated, or married multiple times to those proportions from earlier decades. The 1960 and 1980 Census long form survey, the predecessor of the American Community Survey, also included questions about marital status and number of marriages.

RELATED: Shortest Hollywood marriages 

15 PHOTOS
Shortest Celebrity Marriages
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Shortest Celebrity Marriages
Mario Lopez and Ali Landry dated for six years before marrying in 2004. But it all fell apart within 18 days -- Landry found out Lopez had cheated.
The first of Drew Barrymore's three husbands, she was only 19 when she wed Jeremy Thomas. She'd only known him for six weeks when they tied the knot in 1994. Unsurprisingly, they called it quits after 39 days.
Britney Spears has long put this behind her, but the world still remembers her infamous 55-hour marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander. Hey, things happen.
It was definitely a wild night in Vegas, and it ended with Carmen Electra marrying quirky basketball player Dennis Rodman at 7 in the morning. They had it annulled nine days later.
Drew Barrymore and Tom Green made an odd pairing, but they stuck it out for a few months. They wed in summer of 2001 and had split by the winter holidays.
A few years after Rick Salomon made his screen debut (?) alongside Paris Hilton in her infamous sex tape, Pamela Anderson snatched him up. They married in 2007, and Pam filed for divorce 60 days later. (They remarried and re-divorced in 2014.)
What it lacked in duration, it owned in overexposure. The much-hyped nuptials of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries took place in 2011 and cost an estimated $10 million. The marriage formally ended 72 days later.
Nicky Hilton and Todd Meister opted for a quickie Vegas wedding in August 2004. A promising start, but ultimately the marriage collapsed that November.
Yes, this is an actual wedding photo. Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock made it official with a ceremony on a yacht. Looks like a good time, but they'd had enough 122 days later.
In this photo, she's still Jenny from the Block! Jennifer Lopez married pro dancer Cris Judd in September 2001, but by June 2002, he'd danced right on out of her life.
Long story short, Fred Armisen and Elisabeth Moss were married for 8 months and it was really, really bad. Moss has called the experience "extremely traumatic and awful and horrible."
They made for a very cute teen-dream couple, but real life was more like a nightmare. They divorced after five months, and Bush cited "fraud" as her grounds, which is definitely concerning.
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Esposito were husband and wife for a lovely four months until parting ways.
Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley wed in a beautiful Hawaii ceremony, but once they got back to reality, things weren't so picture-perfect. They divorced 107 days later.
Luann de Lesseps and Tom D' Agostino announced their divorce just seven months after they tied the knot in December 2016. Rumors of cheating and even some physical abuse plagued their short-lived marriage up until the August 2017 announcement.
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The results were interesting: In 1960 and 1980, a higher proportion of 20-somethings had a marriage end than in 2016. More people were in second or third marriages by their late 20s in 1960 and 1980 than in 2016.

On the other hand, older Americans have been more likely to fall in this category in recent years: In 2016, respondents over 40 were far more likely to be divorced, separated, or in a later marriage than people of an equivalent age in earlier decades:

divorce multiple years 2016 v3Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from Minnesota Population Center

 

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SEE ALSO: Here's when you're probably getting married

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