Divorce 101

Some Surprising – And Maybe Not-So-Surprising – Predictors of Divorce

Written by Russell Alexander ria@russellalexander.com / (905) 655-6335

Some Surprising – And Maybe Not-So-Surprising – Predictors of Divorce

The divorce rate in Canada is higher than it’s ever been.  This is a sad state, because nobody goes into a marriage expecting it to end.  But what if about-to-be-married couples had fairly-reliable predictors that they might end up divorced in the future?

Apparently, these kinds of predictors do exist.  After 40 years of study, the world-renowned professor and psychologist Dr. John Gottman has taken a hard look at these telltale signs.  As reported on his website, over a span of decades Dr. Gottman ran a “Love Lab” that allowed him to watch thousands of real-life couples interact and communicate.  His research revealed that there are four negative communication patterns – namely criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling – that accurately predict divorce in about 80 percent of the couples studied.  Of these four, displays of contempt between relationship partners is the most destructive of all.

Dr. Gottman’s research focused on couples who were already married.  But some predictors show up even before the wedding date.  One study found that couples who spend more than $20,000 on their wedding are 3.5 times more likely to divorce, as compared to those couples who only spend in the range of $5,000 to $10,000.

Perhaps this makes intuitive sense:  It hints at financial imprudence, and ties into the fact that money can often be the root of marital discord.  But sometimes the predictors of divorce can be somewhat esoteric.

According to a 2009 study, it seems that people who frown in photos are five times more likely to be divorced.  As reported in an online article,  it involved researchers looking at “smile intensity” in old photos.  Those people whose smiles ranked in the bottom 10 percent on the intensity scale were far more likely to have endured a marital split at some point in their lives.

Of course, predictors are one thing – but the actual causes of divorce can be many things.  Financial issues. Parenting differences. Infidelity. Incompatibility. Sheer boredom (just to name a few).   On the flip-side, there’s also no one right answer to the complicated question of what makes a marriage last.  Maybe someday, we’ll come up with a fool-proof equation that lets couples get it right every time.


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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.