New Marriage Study: How Happy Is Your Spouse?

Roscich & Martell Law Firm, LLC

“How happy is your spouse?” It turns out that peoples answer to this question can actually be a strong predictor of divorce. Economists at the University of Virginia recently published a marriage study in which they asked spouses how happy they were with their marriage and how happy they thought their partners were with the marriage. The questions were answered as part of a national survey of almost 4,000 couples who each rated how happy they thought they and their partners would be in the event of a separation. It turns out that the answers to those questions had an impact on the couples likelihood of divorce.

The Studys Findings

Unsurprisingly, couples who expected to be happier if they split up were more likely to divorce than average, and those who thought they would be worse off than average were less likely. Yet, that is not what the marriage study actually focused on. The study was more interested in analyzing the divorce rates of people who incorrectly estimated their partners' happiness. They found that people who were wrong about the happiness of their partner were at a higher risk of divorce.

Couples where spouses were correct about their spouses happiness had a divorce risk of a bit over five percent, compared to the general studys overall divorce risk of just over seven percent. Couples where one spouse overestimated the others happiness were at a 10.4 percent risk of divorce. Interestingly, underestimating happiness was also a potential problem. When husbands thought wives were less happy than they really were, the divorce risk was about at the studys average, but wives who thought their husbands were unhappier than they really were were at an 8.1 percent risk of divorce.

The study also breaks out special numbers for couples with “seriously incorrect” perceptions of happiness, meaning that they missed by more than one point on a five-point rating scale. For these couples, divorce risks were much higher, averaging 12.5 percent overall.

The Economics Behind It

One of the studys authors theorizes that the reason for this is that peoples perceptions of their spouses happiness can have an effect on how they act towards each other at the margins. For instance, a wife who thinks her husband is happy overall may be slightly more likely to work late at the office, thinking that the relationship does not need as much tending. This type of behavior can contribute to relationship problems since the unhappy partner may take that sort of behavior more seriously than the minor inconvenience that the oblivious partner views it as.

Of course, there are many different factors that can contribute to a couples divorce likelihood. If you are considering filing for divorce and want to learn more about what the process is like, contact an experienced Naperville divorce attorney today.

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