In 1986, researchers at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center started an important study of couples in the Detroit metropolitan area. The study—funded by the National Institutes of Health and called the Early Years of Marriage Project (EYM)—became the longest-running longitudinal study of marriage and divorce. Over time, researchers collected information on more than 740 people. So, what has their data revealed about marriage and divorce? And just as importantly, what can we learn from it?
All Couples Experience Some Type of Conflict
EYM researchers found some type of conflict in every single marriage they studied. There were no marriages in which spouses reported getting along perfectly all of the time.
What can we learn from that? Experiencing conflict in a marriage doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your spouse will divorce. The study found conflict in marriages in which couples had been together for more than 20 years. The key is how you resolve conflict in your marriage – how you and your spouse treat each other when you fight and afterward.
Women Are Twice as Likely as Men to Initiate Divorce
Researchers found that marital tension increased over time for both husbands and wives. However, wives reported more tension at the beginning of their marriages, and husbands’ tensions generally increased over time.
In marriages in which a husband reported lower levels of tension over time, but the wife reported increasing tension over time, the likelihood of divorce was greater. Researchers theorized that the husband’s low levels of tension meant that he just wasn’t that invested in the relationship. Overall, researchers found that women were twice as likely as men to file for divorce.
At our Arlington law firm, we represent both men and women in divorce proceedings. Many of our female clients have become increasingly dissatisfied with their marriages over time. While the decision to end a marriage is never an easy one, many lawyers believe that the spouse who files for divorce has an advantage in divorce proceedings. That spouse has had more time to prepare for the changes that come with the divorce process.
When the Wife Has More Education, the Couple Is Less Likely to Divorce
While women are more likely to file for divorce, the EYM project also found a correlation between a wife’s education and the longevity of the marriage. Over time, couples had a better chance of staying together when the wife had gone to school longer. Other data backs this up as well. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), women with at least a bachelor’s degree have a 78 percent chance that their marriages will last 20 years. By comparison, women with a high school diploma have only a 41 percent chance.
So, what can we learn? Of course, there are many factors involved, but young couples considering an early marriage may be well advised to follow the classic advice: Stay in school.
Curious to know more about this study or our services? We welcome you to reach out to us today.