8 WTF Factors That Predict A Successful Marriage

by Emma McGowan

Marriage is one of those grown-up things that is still totally unfathomable to me. Even with parents who have been happily hitched for almost 30 years, I still just don’t get it. How do you stay together that long? WTF goes into creating and maintaining a successful marriage?

There are, of course, the obvious answers. Love each other. Be kind. Talk about sex, often. Help out around the house.


I mean, duh, being nice to each other and having a great sex life means you’ll probably make it. Duh, splitting chores evenly makes everyone feel appreciated. That’s all just common sense! Basically, all of the standard advice on how to have a happy marriage boils down to one thing: Don’t be an asshole.

But there’s way more to a successful marriage than the standard, boilerplate advice would leave you to believe. Some things made me straight up go, huh? I did a little research to dig up the eight WTF factors that go into predicting a successful marriage. You won’t find any “turn to each other instead of away” or “celebrate good times” here. This is way more interesting than that.

1. Not spending too much on the engagement ring

A study from Emory University professors Andrew M. Francis and Hugo M. Mialon found that men who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on the engagement ring were 1.3 times more likely to get divorced than those who spent between $500 and $2,000. You read that right: Shelling out the big bucks on a rock is not quite the expression of love you thought it was.

However, they also found that dropping less than $500 was also correlated with higher divorce rates.

Lesson here: Be reasonable, guys. No need to go broke on the ring but you probably shouldn’t buy a $25 one that falls apart a few weeks later (like my dad did for my mom) either.

2. Cost of the wedding

The same researchers found that, no matter what the wedding industry is trying to tell you, taking out massive loans for your wedding isn’t a great idea. The study uncovered a correlation between spending more than $20,000 on a wedding and the likelihood of divorce going up by 3.5 times when compared with spending between $5,000 and $10,000.

And even though The Knot reports that the average American wedding costs $30,000, shelling out less than a grand on your wedding decreases the likelihood of divorce even further.

3. Living in a blue state

According to the National Statistics Report of 2003, people who live in a red state are 27 percent more likely to get divorced than those who live in a blue state. The Daily Beast hypothesized that this is could be because the states with the lowest median age for marriage are Utah, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. Considering the fact that low age at time of marriage is another divorce predictor, they could be on to something there.

4. Having a son

File this one under “crappy sexist facts:” having a son is associated with a 5 percent lower likelihood of divorce than having a daughter, according to a 2005 study published in the Review of Economic Studies.

5. Not living in Wayne County, Indiana

According The Daily Beast, Wayne County, Indiana, has the highest divorce rate of any county in America, coming in at a whopping 19.2 percent for residents over 15. Add in the fact that this is also the county that was famous in the 1920s for being a KKK fave and you now have two really solid reasons to never, ever live there.

6. Not being American (or French, Cuban, Estonian, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Portuguese, Belgian, Or from Luxembourg)

Womp wommmmmmp. The United States is famous for its super high divorce rate, with a whopping 53 percent of marriages ending in the courtroom, according to the UN’s Demographics and Social Statistics Division.

However, there is hope! That same study found that, despite popular belief, we aren’t the worst. Belgium takes that honor with a 71 percent divorce rate.

7. Not having twins

Bad news for all of you with the double (or triple) baby genes: Having twins or triplets is associated with a 17 percent higher risk of divorce when compared with couples that have only single birth children. The Daily Beast reports that this could be due to the fact that more babies equals less money equals more stress. Considering the fact that having financial difficulties is one of the number one reasons couples divorce, it sounds like a pretty valid argument to me.

8. Changing your definition of “successful”

Famous sex and relationship advice columnist Dan Savage suggests that we should throw out the old definition of “successful” marriages being ones that end in one or the other partner dying.

In a conversation with Andrew Sullivan at a LIVE from the NYPL event, Savage points out that defining successful marriages solely by the fact that they last for a person’s entire life disregards pertinent facts, like whether or not that marriage was abusive or happy or marked by sexual deprivation. He suggests, instead, that even relationships that don’t make it until “death do us part” can be considered successful if we take into account factors like how much we learn from our partners or how amicable the divorce is.

Not a bad idea, Mr. Savage. Not a bad idea at all.

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