From The Scientists, Here’s Your Divorce Risk as the Years Go By


Like I always say, no one ever enters marriage thinking about when it would end. Except, perhaps, in the romance novels I sometimes read, where it is a case of a shotgun marriage, where the couple would already be thinking of divorce even before they sign the dotted lines and, miraculously, they end up falling in love.

For a long time, and to a large extent even now, it is thought that the starter years between years 1 and 5 of marriages are the years divorce is most likely to happen, with lots of couples falling to weather the storm of co-habiting peacefully.

Well, the current reality is that divorce risk is ever present, regardless of how many years you have been married. Just as the “starter” marriages are folding up, middle-aged married couples are also calling it quits and going solo. Call it mid-life crisis, it doesn’t matter, they are going their separate ways. Infact, compared to the stats of starter marriages, middle aged folks are divorcing at a faster rate than the younger folks.

Nollywood actress, Ireti Doyle and her husband of almost 20 years are an example. They called it quits last year.  This claim is corroborated by Jonathan Fields, a divorce litigator, who revealed that the most popular age for people to put an end to their marriage is in their mid-to-late 40s.

“That’s the age that coincides with the youngest child usually going off to college,” Fields says. “The empty nest can be a difficult period for these folks — many of whom must now reckon with a new relationship with their partner without the kids as a focus.”

If you are wondering why people even bother getting divorced after living together for so long, or for so short a time after the very elaborate weddings and expenses incurred…I don’t have the answers. Only she who wears the shoes knows where it pinches.

While science has been unable to pinpoint exactly the factors that lead to divorce, (because pretty much anything can lead to divorce; from employment status, to wedding costs, etc.) it has been discovered that the number of years you have been married can be used to predict the risk of divorce.

This is exactly what this article is all about. What does the number of years you have been married say about your divorce risk, at least based on what science has discovered?


Year 1-2: The divorce rate is high risk

Understandably, the risk of divorce is higher in the first few years of marriage, because that is when you are really getting to know your spouse and you may be disillusioned by some of the things you find out.

The first year of any marriage is usually rocky, and seems an ideal time to cut ties and move on.

Studies suggest that most marriages that fail (roughly 10 percent) will do so within the first two years. Based on data from 11,000 divorce cases, researchers concluded that men are more likely to cheat on their wives during this stage of the marriage, leading to a spike in infidelity divorces.

Why do men cheat when you just got yourself a new wife? I really don’t know.


Between years 3-4, the risk is average

We are still in the starter years, but the divorce risk has reduced somewhat.

Data suggests the average couple begins having children around year three, and there is ample evidence that children increase relationship stability and decrease divorce risk.

The truth is, couples are not necessarily staying together for the kids, but the kids are helping them to stay together. But don’t overestimate the security that a baby brings to a marriage. Kids can be stressful on a marriage.

Perhaps that’s why one study of 522 couples found that marriage quality first begins to decline after four years, which is around when they become parents.


Year 5-8: The Divorce risk is high

Thinking you are in the clear already? Not so fast. Have you ever heard the “seven-year itch”? It is a phrase popularized by a 1952 play and, later, a film starring Marilyn Monroe. The itch refers to a longstanding theory that relationship satisfaction declines after about seven years.

According to the stats, in the 1920s, the average length of a marriage that ended in divorce was 6.6 years. In 1974 it was 7.5 years; in 1990 it was 7.2 years.

Today, the average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years, according to several estimates, but that extra year may be due to the fact that the average divorce now takes about one year from start to finish in the legal system.

Another explanation is that the seven-year itch has become such a normalized notion that it’s now a self-fulfilling prophecy. Couples who are already unhappy may subconsciously wait for the seven-year mark to finally end the marriage, because it’s fashionable.


Between year 9-15, the risk is low

By the ninth year of marriage, most couples no longer have infants at home and there’s some evidence that, as children get older, parents report increased satisfaction in their relationship.

Scientist reveals that when couples make it to their 10th anniversary experience, the divorce risk reduces each subsequent year. That can be blamed on the fact that there is a level of predictability in the marriage at that point.

At this point in time, most people have realised that life is not a fairy tale, then they settle into life and focus on family and career.

Studies suggest that 20 percent of marriages end within the first five years, and that this number increased by 12 percent within 10 years. But between 10 years and 15 years, the rate only increases about 8 percent, implying that one of the safest stages of your marriage is between years 10 and 15.


Year 15-20: Average Risk

Most couples now marry in their 30s, which means year 20 puts them in their 50s. The idea of divorcing in your 50s has become so common that, much like the seven-year itch, it now has its own name: gray divorce.

Susan Brown of Bowling Green State University coined the term in response to the divorce rate of adults over 50 doubling between 1990 and 2010.

The reason being pitched for this increase in gray divorce has been traced to unhappiness. Couples who have lived their married life solely along traditional lines may have been dealing with unhappiness for most of their lives.  They may just be tired and decide they don’t want to live the rest of their lives unhappy. Enter divorce.

Regardless of what science says about you divorce risk, you are the only one who can determine whether divorce is going to be your lot or not.

Stay in love.



Kristine is a member of  The Lovelint team. She  is a down to earth person, who says it as it is. Having given relationship advice for years in a national daily, she has found out that fear is one of the main reasons holding people back from enjoying a healthy, happy relationship. She is married with kids and is willing to listen to you and help as much as you let her to.

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