The Goldilocks Theory of Marriage and Divorce

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I never know what I’m doing when I pick produce at the grocery store. I try to look like I’m a knowledgeable adult by knocking on the watermelons, squeezing the tomatoes, smelling the oranges. Really, I know nothing. All I can do is pick the best I can, and wait until I get home to see how well I did. Sometimes I get duds, but other times I have some really delicious fruits and vegs.

Research suggests that there is a ripe time for marrying, just as there is time when my produce is best for picking (I should probably look at the latter before shopping again). While it is true that people change and every couple will hit hard times throughout their relationship, science can give us a helpful hand to know our prime age for successful marriage.

The Goldilocks Theory of Marriage and Divorce

Researcher Nicholas H. Wolfinger studied the best time to get married in order to lower your risk of divorce. Then, to assure he got it right, he did it again. Both studies indicated that there’s a delicate balance for marrying at the right time. Getting married too young is risky, but so is getting married too late. You have to get it just right.  

Age at marriage has a U-shaped relationship to divorce risk. Wolfinger explains, “the odds of divorce decline as you age from your teenage years through your late twenties and early thirties. Thereafter, the chances of divorce go up again.”  

Does this mean that if you are married at 18, or still unmarried at 38 there’s no hope for you? Definitely not. The important thing is for every individual to focus on doing what they can to be a partner who encourages a healthy relationship, and work to avoid the detrimental indicators of divorce.

Indicators of divorce.

  1. No conflict resolution.

    Having conflict in a marriage is not a death sentence. Instead, lack of effective conflict resolution is what really hurts the relationship. Couples who do not find a way to resolve differences without hurting the relationship end up avoiding conflict which can lead to differences being ignored. Unfortunately, ignoring differences does not make them go away. Instead they sit and fester, turning something that may have been small into a huge monster you can’t forget. This can lead to a loss of respect, increasing distance, and each spouse withdrawing from one another.

  2. Emotional disengagement.

    Successful marriages include emotional engagement between both spouses. Partners who are unwilling to discuss their feelings, lack interest in one another’s emotional life, and fail to show reciprocal empathy run the risk of losing emotional intimacy, which can significantly harm the relationship.

  3. Lack of affection.

    Both verbal and physical affection are an important aspect of a healthy relationship. Both strengthen feelings of closeness, and so when they are missing, couples can feel distant and disengaged from one another.

  4. Lack of sex.

    Sex expresses and reinforces emotional connection. Barring physical limitations, when a couple has not had sex for a long time it is usually an indicator that emotional intimacy is severely damaged and the partners have no pleasure in each other.

No one is perfect when it comes to marriage and every couple faces hard times. That does not mean that they are doomed to fail. Instead it means they need to work together to fight the conflict, rather than working with the conflict to fight each other.

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Written by: Melece


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