Communication is still the key to marriage.
If you could ask yourself just two questions to determine the strength of your relationship, you would most certainly do it, right?
Well, economics researchers Leora Friedberg and Steven Stern from the University of Virginia studied the answers from 3,597 couples with just two questions in mind, and it turns out they were accurately able to successfully predict which couples would head into divorce.
Were these researchers actually witches in disguise, hexing people into splitting up so they could fudge their findings? Well, no... but they did determine that partners who were able to answer the two posed questions in a positive light were more likely to stay together than those who couldn’t.
Just what two questions did they ask? They seem pretty simplistic initially:
1. On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being much worse and 5 being much better, how do you think your level of happiness would be different if you and your partner separated?
This question seems pretty straightforward. If you answer it with a “5,” meaning that you believe you’d be much better off without your spouse, well, you’ve kind of answered your own question. There’s nothing surprising about splitting up if you believe that you’d be happier without the person you’ve pledged to tie your happiness to for life. But the second question was where things got a bit interesting.
2. How do you think your partner’s level of happiness would be different if you and your partner separated? (Use the same scale.)
Apparently, the answer to question two, as well as how accurate your guess is, can actually mean you’re secretly waving the white flag of concession in your divorce.
The researchers studied how these roughly 3,500 couples answered the questions in the initial survey, which was posed during the “first wave” in 1987-88, and then again around six years later. What they found was that about 7 percent of all couples in the study — that’s about 245 couples, by the way — ended up divorcing their spouses in this time period.
The statistics about the find were pretty unsurprising. Couples who both thought that their spouse would be “worse” or “much worse” off if they ended the relationship had a lower-than-average divorce rate (4.8 percent). But couples who believed that their partner would be happier in life without them were actually more likely to wind up separating. That might seem like a "duh," response, but that wasn't even the worst factor in the survey.
So what about people who weren’t sure, or incorrectly guessed their partner’s happy-without-them levels? Well, it turns out those people had a higher-than-average divorce rate — to the tune of around 12 percent of the couples who ended up divorcing.
It turns out that not understanding where your partner is coming from might actually be detrimental to your relationship.
The statistics found that people who had a “disconnect” with their partner’s feelings in the marriage were essentially wearing a big red warning flag on their relationship. If you think your spouse would be much worse off without you, but they would honestly be happier, that’s a clear sign of trouble ‘a brewing.
Partners who were convinced that their spouse was happy in the marriage when they were actually pretty unhappy ended their marriages at the highest percent of all. Which means that if you’re wrong and your partner is actually miserable, then you’re about 13 to 14 percent more likely to wind up splitting up your assets pretty soon.
How can this affect your relationship? Well, as long as you’re willing to sit down and openly discuss these things with your partner and find out where their happiness level in the marriage is, then perhaps you can turn things around if they're not stacking up so well.
Does answering these two questions wrong mean that your relationship is doomed for divorce? Not necessarily. There’s always the opportunity to correct the issues and work together to make sure that one of you isn’t already fantasizing about their next marriage and how happy they’ll be with Mr. or Mrs. Right.