Statistically, You Will Marry The Wrong Person. Here’s Why.

Luckily, statistics also tell you how *not* to marry the wrong person.

two people happenstance at the same farm Jasmine Carter, Alena Ozerova, Jacob Lund, obert_Ford | Canva

Once upon a time, I met the person I’d been asking the universe for. We even met in the exact way I would have wanted to.

I was on a solo rock-climbing road trip and through a series of fateful and unlikely events, we happened to be the only two people staying on a remote farm.

The first evening we met, we had a deep conversation late into the night. From that moment on, we were joined at the hip. We had a roaring adventure — climbing, making love, and road-tripping our way through the country. We poured our souls out and helped each other through tough times. By the end of that road trip, I had committed to moving to his state.


It seemed like the perfect fairy tale. And yet, it wasn’t.

There wasn’t a single moment where I was emotionally secure and there were many moments where I felt deeply lonely.

It was confusing. Wasn’t this exactly what I wanted?

I realized now that I had told the universe what I wanted to do in a relationship but not how I wanted to feel.

Outwardly — we had the same lifestyle goals, the same passions, and the same interests.


Inwardly — we communicated feelings differently, resolved conflicts in polar opposite ways, and had mindsets that didn’t align.

We broke up.

When asked, I couldn’t quite express what was wrong, but I knew that nothing felt quite right.

After that relationship, I met someone who was the exact opposite of what I thought I wanted. At least on paper. We didn’t have the same lifestyle goals, we didn’t have sparkling chemistry the first day and we were on vastly different paths in life.

And yet today, years later, each and every moment spent with him is pure bliss. I have never felt so truly seen and adored for who I am. Our days are filled with surprising playfulness. Though we were on vastly different trajectories in life when we met, we somehow seemed to have co-created a perfectly aligned reality today.


How did I get it so wrong?

Mind you, I’m not some naive girl. I’ve dated my way across the globe and read dozens of books on relationships. I’ve asked old couples, experts, and anyone who seemed like they may have a clue about the secrets to love.

However, my level of happiness and the longevity of my relationship was not at all what I could have expected when I chose either relationship.

Of course, I’m not alone in being extremely bad at predicting how a relationship will work out. The US Census Bureau reports that 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce, another estimated 18 percent will separate, and almost everyone else experiences a steady decline in marital happiness (even the ones that stay married).


So, the real question is" Why do we get it so wrong?

RELATED: 10 Things I Could Only Learn From Marrying The Wrong Person

In my day job, we tend to forecast the likelihood of success on a project by assessing how well we have mitigated the most common risks. I realized that I had never once done this with relationships.

Yet, not only is marriage (or life partnership) one of the most important decisions of our lives, but a 2015 study also found that divorce actually substantially increases our risk of death. It’s literally a life-or-death decision.

So, I decided to dig into the statistics of relationships (specifically marriage) to find the most common reasons marriages fall apart so I could start mitigating it.


Here’s why statistically you'll marry the wrong person:

1. We base our choices on "peak" moments instead of "mundane" ones

If we were to take current statistics into consideration, the most realistic wedding vow would likely be, "I promise to stay married to you even if you gain 30 pounds, never change any of the habits that annoy me today, we only talk about our children and we only sleep together twice a year."

Because statistically, marriages rarely fail because of a single catastrophic event. They fail over time and one of the major reasons is lack of commitment. It’s when one or both people decide to stop trying.

But no one would ever use those vows even though there is no lack of evidence that this is likely your reality in 10 years. Instead, we picture our lives with who that person is today because that’s as far as the Hollywood script goes — it ends after the wedding.

But here’s what we don’t get reminded: the real key to any relationship working isn’t romance, sexual chemistry, trust, or even communication. It’s work.


It’s taking time to intimately connect with your partner even though you are hopelessly sleep-deprived and covered in baby food. It’s being patient even though you’ve had the same conversation a million times about your partner’s unrealistic anxiety. It’s staying curious about your partner’s future desires even though you’re drowning in chores.

So, every wedding vow should also really end with, "I promise to show up and put the work into our relationship for the rest of my life even when I really, really don’t feel like it."

If you or your partner can’t commit to that, you probably shouldn’t get married. As Marilyn Monroe famously said, "If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best."

What you can do: Remind yourself that marriage is likely to be seven years of butterflies and 40 years of work with someone who will likely change a lot from the person you married. There will also be exponentially more "mundane" moments than "peak" moments. Only marry someone you actually enjoy doing mundane things with.


It’s also helpful to find role models that you can learn from. Get to know/befriend/read about couples who have been married for a long time and who have the emotional connection you desire.

RELATED: Top 10 Reasons Why Divorce Is So Common These Days

2. We’re often very wrong about what will make us happy in the future

A fascinating study asked 521 newlyweds to predict how their overall feelings about their relationships would change over the following four years. Of course, almost every person predicted that their marital satisfaction would remain stable or improve over time.

The opposite turned out to be true at the end of the four years. Strikingly, people with the most optimistic forecasts showed the steepest declines in marital satisfaction.


A large part of why we’re so bad at predicting our future happiness is because we don’t know ourselves very well. For example, do you know what your attachment stylelove language, and erotic blueprints are? Do you know why your relationships failed or why you keep repeating the same patterns in your relationships?

Additionally, we tend to ignore minor issues from our partners early on. We forget that something that seems adorably quirky on the first date will become exponentially more annoying after 30 years. But now that you know this, you can account for it. As Benjamin Franklin says, "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterward."

What you can do: Do a pre-mortem with your partner if you decide to get married. Imagine that it is seven years down the line and your relationship has failed, what would have most likely caused it? Work on the issues you identified for both you and your partner now and don’t get married if you can’t resolve it.

3. We’re playing by the wrong rules of success

In almost every culture, getting married is a sign of social achievement. Never mind that your spouse might be abusive, or that you might go through a nasty divorce lose all your assets, or that your children might grow up in a broken home. At least, someone wanted to marry you in the first place.


Not only is society a bad cheerleader, but it is also a terrible coach who gives advice that actively works against us. Society tells us to fully give in to our feelings whether it’s the "butterflies" we feel, the fear of being single and lonely, or the desire to conform to our parents’ expectations. It tells us these are all good reasons to get married.

But statistically, marrying too early and marrying based on romantic feelings provide some of the worst outcomes for marriage. Instead of using our feelings as our only guide, we should be using divorce statistics to help us understand the most common reason marriages fail and then actively take steps to prevent it.

For example, did you know that how a partner handles money has been attributed to 40 percent of divorces in one study of 886 people? Money problems were also negatively correlated with interest in reconciliation.

Even worse, a separate study found that compared to non-money issues, marital conflicts about money were more pervasive, problematic and recurrent, and remained unresolved, despite including more attempts at problem-solving. In a nutshell, how your partner handles money matters to the quality and success of your marriage.


Yet, many people enter marriage never knowing their spouses’ money mindset. I’m not talking about how much they earn or their net worth. I’m talking about whether the way you spend and save money is compatible.

Do they love expensive dinners while you would rather eat lentils to save money? Are they happy maxing out multiple credit cards while you prefer to stick to a strict budget? Do you put every spare penny into retirement while they have no idea what a 401(k) is?

Money is only one example. There are several more key contributing factors to divorce. Do you know what they all are?

My point is that if we are going to play the game of marriage, we should at least know what the rules are to win it.


What you can do: Premarital counseling can be an excellent neutral third party to bring up conversations you feel uncomfortable initiating with your partner. A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of premarital counseling shows that there is a 30 percent improvement in couples staying together. The analysis also showed an immediate increase in overall relationship quality.

RELATED: The 3 Most Important Keys To A Happy, Successful Marriage That Lasts

4. Our mediums for finding love don’t allow us to select the right criteria

Imagine you are trying to buy a car but the dealership doesn’t offer any information on the safety features, mileage, engine or transmission of the car. The only thing that can aid your decision is what the car looks like. Would you buy it? The answer would likely be no.

Yet, for an even more important decision, our mediums for selecting life partners provide even less useful information. We can easily swipe for physical attributes, go to a meetup to find matching lifestyles, or get a matchmaker to align earning capabilities.


But statistically, some of the most important criteria that predict the success of a marriage — commitment, the consistency and way with which they respond to your bids for attention, and the compatibility of your financial mindsets — are impossible to search for.

Beyond the characteristics that make you a functional couple, there are those that make you a joyful couple — like the ability to express and regulate emotions, playfulness, and curiosity for life. Yet, we also have no easy way to filter for those criteria.

What you can do: Stop wasting your emotional energy junk dating on Tinder or Bumble. Instead, seek out more friends. In one meta-analysis of 1,897 adults, two-thirds reported that they met their partners through the "Friends-to-Lovers Pathway" and that it was also their preferred method compared to the "Strangers-to-Lovers Pathway."


You have more control than you think.

When I met the guy in the first story, I was in great physical shape, had a great career, a solid friendship group, and an adventurous life. In short, I thought I had my act together and that I needed to find someone who was my equal.

What I failed to see was that I was great as an individual, but I was a lousy partner. My ambition meant that I was often unable to prioritize someone else’s needs above mine. My even-keel emotional states were a result of my inability to be truly vulnerable. The flip side of my extraversion was my lack of listening skills.

After it ended with him, I worked on allowing vulnerability and sadness for the first time. I learned to listen through difficult emotional conversations without reacting immediately. Shortly after, the types of people I began attracting changed dramatically.


When I projected independence and ambition into the world (but also selfishness and impatience), I attracted the same. However, when I started prioritizing relationships over achievements and became more giving, communicative, and patient — I also attracted more of the same.

As novelist James Lane Allen says, "We do not attract what we want, we attract what we are."

I met my previous partner in the perfect situation and it failed. Then, I met my current partner under the wrong circumstances, but we both had the tools to create a relationship instead of needing someone to fit into our specific "perfect partner" boxes.

Perhaps this is the most encouraging thought about finding a life partner — You’re never in control of who you find but you are always in control of who you are.


If you want to not marry the wrong person, stop focusing on "finding" the right partner and instead, start "being" the right partner.

"As you awaken, you will come to understand that the journey to love isn’t about finding the one, the journey is about becoming the one." — Creig Crippen.

RELATED: How To Tell (Without A Doubt!) You're In The Right Relationship For You

May Pang is a Vice President of a Fortune 500 company and also a connection/communication coach. She is a top writer on Medium who aims to help people connect better with others and themselves. Her writing is a unique combination of storytelling and science.