Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Age & The Likelihood Of Divorce
"The younger you are when you get married, the more likely you are to divorce later...You are, for example, two to three times more likely to get divorced if you marry in your teens or early twenties than if you wait until your thirties of forties...Age twenty-five seems to be the magic cutoff point."
All of you married 24-year-olds may be shaking your fists at me, but don't shoot the messenger. The quote is from Elizabeth Gilbert's book Committed, and she's really just a messenger, too -- of researchers at Rutgers University who recently did a study on factors of "divorce proneness"*.
In my opinion, age is just a number used to indicate how long it's been since you left your studio apartment in Womb Town. It doesn't necessarily say anything about your wisdom, which is much more dependent on your life experiences, as well as your levels of self-awareness, courage, and self-discipline. (This bride is living proof of what I mean.)
But I gotta say...the correlation between your age and the likelihood that your marriage will end in divorce actually makes some sense to me. Not so much because of the number, but because of how much wisdom, and other positive qualities that tend to increase with age, factor into how successful you are in your relationships in general, as well as *what kind of people* you choose to be in relationship with in the first place. (Note: I'm taking common deal-breaking situations off the table here, like serious addictions and abuse, which can't be healed with increased age or your wisdom alone. So I'm not even going there.)
Back when I was twenty-four, I was ready to marry my boyfriend who happened to be 8 years my senior and also divorced. He was someone I loved deeply and profoundly, so much so that knowing him and losing him has changed me from the inside out, in good ways and in bad.
And when I think back at the wife I would have been at that age -- emotionally, financially, and physically generous (without discrimination nor wisdom), naive, doting, unfamiliar with certain secret parts of myself, blissfully over-accepting of my then-partner's faults, yet oblivious to the intricacies of his pain as a divorced man whose wife had left him -- I am relieved that six years had elapsed before eventually choosing Brian as my partner and committing to our collective well-being.
I was a girl at twenty-four. I'm a woman (and an active work-in-progress) here at thirty.
I could be wrong, but there seems to be something that "clicks" in the brain at certain times in your life (ages 25, 30, 40, etc., although these numbers vary depending on your life experiences), at which point a fast-forward button is pressed and you're infinitely more realistic about who you are, who others are, and how to engage with them without losing your mind or your integrity.
As for that twenty-five year cutoff as mentioned in Gilbert's quote, it makes sense: You are far enough from college, or trade school, or the first day of your first grown-up job to know that nothing, NOTHING about the world is what you thought it was back when you were a teenager. There is much more pain that lives behind everyone's eyes, and thankfully, much more hope and resilience in your own inner being than you ever knew you could muster up.
So I guess you could say that I'm the Rutgers research poster child because all of this became evident to me at age twenty-five-- a phase of my life that I affectionately call my "quarter-life crisis". And my understanding of the sad and miraculous truths of the world has deepened with each passing year since then. (Can't wait until I'm sixty. Perhaps I'll be freakin' awesome by then.)
And now, as a newlywed at the age of 30, I can see and feel how much my capacity to be a good wife has grown. (Umm..just like my pants size. And the number of little wrinkles under my eyes.) I'm faaaar from perfect, of course, but I've also come a long way since twenty-four. It's amazing how much a person can change in six years.
This post is not about why 25-year-olds are better than 24-year-olds. Like I said earlier, numbers are just numbers. But I invite you think back to who you were 5 years ago (or more, for those of you in your 30's or older). Would you have been a different wife or husband back then?
PS. For those under 30 - I hope I haven't offended you or undermined your awesomeness. (In fact, I'd bet that developmentally, I, at age 24, was equivalent to you at age 18. So who am I to judge?) But even if you're in your early to mid 20's, I extend the invitation to think about who you were 5 years ago, too, and what kind of girlfriend/ boyfriend you were back then. Because when you do, I bet you'll want to pat yourself on the back for coming such a long way.
*Aside from age, there are a few other factors of "divorce proneness" according to Rutgers researchers. They include education, children, cohabitation, heterogamy, social integration, religiousness, and gender fairness.