May-December Marriages

According a recent study of 3,000 people by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, professors in the Department of Economics at Emory University in Atlanta, the age gap between spouses could be “a considerable factor ” in the success of the marriage. A large gap is related to a higher divorce rate, according to Randal Olson, a fourth-year computer science graduate research assistant at Michigan State University, who crunched the raw data from Emory.

Partners from different generations may have different cultural reference points and values, and polar opposite tastes in music and film, and even friends, and also have different approaches to their sex life, says Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills psychotherapist and panelist on “Sex Box,” a forthcoming We TV relationship therapy show. “Sex drive goes up for women in middle age, but sexual function decreases for men.”

A five-year age gap statistically means spouses are 18 percent more likely to divorce compared to just 3% with a 1-year age difference. The rate rises to 39 percent for a 10-year age difference and 95 percent for a 20-year age gap.

Other factors may play a role in a marriage’s longevity. Having your first child out of wedlock statistically means you’re 59% less likely to have a divorce than a couple with no children, but having a child during a marriage means you’re 76% less likely to split, Olson found. But that could also mean happier couples have more children. Spouses are 43 percent more likely to divorce if they have different levels of education than a couple with the same level. Obserbving a 10-year wedding anniversary bodes well because partners who reach a decade are 94 percent less likely to divorce.

Not everyone buys these results, however. “Having children may postpone a divorce, but often it ends up bringing even more tension to a relationship and more to argue about, more costs, more demands on their time, which all lead to stress, which often leads to divorce,” says Randy Kessler, an Atlanta-based lawyer who wrote the book, “Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids, and Your Future.” The high number of short marriages could be people re-marrying and choosing the same type of partner. “It does not work for the same reasons the prior relationship did not work,” he adds.

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