3/4ths of unhappy marriages will get happier if they just stick it out.
Every marriage goes through rough spots. Whenever you survey a bunch of married people, some fraction of them will report that they are unhappy in their marriage. You might think that that would be enough to predict divorce. You might even think that unhappiness is enough to justify divorce (though I don’t). The good news, though, is, as Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher report in The Case for Marriage, that three quarters of couples who say they are unhappy in their marriage now, will say that they are very happy in their marriage five years later – IF they hold on and work it out.
Still, the rough patches can be pretty rough when you are living in them. Some marriages are “high conflict” – the couple fights often, sometimes violently. BUT these are a small minority of marriages, and are only a third of marriages that end in divorce. Most divorces – about 2/3rds – come from low conflict marriages. They don’t hit each other, they don’t even fight all the time, they are just unhappy. They imagine that if they were apart, if they could somehow start over again, they might get happier.
SO let’s put these two statistics together:
2/3rds of divorces come from low conflict, merely unhappy marriages.
3/4ths of merely unhappy marriages will be very happy if they just stick together.
2/3 times 3/4 = 1/2.
Half of what? Half of the unhappy marriages that end in divorce would get happy if they just stuck it out another five years.
People who hate and hit each other will still divorce – and some probably should.
People who love and cherish each other won’t divorce – and society and their children thank them for it.
The large center of married people who are unhappy at one time can take heart – just hold on, keep working at it, and the great majority of you will see it work out just fine in the end.