Statistically predicting successful marriages

I make my living by trying to statistically measure and present the security of a computer network. The month I started, it seemed nearly impossible. Today it’s merely difficult. So I loved this story about trying to apply statistics to something even more difficult: marriage success.

The strategy to take is to look at the risk factors, then do what you can to minimize them. In my case, we went 6 for 7. And I can tell you we felt the difference as the factors related to earning power declined over the years.

And the statistics confirm some things I believed over the years. I remember, before I got married, I was friends with someone whose wife planned weddings at the church we attended at the time. He told me once what some people were spending on weddings, which was somewhere between what I paid for my last car and what I made per year at the time. Knowing that 50-67% of marriages fail anyway, I said cynically, “There’s no way they’ll pay that off before their divorce.”

Some of the factors aren’t much of a choice–you are what you are. If the most important thing to you about your partner is how much money he makes or what she looks like, there probably isn’t a conscious decision you can make that will reverse that.

Some things can’t be changed in the short term. At the time we met, my wife was a lot more optimistic about what I’d be earning 10 years later than I was. But I did seek out help from people who were further up the ladder from me, and even though most of them at first either couldn’t or wouldn’t help, that wasn’t the case forever.

And there’s definitely something to earnings power helping. When you’re struggling to pay your bills, like we were when we got married, little things can lead to a fight. Small discretionary purchases often aren’t worth thinking about now, but there was a time when one or two of those purchases could be the difference between paying the bills that month. And if it didn’t lead to a fight, it was one more thing on the resentment pile.

Some people do seem to be predisposed to one fate or the other; being able to measure it doesn’t hurt.

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