Facts on Marriage about Happiness, Divorce, and Affairs


Marriage facts, studies, and statistics are regularly compiled and studied by government agencies, psychologists, and sociologists.  The following list was drawn from research and studies on marriage about intimacy, conflict management, extramarital affairs, and other topics. After reviewing this page, you may want to review marriage books as well that tell about how to resolve relationship issues.

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  1. About marriage and money: Married adults at any income level were as likely, if not more likely, to report being happy than even the wealthiest unmarried adults. (Warner)
  2. About marriage and divorce: Younger people in the U.S. who are marrying for the first time face roughly a 40-50% chance of divorcing in their lifetime. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992, p. 5).
  3. About divorce and extramartial affairs: 80% of those who divorce during an affair regret the decision. (Hein)
  4. About divorce frequency: A couple gets divorced every ten to thirteen seconds. (Hein)
  5. About the length of marriage: Of first marriages that end in divorce, many end in the first 3 to 5 years. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992, p. 4).
  6. About marriage and happiness: About 64% of married people say they are very satisfied with the way their personal life is going, compared with 43% of singles. (Warner)
  7. About divorce and anger: For ten years following a divorce, 50% of women and 33% of men remain angry. (Hein).
  8. About marital conflict and stress: Poor conflict management in marriage predicts both marital distress and negative effects on children (e.g., Gottman, Markman & Hahlweg, Clements, Stanley, & Markman, 1997, Cowan & Cowan, Grych & Fincham).
  9. About relationships after divorce: After divorce, it is more difficult for women to start new relationships than for men. (Hein)
  10. About marital problems and work: When spouses have marital problems, they tend to work less efficiently on the job, particularly men (e.g., Forthofer, Markman, Cox, Stanley, & Kessler).
  11. About issues before marriage: Studies show that issues present before a couple gets married can predict which couples stay together with accuracies of 80% up to 94% (e.g., Clements, Stanley, & Markman, ; Fowers, Montel, & Olson; Gottman; Karney & Bradbury; Kelly & Conley; and Rogge & Bradbury).
  12. About infidelity that ends a marriage: Affairs that end marriages are subject to the same emotional stresses as the marriage but are twice as likely to split.  (Hein)
  13. About intimacy and infidelity: Affairs die for the same reason as marriage, lack of intimacy. The average affair lasts two to four years. (Hein)
  14. About happiness and finances: While 72% of respondents with incomes of $75,000 or higher report being very satisfied with their personal life, only 36% of those with an annual income of $30,000 or less say the same. (Warner)
  15. About extramarital affairs: More than 50% may be involved in a current affair, yet only 25% cite an affair as an actual reason for divorce. (Hein)
  16. About living together before marriage: Many more couples live together prior to marriage than in the past–recent estimates are in the range of 60+%. Couples who live together before marriage are less likely to stay married. (Stanley & Markman, Bumpass & Sweet).
  17. About problems in marriage: Married couples claim to argue most about money and secondly about children. (Stanley & Markman).
  18. About divorce rates and infidelity: For marriage partners in an affair, the divorce rate is much higher. (Hein)
  19. About marriage and health: Married men and women in all age groups are less likely to be limited in activity due to illness than single, separated, divorced, or widowed individuals (National Center for Health Statistics).
  20. About marriage and happiness: At least one comprehensive study indicates that people are no more happy after marriage than before. Psychologists who conducted the study explain that after major life events (good and bad), most people return to their normal levels of happiness. (Lucas)

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Bumpass, L.L, & Sweet, J.A. (1991) The Role of Cohabitation in Declining Rates of Marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 913-927.

Cherlin, A. J., & Furstenberg, F. F., Jr. (1994). Step families in the United States: A reconsideration. Annual Review of Sociology, 20, 359-381.

Clements, M., Stanley, S.M., & Markman, H.J. (1997). Predicting Divorce: A discrimant analysis. Manuscript in preparation.

Coie, J., Watt, N., West, S. G., Hawkins, J. D., Asarnow, J. R., Markman, H. J., Ramey, S. L., Shure, M. B., & Long, B. (1993). The science of prevention: A conceptual framework and some directions for a national research program. American Psychologist, 48, 1013-1022.

Coyne, J. C., Kahn, J., & Gotlib, I. H. (1987). Depression. Family interaction and psychopathology: Theories, methods, and findings. New York: Plenum Press.

Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (1992). When partners become parents: The big life change for couples. New York: Harper Collins.

Fincham, F., Grych, J., & Osborne, L. (1993, March). Interparental conflict and child adjustment: A longitudinal analysis. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, New Orleans, LA.

Forthofer, M.S., Markman, H.J., Cox, M., Stanley, S., & Kessler, R.C. (1996). Associations between marital distress and work loss in a national sample. Journal of Marriage and Family, 58, 597-605.

Fowers, B. J., Montel, K. H., & Olson, D. H. (1996). Predicting marital success for premarital couple types based on PREPARE. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 22, 103-119.

Gottman, J. (1994). Why marriages succeed or fail. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Grych, J., & Fincham, F. (1990). Marital conflict and children’s adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 267-290.

Hein, H. 2000. Sexual Detours: Infidelity and Intimacy at a Crossroads. New York, NY: Golden Books Adult Publishing..Karney, B.R., & Bradbury, T.N. (1995). The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability: A review of theory, method, and research. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 3-34.

Kelly, E. L., & Conley, J. J. (1987). Personality and compatibility: A prospective analysis of marital stability and marital satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 27-40.

Lucas, R. E. Michigan State University, Andrew E. Clark, Departement et Laboratoire d’Economie Theorique et Appliquee, Yannis Georgellis, Brunel University, and Ed Diener, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Reexaming Adaptation and the Set Point Model of Happiness: Reactions to Changes in Marital Status,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 84, No. 3.Markman, H.J., Stanley, S.M., & Blumberg, S.L. (1994). Fighting for Your Marriage: Positive Steps For A Loving and Lasting Relationship. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, Inc.

National Center for Health Statistics (1997, January). Health and SelectedSocioeconomic Characteristics of the Family: United States, 1988-90. (PHS) 97-1523. Washington D.C.: General Printing Office.

Rogge, R.D., & Bradbury, T.N. (in press). Recent Advances in the Prediction of Marital Outcomes. In R. Berger & M.T. Hannah (Eds.) Handbook of preventive approaches in couples therapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Stanley, S.M., & Markman, H.J.(1997) Marriage in the 90s: A Nationwide Random Phone Survey. Denver, Colorado: PREP, Inc.

U. S. Bureau of the Census (1992). Marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the 1990’s (Current Population Reports, P23-180). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Warner, J. (January 4, 2007) Marriage Beats Money for Happiness. WebMD.Com. Retrieved at link http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20070104/marriage-beats-money-for-happiness).