Does Your Profession Affect Your Risk Of Divorce?

My uncle Nick is a highly respected life actuary. Normally you would not want to get seated beside one at a dinner party (“So, you predict death for a living… fascinating!”). But Nick does not conform to the nerdy, plastic pocket-protected, socially-inept stereotypes of his profession. He can tell a joke like it’s nobody’s business, regale you with fascinating stories, and discuss Broadway musicals with as much knowledge as geo-politics.

But perhaps my uncle Nick’s most endearing quality is that he has been married to my aunt Julie for over 45 years. They are hands down the cutest and most devoted couple. Yes indeed, Julie and Nick are the role models that re-confirm one’s faith in marriage. If they ever divorced, it would cause a tsunami of break-ups among their extended family and friends. We know that if they couldn’t make it, the rest of us shouldn’t even bother to try.

I have always wondered about their secret to a happy marriage. Recently, I stumbled upon some research that shed some light. Apparently, there is a relationship between what people do for a living and the risk of divorce. Actuaries (my uncle’s profession) have one of the lowest divorce rates around. (In case you are curious, bartenders, massage therapists and dancers have the highest). Intrigued by this factoid, I emailed my uncle immediately.

Hey Nick, I am wondering if you know why actuaries have really low divorce rates. Is it that they are so engrossed playing with their calculators that nothing fazes them, not even marital tension? Sue

It did not take long to receive a reply from my uncle.

Sue: As applied mathematicians, actuaries are trained to be eclectic, flexible and not to let ideology get in the way of reality. We are adaptable, charming and modest. Oh, and great in bed and good with offspring. What more can a gal want? Nick

P.S. Julie maintains that having a sense of humor is near indispensable for a stable marriage. If you cannot look at yourself and the world as funny, if you take yourself too seriously, then look out.

P.S.S. Tell your sons to become actuaries.

As an actuary Nick has figured out that that good fortune can only improve your marital outcomes by so much. Happy marriages survive by luck with the same probability that chain smoking obese alcoholic people live to see 90. Marital success cannot be left to chance. Rather, there is a certain skill and mindset that improves the odds.

As Nick points out, marriage requires the ability to be flexible and adaptable because being inflexible and stubborn is a recipe for disaster. Marriage also requires being realistic enough to know that while you may be theoretically correct about something, it’s rarely worth the fight to prove it. Not taking oneself too seriously and laughing together at the many trials and triumphs of marriage is essential. And, being both a great parent and an outstanding lover is a bonus in every marriage. Of course marrying the right person helps too. My aunt Julie is a mathematician by training — another profession with low divorce rates!

There may indeed be a perfect equation for marital happiness that these smarty pants actuaries have been quick to figure out. Is it time for the rest of us to sharpen our pencils and do the math?

Sue Nador is a relationship strategist. She helps hash out expectations in the messy world of love in a pragmatic, humorous and straight-talking way on her blog. Sue lives with her husband, two sons and goldendoodle in Toronto.

Image(s): Martin Wimmer

filed under: ,