The old yardstick is a man should spend a month’s salary on the engagement ring. Some women sure do go ga-ga over that big, beautiful, expensive, sparkly ring. Others find the ring beside the point. No one exactly has come out and said that the larger the ring, the more he loves her. Who would dare? That would be in poor taste, would it not? But De Beers sure seems to hint at it hard enough.
Researchers at Emory University, however, found that the opposite was true. The bigger, gaudier, and indeed more expensive the ring was, the more likely the couple was to divorce, the study found. That great symbolic thing may be setting the expectations for the marriage a bit too high. Two economists, Andrew M. Francis and Hugo M. Mialon, conducted the study. 3,000 once married heterosexual couples participated. The aim researchers wrote was to, “evaluate the association between wedding spending and marriage duration.” How much was spent on the wedding was indirectly related to how long the marriage lasted. Those who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring were 1.3 times more likely to get divorced, as compared to those who had spent between $500 and $2,000.
It wasn’t only the engagement ring they looked into. The professors investigated the price tag for the wedding to see if there was any correlation. Turns out there was. Those whose weddings were over $20,000 were 3.5 times more likely to get divorced, than those whose weddings cost in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Those who had modest weddings had the best rate of stay-together-ness. “Relatively low spending on the wedding is positively associated with duration among male and female respondents,” researchers noted.
Another interesting find, “In the sample of all persons, greater differences in age and education between husband and wife and reporting that one’s partner’s looks were important in the decision to marry are both significantly associated with a higher hazard of divorce. On the other hand, relatively high household income, regularly attending religious services, having a child with one’s partner, relatively high wedding attendance, and going on a honeymoon are all significantly associated with a lower hazard of divorce.” The first part makes sense. If you married someone at least partly for their looks, and marriage is a long-term arrangement, one must know that their looks will fade eventually. In the second half of the statement, it seems a lot of strong community and familial connections helps keep couples together. It also seems that these types of couples have a lot in common, which helps too.
Of course, this research didn’t establish a causal relationship. A high priced wedding or engagement ring doesn’t cause a divorce. These scenarios merely indicated a correlation or a higher likelihood. Of course there are those who paid a low price for the engagement ring, who pray for divorce, as well as happily married, rich couples. If you have fallen head over heels with someone, regardless of their net worth or how much they are willing to spend, if your relationship is sitting on a foundation of trust, love, affection, mutual respect and good communication, chances are the marriage will be strong, and will last.
It seems like common sense to most of us that if your marriage is based on primarily superficial concerns, chances are it doesn’t have that deep well of strength needed to overcome the difficult times that inevitably rock any marriage. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on your wedding or the ring. What really matters is how you feel about one another, how you get along, and if you can both do what it takes to make the marriage last. Making things work is something you can’t buy with money. Only patience, love, and understanding can do that. For more on this topic, pick up a copy of, What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal by John Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver.