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What’s love got to do with it? Apparently, not a whole lot

The following may or may not, as in my case, having been disillusioned with the concept a few relationships ago, come as huge shock to you: love isn’t the only key to a healthy, lasting marriage or relationship. It seems a team of Australian researchers from the Australian National University might have actually discovered the key ingredients to keeping those romance fires burning, or at least what outright extinguishes them.

As reported by Reuters, the research team found that age, previous relationships and whether or not a partner smokes are all factors that influence the length of a relationship.

Aptly named, “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” the study followed almost 2,500 couples, married or living together, from 2001 to 2007, and identified, analyzed and tracked the factors that surrounded those who remained together and those who divorced or separated.

The study found that a husband who is nine or more years older than his wife is twice as likely to get divorced, with the same holding true for husbands who get married before they turn 25. (I wasn’t too shocked reading that last one either.)

And another huge shocker, children were found to have a serious impact on the longevity of a marriage or relationship, as the study showed one fifth of couples with kids before marriage — either from a past relationship or in the same relationship — separated, compared to only nine percent of couples without children born before marriage.

The study also found that we can put part of the blame of some separations on that famous/infamous (depending on your perspective) maternal biological clock and instinct, with women who want to have children more than their partners more likely to divorce.

This next one, highlighted in just about every romantic comedy, also comes as no real surprise. A couple’s parents play a significant role in a relationship. The study showed some 16 percent of men and women whose parents ever separated or divorced also experienced marital separation, compared to 10 percent for those whose parents did not separate. Of course, this number is only growing, with current divorce rates still at an alarming 50+ percent. And I always thought it was just that meddlesome mother-in-law getting in the way….

The farther I get down this list, the more I’m realizing how obvious the findings of this research team are anything but new. I’m having several, “I could have told you that” moments. Here are some more:

Another inhibitor of long lasting relationships/marriages, as the study found, has to do with how many relationships a partner has had. Those on a second or third…or sixth marriage (plenty of celebrity comparisons to draw here) are 90 percent more likely to separate than spouses who are both in a first marriage.

Let’s not forget about the importance of cheese, dough, bread, the green…MONEY. (You knew I’d eventually make it here.) The study showed up to 16 percent of respondents who indicated they were poor or where the husband — not the wife — was unemployed said they had separated. This is compared to only nine percent of couples with sustainable finances.

As mentioned in my lovely (self-deduced adjective addition here) lede, smoking plays yet another key factor in making a relationship work. Couples with one partner a smoker and the other a non-smoker are more likely to meet a brick wall with their relationship.

So you’ve read some of the factors that play into helping a relationship fail, here are some that were found that didn’t significantly affect the chance of separation:

“…the number and age of children born to a married couple, the wife’s employment status and the number of years the couple had been employed.”

I find it extremely interesting that a few spots in this study demonstrated the importance of the male partner as, essentially, the bread winner of a household. It didn’t seem to matter if the wife was employed or poor, just the husband. Granted, I have no doctorate in psychology, but this seems to illustrate to me the importance of the stay-at-home mom and her worth and significance to the lasting bond not only between her and the children, but between her and the husband.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and maybe set the women’s movement back a few years at the same time by saying that I think things were better when a man went to work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week and mom stayed home to take care of the house and the children. I think divorce rates would back me up on this one.

It just seems to me that the fires of romance and passion were burning just a little bit brighter back in the day.

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