A European client recently shared an article from Britain recommending more due diligence before marriage. Lucy Kellaway wrote in the Financial Times on May 18, 2008 that with one million Europeans divorcing annually, sexual attraction and hunches can longer be considered a sufficient knowledge base to justify marriage. She categorizes marital mismatches as failures of either selection or retention; and recommends a database permitting suitors to research potential partners online.
Even if we set aside the enormous issue of personal privacy, I doubt that having more information beforehand would increase marital happiness or reduce breakups. Inducements to marry can be situational, cultural, subconscious or complex beyond description. Therefore, I believe prospective spouses benefit more from pre-marital counseling (including instruction on child-rearing and maintaining a budget) and from having a better understanding of risk factors; than from accumulating perceived justifications for marriage.
Besides, people evolve after they wed — often in different directions. Two of the greatest relationship stressors are children and money. Add to the uncertainty of a marriage the process I describe as serial monogamy. This conduct appears innate among humans, motivating many of us to cycle in and out of relationships over time, thereby diversifying our gene pool.
I predict that the oppressive economic conditions we are now facing — including rising unemployment, foreclosures, business failures and tightened credit — will raise the stress level for many marriages, especially ones that were already troubled. We will experience a higher rate of divorce with little causal connection to factors or circumstances that existed on the date of marriage.
FOLLOW-UP October 14, 2008: The Boston Globe reports declining financial markets are increasing marital stress.