1 Date at least 3 years before putting a ring on it.
Three is the magic number, according to a 2014 survey conducted at Emory University. Research shows that couples who date for at least a few years increase their chances of staying together. But don’t wait too long—a July 2015 analysis from the University of Utah found that, for individuals who tie the knot after age 32, the odds of divorce increase by 5 percent per year of age at marriage.
2 Wait until after your 23rd birthday to commit.
A 2014 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that people who made their first big commitment—whether moving in together or getting married—at the age of 18 had a 60 percent divorce rate, while those who were at least 23 at the time of commitment experienced a rate of divorce around 30 percent. (This is due, in part, to education levels: Demographer Philip Cohen says divorce is much more common for those less than a college degree.)
3 Find someone close in age.
The bigger the age gap between spouses, the more likely they are to get divorced, says a 2014 study from Emory University.
4 Don’t blow your savings on a big diamond.
Or an expensive wedding. One study found that couples who drop $20,000 or more on a ceremony are 46 percent more likely to divorce. On the flip side, the those who spend under $5,000 are 18 percent less likely to split up. The same was true for engagement rings: the bigger the rock, the better the chances of divorce.
5 Marry a healthy guy with an easygoing personality.
There’s a reason mom wanted you to find a nice boy: Research from the University of Chicago finds that a husband’s “agreeable personality” and good health are crucial to relationship longevity in older couples. (Oddly, the same traits in wives don’t necessarily limit marital conflict.)
6 Go to church.
Couples who attend religious services regularly are 46 percent less likely to divorce, according to the Emory University survey. But there’s a caveat: individuals who identify as evangelical Christians have a divorce rate that’s higher than average, according to a 2014 study from Baylor University.
7 Learn to communicate.
Most marital problems can be solved through open communication—at least that’s according to the participants in the Cornell Marriage Advice Project, the largest in-depth study ever done of people in longtime marriages. The June 2015 study, conducted by a Cornell University gerontologist, surveyed more than 700 individuals wedded for a total of 40,000 years.
8 …but don’t talk everything to death.
When your husband says he doesn’t want to talk about it, believe him. “For women, getting a lot of support from their spouse is a positive experience,” said Deborah Carr, the Rutgers University professor behind an October 2015 study that examined how men and women in long-term marriages deal with marital troubles differently. “Older men, however, may feel frustrated receiving lots of support from their wife, especially if it makes them feel helpless or less competent.”
9 Divide household chores equally.
Spouses who take on their fair share of housework have better sex lives, according to an October 2015 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. (And better sex lives lead to happier unions. See: next tip.)
However, researchers say not all couples benefit from dividing chores—their work focused on equal housework in relation to sex among egalitarian couples, in other words, relationships where both partners work and share domestic responsibilities.
10 Keep the flame burning.
Recent research from the American Sociological Association shows that married women seeking affairs, specifically those between the ages of 35 to 45, do so because they’re lacking sex and romantic passion in their own marriages.
11 Treat marriage as a lifelong commitment.
According to Karl Pillemer, the gerontologist behind the Cornell Marriage Advice Project, spouses must have “mindset [that marriage] is a profound commitment to be respected, even if things go sour over the short term.” It is not, Pillemar said, a voluntary partnership that ends when the passion does.
12 Live in New Jersey.
Yup. According to 2012 U.S. Census Data published by Bloomberg, the Garden State has the lowest rate of divorce (8.6 percent) in the country.
13 Have some interests in common.
Couples surveyed in the Cornell Marriage Advice Project also stressed a need for similarities—in interests, background and values. “The most critical need for similarity is in core values regarding potentially contentious issues like child-rearing, how money should be spent and religion,” said Pillemer.
14 Make happiness a priority.
Turns out there’s some truth to the old adage “happy wife, happy life.” A September 2014 study from Rutgers University concluded that the more satisfied the wife is with the union, “the happier the husband is with his life no matter how he feels about their nuptials.”
15 Have a double-income household.
OK, so technically the research doesn’t say both husband and wife need to bring home the bacon, but it does show that couples with an annual household income of $125,000 or more reduce their chances of divorce by 51 percent. For most people, that means both spouses working outside the home.