Do Runners Divorce More? (Part 1 – Do your own experiment)

You can also try this for runners, triathletes or any other classification of people you know, not just runners. I have it for runners because I know many runners and have research to expand on the subject in future posts.

This experiment works best for people in North American culture because the “normal” rates used for comparison were based on United States 2004 census data. Other cultures have different social influences on divorce and so the national rates are probably different, which will lead to different answers to the question in the title. But it might be interesting to still try and speculate via approximation. In some cases, the answer someone gets will be so vastly different to the national ratio that the conclusion drawn would not be in much doubt. So get a pen or pencil, scrap piece of paper you can write a list on, and give this a try!

List all the runners you can think of.
No need to be too exact to time or capture everybody. You can stop where you start running out of names (no pun intended), but the more names you have, the more confident you can be in your personal experiment.

Cross off the never married people on that list, or anyone you aren’t sure about on that status.

Label the rest as either married to first spouse or divorced at least once.
You might want to keep track of runners married to another runner for an additional consideration. Cross off anyone you aren’t sure here as well.

Count the number in each remaining, then divide the divorced at least once by the total number of people you have.
That’s the number of people not crossed off. That’s because everyone you have not crossed off would have been married at least once.

You can do this calculation on Google by typing a number, a slash, and then the other number, like 23/44 and hit Return or Search.

If your answer is larger than 0.305, then Yes, runners you know divorce more than the national (US) average.

Please remember this is runners you know, not an end all and be all answer. And yes, I’m telling you the US divorce rate is closer to one-third than this mythical 50% due to the way “divorce rate” is measured, and misinterpreted in stating the results in words.

If you wouldn’t mind anonymously sharing your decimal results from above, please take the poll below and/or share your numerical score as a comment. I’d be curious to see some range among the results. The poll is not a scientific experiment, in case anyone was wondering, just a curiosity for me.

My score was 0.5, by fluke where I stopped being with 50 runners and I happened to have had a 25/50 total.

That’s definitely bigger than 0.305, but I don’t have enough people to create a respectable margin or error like those polls involving 1,000 or so people to conclude anything. Chances are, you won’t, either. But that’s why I said above that it’s for your situation only, not an end all and be all answer. I’ll write more by Sunday night to offer some real research on runners and their divorce rates relative to the general population.

Please get your friends to try if you want a comparison to your own that is not a totally anonymous result. This would be more effective with friends who don’t have a lot of friends in common with you because otherwise, it’d be a very similar result to yours. Your friends don’t need to be runners, just some people who know runners.

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METHODOLOGY TO ATTAIN 0.305 RATIO

Data presented came from the 2004 US Census Data, Table 3 for All Races (click to download Excel file).

The common “marriage and divorce” stat everybody knows is that 50% of marriages end in divorce. However, you can’t predict the marriages of runners currently married so that’s a useless baseline standard. What I did was to take the total number of men and women who have ever been divorced, and divided it by those who have ever been married. That’s two things you can figure out about the “marriage” status of people you know, and what you did in the experiment above. So in the US:

75.56 million men ever marry (i.e. married at least once)
22.70 million men ever divorce
0.301 = men who ever marry and end up getting divorced

87.32 million women ever marry
26.95 million women ever divorce
0.309 = women who ever marry and end up getting divorced

162.88 million men and women ever marry
49.68 million men and women ever divorce
0.305 = men and women, combined, who ever married and end up getting divorced

Essentially, these stats encompass all the men and women captured by the 2004 US Census. One could make a good argument the 0.305 value should be lower for this experiment because there wouldn’t be very many runners captured in the over 60 category, meaning some people who may divorce then are skewing the results to the larger ratio than might be to compare with for runners. However, I’ll stand on 0.305 to avoid speculation on a substitute value that would only invite criticism. I think you’ll find the results generally different enough from 0.305 that you won’t care about whether that 0.305 ratio should have been 0.25, 0.305 or some other similar value.

Your age, and thus the likely average age of the running people you know, might affect your result. After all, if you’re younger and know lots of young married runners, they may not have divorced yet (if ever, of course). Divorce takes time if they happen. However, you are comparing it to the general population so you can’t skew it too high, just too low a ratio. For the record, I’m 36 and about 2/3 of my list was older than me.

The degree of commitment shown by the runners you know, probably of some correlation to how good they are and/or the distance they run, could well be another serious factor. About half those I had on my list were marathon runners instead of the shorter distance types. And on average, they’re quite a bit better than the average runner. So that’s likely my skew, but I’ll talk more on that in following posts.

Defend Stable Marriage, not Hetero Marriage

Why are people so vehement to defend the institution of marriage against same-sex marriage when marriage fails approximately half the time?

What’s so sacred about something that fails half of the time?

What do you put up with in your life that fails half of the time or more besides baseball hitters who are deemed good at a 30% success rate?

At 50% divorce rates, marriage is bordering on failure as a whole. There needs a better policy on marriage if it’s going to be held up as being sacred, like a maximum of 3 divorces before it becomes taboo. This is because, frankly, I expect better of something sacred.

If you want to use National Rifle Association (NRA) “logic”, popular among conservatives, that marriages don’t divorce, people divorce, the way they say guns don’t kill people, people kill people, then who cares who marries? Work on the people!

Besides, why are people so worried about other people’s marriages when they can’t keep their own together half the time? Maybe if they kept their minds and energy on their own marriages instead of someone else’s marriage, they’d be together longer. That goes for affairs as well as same-sex marriage concepts, although this is not just some theoretical musing. US states allowing or considering legalizing same-sex marriage have drops in divorce rates, while those most strongly opposed have increases, not to mention among the highest rates in the US (TalkToAction.org).

And you know why? One word. Tolerance.

It’s the same reason that the states which aren’t tolerant to same-sex marriages aren’t tolerant to other issues in their marriage and divorce. A change in social attitude would seem to influence a change in attitude within one’s own marriage as well. That would not be surprising considering how humans are such social creatures heavily influenced by social norms as peer pressure demonstrates quite powerfully.

Seems to me that if you want to preserve the institution and sacredness of marriage, defending it against same-sex isn’t the way to go but rather allowing it.

Now, Vermont legalized same-sex marriage last April 7, and the first to legalize it by legislature (politicians voted, vetoing the governor, rather than handed down by law from the court system). If I were people in other states, I’d line up to make it legal rather than fight it, even if only ultimately to delay the inevitable because it is only inevitable.

Don’t agree with any of this? Come on. Try and convince me. Give me a better argument! I challenge you.

Why Settling is a Great Marriage Strategy

The short answer to this is you manage your expectations better and you, as the greatest spin machine unto yourself, will be able to justify to yourself you’re in a great situation despite what things may seem. The important things are great and the other stuff doesn’t matter. In the ideal situation, you can only claim things are great (at best), but fell short of your ideals and admit you will have to settle for that. That’s settling as in later rather than at the time of marriage.

The long answer involves a not too complicated, but hard to swallow, explanation.

Daniel Gilbert

I’m writing this based on some common beliefs I share with happiness psychologist Daniel Gilbert and choice/wisdom psychologist Barry Schwartz. The relevant bits of their works are summarized in the 20 minute videos below. You would probably appreciate my views better if you watched them first, or just watch them if you have happened to have landed here and have not seen them. They are far more fascinating than this post! Otherwise, accept what I claim they say as truths for now and judge the evidence later. I will reference their work only in the sense of stating some of these hard to accept beliefs about human nature, without a lot of jargon. If you were not familiar with these beliefs below, then, please, really, watch the videos. You will learn a lot about yourself… if you were human.

First one is people have trouble accepting the truth, especially if it were about them. We’re humans. We kind of know ourselves, don’t we? Maybe not the entire species, but definitely ourselves. Sure [sarcastically], that’s why the sign outside the Oracle at Delphi read “Know thyself” as a warning before you choose what to ask to know.

Barry Schwartz

Second is that humans are the greatest spin machines ever. We can justify anything to ourselves, and not only that, but probably within 3 months! It is among our greatest asset and flaws. Dan shows how new paraplegics were just as happy as lottery winners a year later, for instance. On other hand, we don’t need anybody to show we have justified how killing entire ethnic groups betters the world, then convince others to do it, too. The monks were right, you know. It is all in mind over matter. Problem is, we don’t accept this too well. That’s why we specifically pray for the strength to accept the things we cannot change. You don’t need to ask for strength to do it. The strength required is within you. You just need to decide whether or not you’re up to it. A lot of people don’t, though.

Stumbling On Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert

At the end of Dan’s video, he correctly states that we should have preferences that lead us into one future over another. However, that should be done in a bounded framework. When our ambition is unbounded, like in the Miss USA situation above or what our imagination allows us to do, especially when imagining  ideal situations, we place ourselves at risk for being driven too hard by what we want and anything could be justified for it. He concludes with “our longings and worries are both, to some degree, overblown we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience”.

So putting it together for a theory a bit larger than just applicable to marriage, here’s a concept I live by.

Be a practical dreamer.

Shoot high, but not to reach the sky. Aim for a goal that will make you reasonably happy, not the absolute happiest guaranteed for a long time. The “guarantee”, which is supposed to remove risk like divorce or a change of mind on anything, ironically, becomes your biggest risk with that blind ambition about which Dan talked. I’ve seen this with enough people I’ve known (not well) over the years who married for the “prize”, with a few envious qualities that turned out was all too temporary. Then their flaws became magnified with the higher initial expectations set (aka Obama Syndrome). Their “guarantee” of an unmatchable mate was now either average, or worse, or even a great catch, but a disappointment from “perfection”.

Now, when applied to love, and marriage for those willing, find someone who makes you sufficiently happy. To risk being too unidealistic, I’d almost recommend setting your target as someone who meets your minimum happiness requirements. If they exceed, bonus! And they’re likely to exceed because you’ll never find someone to exact specifications, good or bad. You’re accepting there might be better people right away, but maybe not after you forge your relationship into a tighter bond. Still, if there were someone better, that’s fine. You’ve got enough happiness. Wanting more is a natural human desire so save them for your desires. Just don’t scream out their names during sex.

If you’re seeking someone, though, I would highly recommend you not tell him or her, it or them, this is your mate selection theory! Try giving them one of my more idealistic declaration of love poems.

So in this theory, I have to fess up that the “settling” in the title wasn’t “settling” for second rate as many probably attributed said connotation of the word. Rather, it is settling for “good enough” or “settling” for pretty good rather than aspiring for best or greatest. Like anyone could prove that anyway. However, it made for a catchy title!

There’s another example of what unbounded ambition can cause you to do, lose your writing integrity. Why should I have cared? It’s only words on a blog! Note the self-justification I just accepted.

Now, I do know people change over time and that is a big cause of broken relationships. However, I also believe this is also amplified if the starting point chosen was based on poor judgment to start with, like a common flaw on a good guy is far less acceptable on a perfect guy. Dan talked about that, too!

But seeing as the divorce rate is about 50% going on idealistic mate selection, wouldn’t settling be at least worth a try by half the people? It can’t fail them all, which means the divorce rate has to decrease!

Oh, yes. The blindness of love. People don’t generally marry thinking they’ll divorce.

Be a practical dreamer…

Which is why I’m going to start settling with regards to women I date starting tomorrow! Hahaha!

Now, if you think a lot of this is hypocritical, refer to Life Philosphy #12:
One should be self-contradictory to attain balance, but only like an opposable thumb to four fingers.

The opposable thumb is what sets us apart from other primates in evolution, if you don’t know, allowing us to grasp things easier. Here it is used as metaphor that self-contradiction is only acceptable to serve a higher purpose.