How Your Career Choice Affects Your Love Life

Who knew that divorce could be an occupational hazard?! If you’d like to improve your odds of staying married to your partner, here’s what you need to know.

By Laura Schaefer

o people pre-determine just how happy their future marriages will be when they choose a career to pursue? Not exactly, but our professions do play a big role in our personal lives. Work doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Our incomes, stress levels and identities are all related to what we do for a
A little extra money in the family coffers does lead to more stable marriages.
living — which can’t help but influence how we shape our romantic relationships. A study out of Radford University in Virginia published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology sheds some interesting light on the divorce rates found within certain professions. People in the workforce with the highest rates of divorce include: bartenders, massage therapists, entertainers and performers, choreographers, waiters, nurses, home health aides, and telemarketers. But that’s only part of the story — read on for more details on how your job shapes your love life.

Members of the clergy, engineers, and eye doctors tend to stay married
“A student of mine, Shawn McCoy, did a wonderful job of getting U.S. Census data broken down by occupation and divorce rate,” explains Michael G. Aamodt, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at Radford University, who led the study on professions and their associated rates of divorce. “He was told many times that this was not possible, but he stuck to it and eventually found the right person at the Census Bureau who figured out how he could get the data.” Among the professions with the lowest divorce rates were optometrists, members of the clergy, engineers and podiatrists.

For a stable marriage, get a good education first
“A follow-up study conducted by three of my graduate students — Paul Park, Elizabeth Matt, and Chad Carrick — found that occupations that had brighter, better-educated employees had lower divorce rates, and that divorce rates were lower for higher-paying jobs than for lower-paying jobs,” continues Dr. Aamodt. “Thus, it appears that it is not the job itself, but the characteristics of the employees that are related to occupational divorce rates.” It might sound like a no-brainer, but now we have scholarly confirmation: a little extra money in the family coffers does lead to more stable marriages. So if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, make a bright and educated person your husband or wife.

Stressful careers are correlated with higher divorce rates
As much as we might endeavor to keep our professional and private worlds separated, choosing which career to pursue can have a profound impact on our future love lives — especially regarding high-stress jobs. “Law enforcement sees an overwhelming amount of divorce,” notes Stacey Dillon of Public Safety Authority Medias. “We have attended national conferences that show state police work sees the highest rate of divorce — an estimated 80% likelihood. Police associations attribute this to the job, as it requires [an individual] to be a police officer 24/7. State laws require them to respond to any crime at all times. The profession puts a great demand on families.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the high stress level associated with routine police work subsequently makes relationship stability harder to maintain.

Those who work in people-helping professions enjoy more peaceful relationships
“The greatest relationship volatility can arise in professions where one or both parties have careers
Opposites can attract and form a whole — but it takes awareness and compromise.
where they act as authority figures, i.e., military, police, clergy,” asserts Dr. Lynda Veto, a therapist and media expert who lives in Princeton, NJ. “They are used to speaking and being listened to or followed without question.” As you’d imagine, this can create problems at home, where relationships are more fluid and (hopefully) less hierarchical in nature. “Conversely, more peaceful relationships are seen by those in helping-type professions, like educators, social workers, therapists, medical personnel, and individuals who work in philanthropic endeavors.”

Your job helps determine who’s in your dating pool
“I have a ton of anecdotal evidence — i.e., lots and lots of tech startup friends — that suggests that techies who work at startups are really busy and devoted to their jobs, so they tend to date other people from work,” says Jeska Dzwigalski, 34, the director of community and marketing at Coffee & Power, a technology startup in San Francisco. When you choose a job, then, you’re also choosing the pool of people you’ll most likely date within — and eventually find someone to marry. There are a lot of lawyers married to lawyers, in other words. “Although it’s frowned upon in many other businesses, I’ve seen this happen a lot in technology companies,” adds Dzwigalski. “In fact, I met my fiancé when the company I was working for acquired his small startup.”

Your chosen career path is an expression of your values
“Core values can predict a workable relationship,” says Debbie Mandel, stress management expert and author of Addicted to Stress (Wiley and Sons). “A job becomes one’s identity. Artistic people tend to look at the world imaginatively, but not always realistically. An engineer is sequential and exacting. Physicians tend to feel powerful; many want to be taken care of after taking care of others on a daily basis. Teachers tend to lecture and repeat themselves. Opposites can attract and form a whole — but it takes awareness and compromise.” No matter what personality quirks your job evokes, however, the key for achieving relationship peace is that it matches your partner’s career in terms of shared core goals. Relationship advisor and therapist Dr. Terri Orbuch, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great, puts it this way: “If you marry someone whose profession’s values are the opposite of those found in yours (or your own personal values), there’s a greater likelihood of experiencing conflict, tension and frustration over time.”

Successful marriages are mostly just a matter of time
No matter what career you choose to pursue, the main predictor of a relationship’s happiness and stability is simply a combination of time and attentiveness. “We put our time and effort into what we believe is most important in life,” says Dr. Veto. “If you have to spend most of your time climbing the corporate ladder or hitting the books, you won’t have the time to nurture a quality relationship. However, it’s just wrong to believe you must choose either a successful career or a successful relationship. With balance, you can have both.”

Laura Schaefer is the author of Notes to Self and Planet Explorers New York City: A Travel Guide for Kids.
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