Building a Lasting Relationship: Not Just Another Algorithm

Building a Lasting Relationship: Not Just Another Algorithm by Sandy Balick{4:24 minutes to read} Matrimonial mediators and lawyers look on in wonder at the financial wreckage that so often forms the final exclamation point of a marriage. One wonders whether in an age of so-called “predictive analytics” there isn’t some sort of litmus test to help couples understand their prospects as long-term marriage partners.

Well, wonder no more, because such a thing actually may exist.

A recent post in Marketwatch highlights a joint study by The Federal Reserve Board, the Brookings Institution and UCLA, which concludes that credit scores may be highly predictive of the possibility of divorce.

Higher credit scores predict low propensity for divorce, whereas lower scores are predictive of the opposite result. Improving that score may dramatically alter the durability of a marriage. The study found that “for every 105-point uptick in a person’s score, there is a 32% drop in the likelihood of them divorcing.”

So, what is your credit score?

Of course, it’s hard to imagine bringing up the topic of exchanging credit scores on a second or third date. But given the pedigree of the study’s authors and the fact that it’s based on a sampling of 12 million consumers, there would seem to be every reason for exchanging scores once a relationship begins to sink roots.

But what about the concern that the mere mention of the topic would risk dousing that bright, romantic flame? While timing is certainly important, the difficulty of raising the topic is diminished by the fact that there are bound to be some convenient points to do so, in a budding relationship.

For instance, contemplation of marriage, or at least living together, immediately introduces the prospect of a shared residence. It’s one of the earliest and most basic financial decisions to be made in a relationship, and presents a perfect opening to begin a discussion of finances and marital expectations.

The discussion needn’t be limited to credit scores. Any sort of formal financial planning and information exchange will help to get things off to a good start – or serve as an early warning of the potential for difficulties in a marriage. In the right situations, a discussion of whether a prenuptial agreement might play a vital role is also important.

Of course, we should be leery of making life decisions on the basis of a single study. What if you are presented with the situation where one potential spouse has a high score (greater than 780, say) and the other’s is hovering around 580?

  • What circumstances underpin the low score (medical emergencies and student debt or unchecked spending on luxuries)?
  • What possibilities are there for increasing that score?

These are the questions that should be asked first before peremptorily bringing down the curtain on a promising relationship.

The response of the person with the disadvantaged score is key here. A serious willingness to address the issue, including a discussion of specific steps to bolster the score, are helpful reactions – even if the individual is not in a position to take immediate steps. An excessively defensive stance, or one that doesn’t reflect concern for improving the situation, may not bode well for future prospects.

While we should avoid the algorithmic approach to making important life decisions like marriage,  being alert to issue indicators can help identify important action points in building enduring relationships.

Sanford (Sandy) Balick, Attorney & Mediator, NY Sandy Balick signature
Sanford E. Balick, Esq.
Founder & Principal Mediator
Consensus Point Mediation, LLC.

Phone: (646) 340-3434
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