People are always asking me, "What's the chance I'll get divorced?"
I guess folks figure that because I'm a divorce attorney, I have an inside track on the odds a marriage will break up -- or that I keep a secret spreadsheet of the exact percentage of couples who will split up before death parts them.
The truth is I have no idea. And really, no one does.
The elusive divorce rate that so many experts say hovers at about 50 percent is debatable. In "Divorce rate an exact science -- almost," an Apr. 16, 2006 article in the Chicago Sun-Times, Art Golab explained why calculating an exact current divorce rate is problematic. "We won't know what the real divorce rate will be for people living today until they are all dead," Golab wrote.
And while expert researchers estimate that 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce, that doesn't mean your marriage will be one of them.
The way I look at it, every time a couple says, "I do," the possibility that they will get divorced is entirely up to them.
Still, people remain fascinated with all kinds of divorce statistics. And you can find lists and percentages all over the Internet.
Take the recent AOL report that rated the "Jobs Most Likely to Wreck Your Marriage."
The story warns, "If your spouse helps people or touches them for a living, be careful -- you might be headed for a divorce."
Dancers, bartenders and massage therapists are the professions with the highest divorce rates (43 percent, 38 percent, and 38 percent, respectively). Gaming cage workers, extruding machine operators, casino dealers, factory workers, telephone operators and entertainers round out the top 10 list, which was based on a study published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology.
In my experience I've found that no profession is different from another when it comes to divorce. In fact, I'd be willing to wager that unemployed people are more likely to get divorced than someone with a job. Economic stress often weighs heavily on relationships.
All I can tell you about the "divorce rate" is whether more or fewer clients come into my office, or if there's a spike in divorce filings in different county courthouses every year.
But all the statistics in the world won't help you figure out the chances you will wind up divorced. Look at your married friends. We've been all been shocked that one of those seemingly perfect couples with fulfilling jobs and happy homes has split up.
Divorce isn't something you can predict by only considering what people do for a living.
But I'll tell you this: if you're really interested in current divorce patterns, consider talking with your friendly neighborhood bartender, hairstylist or nail technician.
People in those professions probably have more insight about the state of relationships than statisticians or a divorce attorneys like me.
After a few drinks or a relaxing French manicure, people will tell them all kinds of secrets -- from details of extramarital affairs to secret plans to leave their spouses -- that they might not even tell their attorney.
If you're inclined to share your own secrets with them, just remember: your doorman, beautician and barber aren't bound to the same confidentiality rules as a lawyer or priest. Even the best of them could inadvertently let loose details you don't want to become neighborhood gossip.
And that's the kind of thing that really could make those professions the "Jobs Most Likely to Wreck Your Marriage."