BALTIMORE -- The key to a successful marriage may be starting a new business, according to a survey of entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs' marriages are unusually stable, with divorce rates well below the national average, according to a survey completed by a Baltimore-based venture capital firm, New Enterprise Associates.

At a time when half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, 82 percent of the entrepreneurs' spouses who took part in the survey are in their first marriages.

NEA surveyed the married chief executives of 65 young companies and their spouses during a business retreat last year. NEA had invested in all 65 companies.

The NEA poll of the chief executives, 64 men and one woman, and their spouses found the proportion of wives with their own careers was substantially lower than the national average.

Forty-nine percent of the spouses were not employed outside their homes, 8.2 percent worked in the spouse's company and 42.9 percent were employed elsewhere, according to questionnaire answers.

Recent figures show that about two-thirds of all women have at least a part-time job outside their homes.

Asked if they felt their career ambitions had taken a back seat to their spouses, two-thirds of the women said no.

Thirty-seven percent of the spouses surveyed said they had "substantial" input in that initial decision to start an enterprise. An additional 37 percent said they had "some" input.