4 Proven Elements Of Loving, Lasting Marriage
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Minnesota has one of the highest marriage rates in the United States. The numbers are steadily dropping, however, keeping with the trend across the entire country. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 76% of households had married people in 1940. That number dropped to 48% in 2010 and is expected to be even lower in the 2020 Census. Minnesota was one of the last states with half of its households containing married couples (50.5%) in 2015. But the rate is expected to drop below 50% in 2020, a first in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
There are myriad reasons and theories for marriage decline in the United States. First, there is the marriage tax. The IRS levies higher tax rates on dual-income families. Married couples got tax breaks prior to the 1980s because most were single-income families. Secondly, many people are becoming widowers. Baby boomers are aging. Thus, nature is part of the decline.
Lastly, there are Millennials. More than two-thirds (68%) of 20-somethings were married in 1960, according to the Pew Research Center. The marriage rate among 20-somethings in 2008 was only 26%. A Pew survey in 2010 found that Millennials view marriage as “obsolete.” A “variety of family arrangements” were favored by 46% of people 30 and younger in said survey. Only 35% of Generation X and 29% of Baby Boomers agreed with that sentiment.
Millennials are far more likely to be living with their parents in their 20s than previous generations, according to a 2018 report by the St. Louis Federal Reserve. Economic factors like student loan debt and low wages were also cited as marriage deterrents in the study.
The “D” Word
The average first marriage for Americans lasts eight years, according to the Census. Second marriages last about seven years. The good news about lower marriage rates is that divorce rates are also much lower. But there are many (interesting) factors that determine who gets divorced and who stays married.
Occupation has a lot to do with length of marriage. Dancers, bartenders and casino workers have the highest divorce rates of all occupations. Doctors, engineers and farmers have the lowest divorce rates. Age is another important factor. People who marry after age 25 are 24% less likely to divorce than those who marry before that age. College-educated couples have a 13% lower risk of divorce than high school dropouts. Children of divorced parents who remarried are 91% more likely to divorce than children whose parents are happily married.
Despite all the foregoing, marriage is still the dream for many people. Lasting marriages require both common sense and fulfilling work. Lack of commitment, excessive arguing and infidelity are the three most frequent reasons couples divorce. Love will get you through many of these obstacles. The following four pieces of advice take care of the rest.
Always make time for one another
Life comes at you fast after college. Marriage, kids and a promotion at work. Notice how those items are ordered. Husband and wife are the titles received after the marriage ceremony. Those roles can never be diminished. Many couples prioritize their father and mother roles and forget about their duties as husband and wife. This is the quickest route to turmoil and divorce.
Karl Pillemer, author of 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage, took it a step further. He wrote that your spouse should be a higher priority than the kids. It makes sense because happy, healthy wife and husband lead to happy, healthy, successful kids.
A 2014 study published in the journal The Linacre Quarterly compiled three decades of family research. Children living with their married, happy, biological parents had better academic performance, physical and emotional health than children in all other living situations. Further, researchers concluded that only marital violence and perhaps infidelity are the only reasons to risk hurting children with divorce.
Many couples schedule “date nights” every month that cannot be broken. Take short trips together without the kids. People living in places like the San Francisco Bay Area have no excuses. There are numerous weekend getaway spots within a few hours drive. Those in more isolated regions and/or places with cold, snowy winters can send the kids to grandma and grandpa for the weekend. Your imagination takes over from there. “No device weekends” are also very effective. Husband and wife get each others undivided attention without Instagram, Twitter and text messages.
Frank Hoffman was 94 years old in 2017 when he and his 91-year-old wife, Thelma, spoke with ABC News. The couple was celebrating their 67th anniversary. The Hoffman’s were asked about their conflict resolution methods. Thelma said Frank never argues and never fights. Frank agreed. They discuss problems, resolve them, and move on, he said.
James and Virginia Wilson were celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary in that same story. Their conflict resolution methods sounded very similar to the Hoffman’s. James said arguments are rare. They both speak their peace and move on when a rare argument occurs, James said. Virginia said they talk it over for as long as necessary, even if it takes several days. James qualified Virginia’s statement, saying he is so in love with her that she simply can do no wrong in his eyes.
The aforementioned two couples are rare in 2019. They are the envy of many married couples. But disagreements, arguments and the occasional “I’m sleeping on the couch” nights happen in a vast majority of marriages. Author and entrepreneur Mark Manson surveyed 1,500 married couples in 2017. All were married for at least 10 years. He compared his research to psychologist John Gottman’s work and found several consistencies. Gottman named four tell-tale signs of a future divorce by studying how couple argue.
- Never attack your spouse’s character (e.g. calling them stupid or dumb)
- Don’t shift blame
- No contempt
- Don’t withdraw or ignore an argument without resolution
Manson found this same pattern from couples in his survey. Name-calling is non-existent in successful marriages. Respondents also said they never bring old arguments into new ones. Lastly, they never strive to be “right.” The purpose of fighting is understanding, not winning. Long-term couples forgive a lot too.
Prioritize their needs
The wife works 12-hour shifts overnight as an ER nurse. She’s on her feet all night, experiencing everything from gruesome to disgusting. The husband, who runs a home-based business, knows she gets home around 9 a.m. He always has a hot breakfast waiting for her, along with a big hug and a kiss when she walks in the door. These little gestures make her life easier and more enjoyable. It also makes her feel loved and respected, which only enhances emotional bonds.
Gerontologist Karl Pillemer interviewed 700 people for the Cornell Marriage Advice Project in 2015. The average length of marriage among participants was 57 years. He found several consistencies in their responses. One interesting tidbit discovered through the study was don’t fight while you’re hungry. But one of the most common themes was to make your spouse’s need a top priority. Long-time spouses pay close attention to one another to discover what makes the other feel good. Fulfilling your spouse’s needs is mutually beneficial and fundamental in long-term marriages.
Friendship, love and sex are the top three qualities of good marriages, according to a New York Times survey. Husband and wife who are best friends have the foundation for a strong marriage. Love means communication, compromise and respect. Sex and intimacy are probably the most important factors in successful marriages. Georgia State University sociology professor Denise Donnelly told the New York Times in 2009 that sexless marriage (sex once per month or less) are more likely to end in divorce. That’s because sex is not only pleasurable, but also a bonding ritual. One study showed a high divorce rate for cancer survivors who lost sexual function.
Husbands should cuddle with their wives during her monthly cycle. She is in pain and uncomfortable with her body for those several days. There is a lot of research pointing to positive benefits of sexual intercourse during menstruation. Dr. Ian Kerner, a New York-based sex therapist, told Healthline that sexless couples are vulnerable to detachment, infidelity and anger issues that lead to divorce. He called sex the glue that keeps marriages together. Most studies say couples younger than 50 should be having sex twice per week. Older couples are fine at once per week.
Crying is perhaps the most powerful human response to both external and internal stimuli. It’s human nature to comfort someone who is crying, even a stranger. But it’s those tears of joy that lead to lasting marriages.
Couples create memories and reinforce bonds when they laugh together. A 2007 study by Appalachian State University researchers asked married couples to recall fun times. The couples that remembered shared laughs had the longest and happiest marriages. Lead researcher Dr. Doris Bazzini said that remembering these laughs are the easiest way to get through tough times in marriages. The best shared laughs are inside jokes that only the two of you understand.
Some couples do karaoke duets to form lasting, funny memories. Other just laugh at the quirky, strange things their spouse does. Hugs and kisses follow those types of laughs to ensure its out of love and not disrespect. Dr. Les Parrott and wife Dr. Leslie Parrott said that the easiest way to laugh together is by not taking yourselves too seriously. Study what makes your spouse laugh. Whether it’s slapstick goofiness or old television shows, use it to make them laugh as often as possible.
Marriage is a lifelong commitment that requires constant affirmation, communication, sacrifice and respect. These are also the vital elements of love. Amy Grant said it best:
that’s what love is for,
to help us through it,
That’s what love is for,
Nothing else can do it.
Keep that and all the foregoing in mind, and a 50th wedding anniversary is in your future.
Brian A. Wilkins is the owner of Content Coup. He specializes in content marketing, SEO and legal writing.