Marriage has a host of benefits. For the individual, marriage has been shown to be good for mental and physical health. For the family, marriage protects children from suffering through physical, mental, educational, and social problems. For society, marriage is cheaper, it reduces crime, and it’s better for the economy and for the planet.
Yet, many of us enter into marriage with a certain level of skepticism. Will your marriage last forever in a world where divorce seems to be becoming ever more rampant? Today, we’ll delve into the data before uncovering the one thing you should never do if you want to have a long and happy marriage.
The Decline of Divorce In America
The American Psychological Association states that while more than 90 percent of people in Western cultures marry by age 50, 40-50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. For ensuing marriages (second marriages, etc.), the divorce rate is even higher. However, in more recent studies, researchers have discovered that the divorce rate–which peaked at approximately 40% in 1980–has, in fact, been in decline ever since.
Some interesting stats about divorce:
- According to Time.com, the 2015 rate of divorce was 16.9 per 1,000 married women age 15 or older. Showing a rate of decline, that figure was 17.6 in 2014 and peaked at nearly 23 per 1,000 in 1980.
- Data from the National Survey of Family Growth showed that 68%-70% of first marriages lasted, at least, a decade during the period between 2006 and 2010. (Though the likelihood that these couples would make it to their 20 year anniversary was 56% for men and 52% for women, much closer to the commonly referred to 50%.)
- Marriages that took place in the 90’s had a 75% probability of making it 15 years or more–up from 65% of marriages in the previous decade. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times believes that “If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist.”
- According to William Doherty, a marriage therapist and professor of family social science at University of Minnesota, ““Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women, so when you’re talking about changes in divorce rates, in many ways you’re talking about changes in women’s expectations.”
- Divorce rates aren’t consistent across educational and socioeconomic lines. From data compiled across many studies, Psychology Today asserts that people with more income and more education have lower divorce rates.
Yet, even if you aren’t financially secure or well-educated, there is one thing you can avoid if you want to have a long and happy marriage. Regardless of your age, race, religion, income levels, or education, happy marriages showed mastery that can be strengthened with practice and intention.
The Love Lab
In 1986, Psychologist John Gottman began studying newlyweds with his colleague Robert Levenson at the University of Washington. “The Love Lab,” as it was called, used electrodes to measure the subject’s physiological response while asking the couples to speak about their relationships. Six years later, they were called back in the lab to record the temperature of their relationship.
From their findings, they concluded that couples could be divided into two groups: the masters and the disasters.
According to the Atlantic:
“The disasters looked calm during the interviews, but their physiology, measured by the electrodes, told a different story. Their heart rates were quick, their sweat glands were active, and their blood flow was fast…The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal—of being in fight-or-flight mode—in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger. Even when they were talking about pleasant or mundane facets of their relationships, they were prepared to attack and be attacked. This sent their heart rates soaring and made them more aggressive toward each other…The masters, by contrast, showed low physiological arousal. They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.”
Read Part 2 of our happy marriage blog series to see what you need to do to be a master of your marriage!