Most folks really want to be married; happily married. Even of those who divorce, many continue to try again and again. The draw to be half of a couple is potent.
At age five, marriage was not on my mind, I know because I remember asking my Mom if I could stay with her forever. She assured me that I could. Somewhere between there and my first girlfriend at age 14, something changed. I don’t think that it was a thought process; cuz I don’t remember thinking about it. Whatever happened, it was powerful, because 5 years later I was married at 19. (photo above)
Surely, there are many factors that, like the Sirens sweetly singing, draw us to marriage, but what I am interested in here is not what calls us to marriage, but why, with such potent forces moving us, we fail so consistently to stay married.
It is commonly said that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that in 2009 there were 2,077,000 marriages in the US, and 1, 038,500 divorces. If that trend were to hold, then the 50% figure is bang on.
Years ago, finding marriage and failed marriage fascinating, I began asking young engaged couples a single question: “Given that your desire is to remain married until death do you part, and given that 50% of marriages end in divorce, what is your plan for being in the staying-together 50%?”
Most couples I interviewed had no answer; apparently having given it no thought.
Of those that did have an answer, a common one was that the partners would remain married because they really loved one another. I don’t know how convincing that is for you, but I would call that answer romantic at best.
Some couples had clearly given it some thought, and believed that their commitment to maintain open communication would carry them through. While an important and undoubtedly critical part of a successful marriage, I have seen a lot of marriages with the same spoken commitment, go up in flames.
My advice for those considering, or embarking on what they hope will be a satisfying, lifelong relationship, is as follows:
1) Understand that creating and maintaining a healthy marriage is not easy; it is not like falling off a log,
2) Consider routine maintenance counseling throughout your marriage; even when it seems like nothing is wrong,
3) Learn about, and dedicate some time and energy to practicing Nonviolent Communication (NVC). It could be the difference between getting what you want, and wishing you had.
4) Romance is beautiful and powerful, but on its own, gives poor odds.