Distinguished professor and author Dr. Pat Love challenges each of us to consider our beliefs about the permanence of marriage.
“According to research, 95 percent of young people still want marriage and children as an ideal, but more people are living single than ever before,” says Love. “The median length of marriage today is eight years.
“Three out of four people say that marriage isn’t about family, it’s about me. Twenty-nine percent of married people say they are lonely. Just listening to these statistics can be extremely discouraging. Perhaps we need to change the way we think about marriage. Maybe marriage isn’t for everybody.”
For just a moment, think about the day you said, “I do.” When you were ready to make a commitment, what did you believe about your fiancé, yourself and marriage?
While looking at this research, Love found that there are four beliefs that couples must have that significantly impact the chances of having a long-lasting marriage.
- You have to believe in the permanence and purpose of your marriage. “One study showed an increasing number of people no longer believed in the permanence of marriage as an ideal,” Love says. “This shocked me. Participants didn’t believe it could or would happen, and didn’t feel a commitment or obligation to make it happen. Another study showed that in 45-plus year marriages, the happiness level is like a U-curve. It bottoms out around the 20th year. If you hang in there, believe, hold the image that it will happen and are committed to making it happen, your happiness quotient then starts going up and keeps going up.” Additionally, Love asserts that you need to have purpose for your marriage. “We make goals for our weight, grades, work, etc. We need goals for marriage too.”
- You must have romance AND realism in your marriage. “The criteria for dating is different than mating,” Love says. “When you focus more on romance, you miss an important part of marriage. If you focus on the ‘Hollywood love’ you will miss the challenges. Marriage is harder to maintain than ever before due to greater expectations and stressors. Part of the realism is believing in the romance, and the reality that investing in home improvement may not be a new bathroom; it might mean a trip somewhere fun. If the couple isn’t happy, it is unlikely the family will stay together.”
- You have to believe in health and wealth. “Healthily married people live longer – it doesn’t just feel like it, they do,” Love says. “Married people recover from illness and diseases quicker. You have to believe that a good marriage is part of good mental health and physical healthcare.” And, research shows that money habits predict stability in marriage. How you manage budgets and work together is vital to the health of a marriage.
- You have to believe in sacrifice and sanctity. When you are selfless and willing to sacrifice at your own cost, you become happier and more committed to your marriage. It’s not enough to have the wealth. There must be generosity also, and a belief that sacrifice is sacred, never to be dishonored.
So, marriage may not be for everybody. Perhaps it is just for those who believe.