According to the Pew Research Center, the number of never-married Americans is at an all-time high. CDC data shows that in 2012, 1 in 5 adults age 25 or older had never been married. That’s compared to 1 in 10 in 1960.

Researchers attribute the dramatic rise of never-married adults and the emerging gender gap to several factors.

  • Adults are marrying later in life, and there’s a significant increase in adults who are living together and raising children outside of marriage.
  • The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960.
  • About 24 percent of never-married young adults ages 25 to 34 live with a partner. This trend cuts across all major racial and ethnic groups, but it is more pronounced among blacks.
  • Among black adults ages 25 and older, the never-married share has quadrupled over the past half century – from 9 percent in 1960 to 36 percent in 2012. For whites, the share doubled from 8 percent to 16 percent.
  • Fully 36 percent of blacks ages 25 and older remained single in 2012, up from 9 percent in 1960.
  • For whites and Hispanics, the share of never-married adults has roughly doubled over that same period. In 2012, 16 percent of whites and 26 percent of Hispanics had never married.

Why is this happening?

There are a variety of circumstances contributing to this “I Don’t” mindset.

  • Many adult children of divorce are gun-shy about marriage. Many who watched their parents’ marriage fall apart doubt their own ability to choose a good partner. They also doubt their ability to make it last.
  • Women in subsidized housing can lose their benefits when a man is in the home. Celebrity marriages are unstable. Many young people question their own chances for marital success when those they admire can’t make it work.
  • Still others see marriage as a mere piece of paper with no real value.

Survey data found a deep division in public perception of marriage’s role in society.

  • Approximately 46 percent of respondents believes that making marriage and having children a priority is better for society. But, 50 percent believes society is just as well off if marriage and children are not top priorities.
  • Taking age into account, two-thirds of 18 to 29 year olds believe that society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children.
  • Interestingly, most Americans (68 percent) still believe marriage is important if couples plan to spend the rest of their lives together.
  • One in five adults 25 and up have never married, yet 53 percent would like to marry some day. And, there is plenty of research indicating that healthy marriage positively impacts adults, children and society.

Perhaps millennials don’t need to be convinced to invest in marriage. They may need more confidence that they can make it work – and that it’s worth the effort for the success of generations to come.

Does marriage, like a good bottle of wine, really get better over time? That’s the question Dr. Paul Amato and his co-author, Spencer James, set out to answer. Amato serves as the Arnold and Bette Hoffman Emeritus Professor of Family Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University. 

There’s lots of evidence that many people are cynical about marriage these days. In fact, many are choosing not to marry because they have seen so many marriages end in bitter divorces and they figure, “What’s the point of putting yourself through that?”

What if there is something we are missing from the bigger picture? Most would agree that anything worth having usually takes work, grit and a long-term view. So, are people throwing away perfectly good marriages in the earlier years because the going gets tough?

In a recent conversation with Alysse ElHage, Dr. Amato shared the findings from his research, Changes in Spousal Relationships Over the Marital Life Course.

Amato’s study was based on a unique 20-year longitudinal sample of 1,617 spouses. The study ran from 1980 to 2000. While not recent, it is the longest-running, most-detailed study of marriage available. According to Amato, there is no reason to assume that trajectories of relationship quality are different today than they were in the 1980s and 1990s.

In reviewing the data, Amato measured how three common characteristics of marital quality (happiness, shared activities and discord) changed over time. He split the sample in several ways, but the most important one separated the divorced couples from those who remained together. Amato believes this is key, because past studies have led many researchers to conclude that marital quality inevitably deteriorates over time. If you focus on couples who remain together however, which is the majority, then average levels of marital quality do not decline. In reality, marital happiness remains moderately high and marital discord lessens substantially. 

While plenty of studies have focused on the first five years of marriage, little research exists on couples who have been married for decades. Amato was very interested in focusing on the 205 long-term marriages in the study. It turns out that most of the couples who had been married 40 years or more are happy. 

One of the biggest takeaways from Amato’s study is that for some deeply-troubled marriages, divorce is the best outcome. But based on previous work, he found that many divorces are not preceded by a serious relationship problem. Sometimes boredom, rather than misery, characterizes many unstable marriages. In these cases, infidelity is often the trigger that leads one partner to leave the union. When couples stick together through difficult times, remain faithful to one another and actively work to resolve problems, positive long-term outcomes are common. 

Amato’s research shows that positive outcomes for couples in long-term marriages are the norm. And contrary to what many people think, marital quality is not destined to decline. It tends to remain high or even improve over the decades, which should encourage most couples.

The big question is, how did these couples help their marriages endure over time? Although Amato’s study didn’t measure for relationship education, previous research indicates that couples who use relationship education services tend to have better relationship quality and more stable marriages than do other couples. 

“What we can say from our study is that being happy, frequently sharing activities with your spouse, and having a peaceful marriage after 20, 30, or 40 years is quite common,” says Amato.

For couples who find themselves in a lackluster marriage, wondering if it’s worth it to stick around, Amato’s research is good news. It shows that although rough spots happen in relationships, there is hope that in many instances, nurturing a marriage can help things get better as the years go by.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The University of Washington has more than 35 years of marital research by Dr. John Gottman that determines with greater than a 90 percent accuracy rate what’s going to happen to a relationship over a three-year period.

In a national telephone survey, there were two issues that couples were most likely to report arguing about. What would you guess those two areas are?

ANSWER: Money and Children

Examples of common differences might include:

Here is the important takeaway: Differences are inevitable. It’s how you manage the differences that matters. Discuss potential differences in your relationship.

For example: Money

1. Discuss how money was managed in your family.

2. How would you want money managed in your marriage?

3. Discuss: “What does money mean to you?”

Why do so many people make a big deal about being single?

I choose to see my single season in life as a time for self-discovery and self-reflection. Being single allows me to do things for myself, to concentrate on getting in a position to do what I want and discover the things that matter most to me. Being single is not a bad thing. Not staying home waiting for my prince to come knock on my door and rescue me from myself is a great thing.

The truth is, I am enough with or without someone. I get to see the positives of being able to watch what I want on television, going places when I want, and truly getting to know myself more. People in relationships, if they’re not careful, often lose themselves to fit the picture of what others would like them to be.

I am who I am. I love me more than any other person can and being single is not a life sentence. Instead, it’s an opportunity to grow as a person and discover myself on a much deeper level.

I choose to embrace being single right now, and I believe that love begins with me. Here are a few ways you can love yourself more and discover the person you are inside:

  1. Write positive quotes and stick them on your mirrors, doors and anywhere else around your home.
  2. Educate yourself on an interest you have. Maybe you could take a Spanish class or go back to school for a degree. Education or mastering something you enjoy gives you room for opportunities to grow while keeping you productive and optimistic.
  3. Exercise. Working out lowers stress and releases endorphins, which make us more positive. When we’re positive, we can present our best selves to the world.
  4. Join social groups with common interests to stay engaged with others as you discover more about yourself. The Meetup app allows people in the same city to connect and ride bikes, walk, run, and enjoy a host of other interests together.

Dating. Is. Hard. There’s no way around it. On the bright side, you meet a variety of people, learn more about yourself and have some good (and often laughable) awkward stories. So, when you find yourself thinking about forever with that very special someone, it may be tempting to trudge forward with emotions and skip the inner-reflective monologue. But, there is one question every dating person should ask themselves: “Do I really want to marry this person, or do I just want to be married?”

Before you start psychoanalyzing every nook and cranny of your current relationship, be aware that it will take time to answer this question. Let’s talk it through a bit.

The desire to be married often comes from an overarching desire for companionship. We all know life can be pretty heavy due to bills, stress, family issues, health concerns, career disappointments, etc. There are some nights that bar-hopping, movie-binging, or venting to a listening ear just doesn’t sweeten the bitterness of life. Marriage can look like a really good and long-term way to have a sturdy hand to hold from day-to-day. And even though you may not see eye-to-eye on your faith, finances, priorities, or the hopes and dreams you have for your future family, marriage may appear better than the alternative… being alone FOREVER.

The desire to be married can create a monster. This monster will give you blinders that allow you to look past the red flags and past all of the things you originally thought you would never settle for in a spouse.

This post isn’t meant to negate marriage. I think marriage is a wonderful thing, and it really is meant to be a sense of support, security and unconditional love. But a successful marriage requires a lot of work on the front end, including patience and discernment while dating so that you can find a person who inspires you, cares for you and truly helps you be even more like yourself.

When you can examine your relationship and easily see how it is mutually beneficial for both people involved, consider it a good indicator that you’re on the right track. And, maybe you really do want to marry this person.

After you marry, who should you approach first as your confidant, to ask for an opinion or to work through an issue? Your spouse or your parents? Many couples wrestle with this in the early stages of marriage.

One woman shared that she resented her husband of two years going to his mother about everything. He responded that he is closer to his mother and that she knows him better.

“My husband and I dealt with this in the first few years of our marriage,” says marriage educator, wife and mother, Gena Ellis. “When I showed up on my parents’ doorstep, my mother told me to go home. She said I didn’t live there anymore and I needed to go home to my husband. My husband was not being mean or hurting me. I was just spoiled and mad that things weren’t going my way, so I ran home to Mama. I am grateful my mom set these boundaries.”

Even though you love your spouse, learning how to get along together and grow your trust level takes time.

“I think a lot of men don’t realize how their relationship with their mom can lead to their wife’s insecurity in the marriage relationship,” says marriage coach Dr. David Banks. 

“For example, many well-intentioned men do not realize that confiding in mom after getting married is like being traded from one sports team to another and going back to your former coach for advice. This actually works against building trust in the marriage and figuring out how to rely on each other.”

Both Ellis and Banks agree that parents should receive, raise and ultimately, release their children.

“It is truly in a couple’s best interest if parents are a safety net rather than the first line of defense,” Ellis says. “If your adult child is having trouble ‘cutting the apron strings,’ helping him/her do that provides the best chance of a healthy and successful marriage. It is not helpful to say things like, ‘You will always have a room here.’ Or, ‘If she starts treating you bad, you just come home to Mama.’”

If you are a newlywed, Banks and Ellis offer these tips as you leave your parents and join forces with your spouse.

  • First, sit down together and talk about what it means to be a team.

  • Resist the urge to run to your parents at every turn. Set healthy boundaries for you as the couple and for your parents. Constantly turning to your parents creates difficulty in building trust and confidence in each other.

  • Watch the influences you allow around your marriage. People who have a negative view of marriage don’t typically help you to build a healthy relationship with your spouse. In other words, you may have hung out with people before marriage that you should see less often now.

  • Consider attending a marriage enrichment class. There are great tools to help you build a strong, lasting marriage.

“Loyalty is foundational to a healthy marriage team,” Banks says. “You may feel like your parents know you better and can offer better advice. But think of your marriage as your new team. Even though your old team knows you better, your job now is to make sure your new team knows you. This isn’t about giving up your relationship with your parents. It is about creating a new system where there is balance and everyone understands their appropriate role.”

 

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
  • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
  • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
  • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
  • AND MORE!

PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.

Who handles the money in your home? What kind of debt load do you carry? How often do you argue about spending money?

The 2009 State of Our Unions: Marriage in America research conducted by the National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values, focused on money and marriage, including the influence that debt, assets, spending patterns and materialism have on marriage.

The findings indicate a strong correlation between consumer debt and marital satisfaction.

The study found that money matters are some of the most important problems in contemporary married life. Compared to other issues, financial disagreements last longer, are more salient to couples and generate more negative conflict tactics, such as yelling or hitting, especially among husbands.

Contributing researcher, Dr. Jeffrey Dew, professor of family studies at Utah State University, found that credit card debt and financial conflict are corrosive to marriages. Couples who report disagreeing about finances once a week are 30 percent more likely to divorce than couples who disagree about it a few times a month. Dew also found that couples with no assets were 70 percent more likely to divorce than couples with $10,000 in assets.

Interestingly, perceptions of how well one’s spouse handles money plays a role in shaping the quality and stability of family life in the United States. And, people who feel that their spouse does not handle money well report lower levels of marital happiness.

Materialist spouses are also more likely to suffer from marital problems. Materialistic individuals report more financial problems in their marriage and more marital conflict, whether they are rich, poor or middle-class. For these husbands and wives, it would seem that they never have enough money.

Maybe you’ve never given much thought to how you spend your money. Perhaps it never even occurred to you that what you are or are not doing with your money directly impacts the state of your marriage.

It’s never too late to make changes. Here are some suggestions from financial experts:

  • Start with a conversation about your financial goals. If this is not something you can do by yourselves, consider attending a class on managing your finances.
  • Put all of your financial documents in a central location and go through them as a couple.
  • Track your spending. In order to make appropriate changes, you need to know where your money is going.
  • Start an emergency fund. Even putting a small amount in each month can be a safety net when you need extra cash.
  • Make a budget and commit to living within your means.

One of the secrets to marital bliss is making sure that you control the money together instead of letting money control you. There seems to be something powerful, even sexy, about working with your mate to control your finances.

Check out crown.org, daveramsey.com or MagnifyMoney.com for information on establishing a budget. You’ll also find information for reducing debt, eliminating unnecessary fees and saving for the future.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-educated analyst who wants to enable men and women to have healthy, long-lasting marriages.

“I travel a lot,” says Feldhahn. “People frequently ask me what I do, and my usual response is: ‘I help women understand men.’ The men usually laugh and say, ‘You know, we really aren’t that complicated.'”

Feldhahn’s research found that in most cases, relationship problems happen when a husband and wife care deeply for each other and are trying really hard, but often in the wrong areas.

“I ended up writing For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men to help open people’s eyes so they start trying hard in the areas that will help them avoid hurting each other unnecessarily,” Feldhahn says. “We asked men and women ages 15-75 to tell us: ‘What are your fears, what are the things that light you up, and what makes you feel really bad?'”

Women wanted to know: Am I lovable? Am I special? Am I worth loving for who I am on the inside? 

Guys wanted to know: Am I adequate? Am I able? Am I any good at what I do on the outside?

“These responses were significant,” Feldhahn says. “‘Am I adequate?’ leads to an entirely different set of primary needs than, ‘Am I lovable?’ A solid three-quarters of the men surveyed said, if they were forced to choose, they would choose giving up feeling loved by their wife if they could just feel respected by her.”

Feldhahn realized that women could tell their husbands they love them and be critical at the same time. It happens by questioning his decision-making skills and constantly telling him what to do and how to do it.

“Trying to gain a greater understanding of this, I was speaking with a friend who made the statement to me, ‘I love my wife, but nothing I do is ever good enough,'” Feldhahn says. “I asked what he meant. He told me that they recently had friends over for dinner. When the friends left, his wife needed to run to a meeting so he cleaned up the kitchen. When she returned home she kissed his cheek and looked over his shoulder into the kitchen and sighed. She then went into the kitchen and started cleaning the countertops. I asked the husband if there was anything his wife could have done differently. He said, ‘Yes, she could have said thanks.'”

Feldhahn contends that many women make men feel that what they do isn’t good enough and that they are idiots. In fact, women often say it is their job to keep their husband humble. In reality, underneath the mask of confidence, most men want to do a good job in whatever role, but they aren’t sure they know what they are doing. And they hope nobody finds out.

“When we as women are thinking about something you know it because we process out loud,” Feldhahn says. “When men are thinking, they almost do an internal chess match before they ever talk about it. Our research showed that in most cases, if you see a decision, instead of asking ‘Why did you do that?’ if you will ask, ‘Help me understand,’ in most cases you will hear a long explanation.”

For example, a wife went out to a birthday party, leaving Dad with the kids. When she returned, she asked her husband why he had given the kids juice for dinner instead of milk. He got mad. She got defensive, and things went downhill from there.

“I asked the husband to help us understand. He said, ‘I went to the fridge to get the milk and realized if I gave them milk for dinner there wouldn’t be enough for breakfast. I was going to go get more milk, but the baby was already asleep, and we’ve been having a terrible time with her sleep cycle, so I didn’t want to wake her up just to go get milk. I decided to give the kids juice, which I diluted by half with water so they wouldn’t have as much sugar.’ The look on his wife’s face said it all. This was a perfect example of assuming there was no thinking behind the behavior.”

Feldhahn believes it’s important to let your husband be the dad he wants to be, not the dad you want him to be. Feldhahn encourages women to stop sending signals or telling your man he is inadequate and doesn’t measure up. Instead of questioning his decisions, assume he has thought about it and seek to understand.

 

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

This past year, in the midst of the #metoo campaign, a number of married men were among those accused of sexual misconduct. News of the inappropriate behavior probably created some extremely awkward moments within these marriages and perhaps made others wonder if their spouse is likely to cheat.

Dr. Wendy Wang, research director at the Institute for Family Studies, recently released a brief on the subject called Who Cheats More? The Demographics of Cheating in America. Wang found that men, adults who did not grow up in intact families, and those who rarely or never attend religious services, are more likely than others to have cheated on their spouse.

Based on Wang’s analysis of General Social Survey data from 2010-2016:

  • Men are more likely than women to cheat. Twenty percent of men and 13 percent of women reported they’ve had sex with someone other than their spouse, but the gap varies by age.
  • The infidelity rate also differs among a number of other social and demographic factors, such as race, family of origin and religious service attendance.

Wang also found that cheating is somewhat more common among black adults. Some 22% of ever-married blacks said that they cheated on their spouse, compared with 16% of whites and 13% of Hispanics. And among black men, the rate is highest. In fact, 28% reported that they had sex with someone other than their spouse, compared with 20% of white men and 16% of Hispanic men.

The data also revealed that a person’s political identity, family background and religious activity are related to whether or not they cheat. Interestingly, having a college degree is not linked to a higher probability of cheating. Almost equal shares of college-educated and less-educated adults have been unfaithful to their spouse (16% vs. 15%). The share among those with some college education is slightly higher (18%).

So who is more likely to cheat – men or women?

The data indicates men and women share very few traits in that area. For men, race, age, education level and religious service attendance are still significant factors. For women, family background and religious service attendance are significant factors for unfaithfulness, while race, age and educational attainment are not relevant factors. The only factor that shows significant consistency in predicting both men and women’s odds of infidelity is religious service attendance.

The bottom line is that a lot of people are at risk and may not even know it. When it comes to cheating in marriage, the single most important protective factor is appropriate boundaries. In a culture where men and women work so closely, it’s important to make sure you are not putting yourself at risk to cheat. 

Many relationship experts agree that one of the most common pathways to infidelity is when a man and woman who are “just friends” begin to discuss their marital problems. In other words, they are doing their marriage work with someone who might not be a friend to their marriage.

If you haven’t talked about guarding your marriage as a couple, you might want to talk about these things: 

  • Establish clear boundaries. Discuss expectations and boundaries in your relationship. You probably believe you would never fall prey to a relationship outside of your marriage. Unfortunately, few who found themselves there say they were looking for it. Keep the lines of communication open. Talk about how you will intentionally do your marriage work with your spouse and avoid keeping secrets from each other.  
  • Be aware, and value your mate’s opinion. Sometimes other see things you don’t recognize.
  • The danger zones are for real. Being oblivious to tempting situations is risky.

Intentionally protect and nurture your marriage. Check in with each other frequently and discuss how your choices impact your marital health. Avoiding behaviors that could create suspicion can’t hurt your marriage. On the other hand, it could be a tremendous help.

Check out FTF’s Feature Article on:

 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Want to take date night up a notch?

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This premium on demand virtual date night guides you and your spouse to learn the secrets to growing deep intimacy. You’ll work together to learn…

  • Tools to reframe your mindset
  • Ways to discover and remove roadblocks to intimacy
  • Strategies for turning up the temperature

If your goal is to have a healthy relationship, you’ll want to keep an eye out for these unhealthy behaviors. Paying attention to them can save you from heartache down the road.

  • The person you are dating wants to dominate your time and/or keep you from friends and family.
  • He/she asks you to sacrifice your values for the sake of the relationship.
  • Your significant other disrespects and discourages you instead of encouraging and honoring you. 
  • Your date wants to control you – where you go, who you see, what you wear, etc.
  • When talking about past relationships, your date always blames the other party for the problems in their relationship.
  • Your dating relationship is in constant turmoil.
  • Your date has anger issues.
  • Your date is rushing the getting to know you process.
  • Your friends don’t like him/her.
  • You continually make excuses for their behavior or he/she seems to be heading in the opposite direction of where you are headed in life.