We are often asked the question, is being happily married for a lifetime still part of the American dream? The answer is, yes.
In fact, there is more than an 80% chance that everyone in America who is living today will be married at least once in their lifetime. Marriage is a major part of how people define themselves in America today. One of the first questions on almost any form is, “Are you married or single?”
When talking about their future, young adults still aspire to find the love of their lives, get married and live happily ever after. All you have to do is watch television, read the Internet blogs, go to the movies, or look at the many Bride’s magazines, to understand that young people today still believe that marriage is an important part of defining who they are as a human being.
Marriage is still one of the greatest contributors to social order in America today. And the fact of the matter is this — marriage is the most profound commitment to lasting love that exists. Those who question its importance ignore the facts.
The fact is that the national per capita divorce rate has declined steadily since its peak in 1981 and is now at its lowest level since 1979. The fact that the per capita divorce has declined should be cause for celebration.
Over the years we have seen a positive trend developing and it is highly encouraging to us. The good news – more and more couples are committed to making their marriage work! In a society that is often characterized as “a disposable society,” marriage has too many benefits to be routinely disposed of.
The chances of making marriage work can be greatly improved by understanding what factors have major implications for the risk of divorce. Barbara Whitehead and David Popenoe in their book entitled The State of Our Unions (2004) reported the following:
- Couples with annual incomes over $50,000 (vs. under $25,000) have a reduced risk of divorce of 30%. The message here is that couples contemplating marriage would be well advised to have income-producing jobs with stability before they get married.
- Couples who have a baby seven months or more after marriage (vs. before marriage) have a reduced risk of divorce of 24%. The message here should be clear – bring children into the world when your marriage is ready.
- Couples who are 25 years of age (vs. under 18) have a 24% less risk of divorce. The American divorce rate has been going down since 1981 because people in love are waiting longer to get married. Gaining education, experience, and the wisdom that comes with age will certainly contribute to the success of a marriage.
- Couples that consider themselves religious or spiritual (vs. not) are 14% less likely to get divorced. Faith and spirituality contribute to the sense of oneness felt by successfully married couples.
- Couples who have some college (vs. high-school dropout) have a 13% less chance of divorce. Education almost always leads to enlightenment and understanding, and more tolerance for the views of others. So critically important in successful marriages.
In summary, reasonably well-educated couples with a decent income, who are religious or spiritual, who wait awhile to have children, who come from intact families, and who marry later in life (25 and beyond), have a greatly reduced chance of divorce.
Considering that most adult Americans will be married at least once in their lifetime, it is nice to know that there is much we can do as individuals and as couples in love to improve the chances of making marriage work—to make marriage successful.
By Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz
**For hundreds of practical tips to strengthen your love, read the best-selling and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010) Available wherever books are sold. Learn more about America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts