The idea of marriage growing up wasn’t exactly all peachy for me.
Like many others, I believed the doom and gloom often associated with marriage and by the time I first started to seriously entertain marriage I still had a number of deeply rooted beliefs about marriage such as,
“Marriages typically don’t last. If you’re a Christian it may only help a little.”
“Marriage is boring and you can no longer pursue the things you want to.”
“Living together before marriage is a good way to test and see if two people are compatible.”
“Marriage usually ends in two lonely roommates.”
In this article I want to first dispel some of these common myths surrounding marriage and then later look at a number of keys to a successful marriage that have been supported in studies.
First, lets take a look at some common myths about marriage.
1. Men are often to blame in a marriage.
Its not that I grew up thinking that men were always to blame in marriages but too often I started to make assumptions even with friends I knew or people I counseled that the man was at fault.
When a marriage finally does end in a divorce, men are often given much less sympathy by society which I believe is for a few reasons:
Myth #1 – Men are portrayed as committing acts of infidelity more then women leading people to stereotype a divorce as often the male’s fault.
The problem: Marriage is always a two-player game and while infidelity is one factor that men tend to commit more often then women, it ignores several other factors that can either lead to infidelity or negatively affect a marriage that eventually ends in divorce such as finances, communication, and a person’s walk with God.
Myth #2 – Women are portrayed as having more to lose.
The problem: Once again this ignores the damage that divorce has on men as well. An Australian study found that women were likely to suffer more financially (especially if they had dependent children) then men. However, men were more likely to suffer emotionally (depression, loneliness, etc.) and less likely to recover from it then women.
In a report from Utah State University, men experienced a financial loss of 10-40% depending on the circumstances. About 1 in 5 women will fall into poverty from a divorce.
2. Remarrying will solve all of your marital woes.
According to a longitudinal study done by John Kelly and Mavis Hetherington, 40% (the largest group) of the the couples who remarried had problems when they divorced and the same problems continued within their new marriage.
The take home message here is that remarrying will often not solve a marriage problem because often times, its you who is the problem.
Instead of looking for another person to marry where you can lie and reinvent yourself, focus on becoming a better person in Christ.
Remember no matter how much you pretend and cover up, God will bring light to even the darkest areas. Don’t hurt another person in the process because of your own insecurities.
3. 50% of all marriages end in divorce.
According to a review of the Census Bureau by Shaunti Feldhahn, 72% of people who are married are still with the their first spouse and the other 28% includes those whose spouses passed away.
She estimates the actual divorce rate to be more around 20-25% which should drastically change how people view marriage.
The truth is there are many happy marriages out there, they simply aren’t reported because well there is nothing there to report on.
Why don’t people get married?
In my opinion, the number one reason is fear. Younger people simply don’t trust the institution of marriage because of the way society portrays it and the stories they’ve heard growing up.
Several movies such as Hall Pass and the Other Women portray two common themes, marriage is boring or marriage will result in infidelity usually by the male.
There are very few movies on marriage that not only accurately portray marriage life but also focus on the positives. For hollywood its either a fairy tale ending or a boring marriage and you can’t necessarily blame them because people want to be entertained.
What are some factors to a long lasting marriage that have been proven?
1. Communication is one of the best predictors for marital success.
Scripture to reflect on: Proverbs 15:2
“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.”
Many couples have difficulty communicating which leads to problems with both physical and emotional intimacy. If there is one thing that any couple should continually work on, its communication.
One study found that couples who received counseling on communication prior to marriage were much more likely to have a quality marriage (measured by the length of marriage and self-reported happiness).
2. Have realistic expectations in your relationship.
According to Terri Orbuch, a Professor from the University of Oakland, conflict in relationships is often due to frustration because a person’s expectations aren’t being met (based on research from the Early Years of Marriage Project).
Its important to have realistic expectations for yourself, your partner, and your marriage. Its not that you should lower your expectations but understand that the things you may want from your partner may require a more realistic outlook that requires you to be more patient, loving, and understanding.
3. Education, the age you get married and income all play a role.
Research studies carried out by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia found three main factors (selected based on the largest effect) that will help reduce the risk of divorce or separation during the first 10 years of marriage:
-Graduating from college (versus not completing high school) reduces the risk by 25%.
-Marrying over the age of 25 (versus under 18) reduces the risk by 24%.
-Making over $50,000 annually (versus under $25,000) reduces the risk by 30%.
According to Deborah Carr, a sociology professor at Rutgers University, a higher education and a higher age at marriage help protect against the risk of divorce because couples tend to be more emotionally mature and also are more stable in their finances.
4. Your commitment to each other matters.
Even if both people identify as being Christian, one of the most important things is the shared set of beliefs and values each person has and the level of commitment to these shared set of beliefs.
In other words, if one person identifies themselves as a Christian but doesn’t deeply carry out his or her beliefs, its likely to cause problems in a marriage.
5. The less sex partners before marriage the better.
Typically, the more experience someone has in a particular area the better the outcome (Ex: Job, school, etc.).
However, that’s not the case when it comes to sex before marriage.
According to research by the National Marriage Project, the average person has five sexual partners before marriage. People with the happiest marriages were those that had the lowest amount of sexual partners prior to marriage.
This research only supports what God has already said about sex before marriage (check 1 Corinthians 7:2).
6. Get married before moving in together.
People who either married before moving in together or made a commitment to get married before moving in together had more quality marriages than those who lived together without any commitment or intention to marry.
Cohabitation is sort of a “hot topic” that often gets thrown in the debate between Christians and non-Christians. Its important though that we define cohabitation.
Two people living together that are having sexual relations before marriage is expressly forbidden in the Bible. Its not explicitly stated though that two people living together is wrong without sexual relations. However, we can take a look at 1 Corinthians 6:8 and Ephesians 5:3 to see that the appearance of sexual immorality to others and the temptation of sexual immorality makes it unwise to live together prior to marriage.
Nonetheless, this study supports the notion that cohabitation before marriage is a bad idea.
While marriage often gets a bad reputation in our culture today it continues to be one of the most beautiful creations that God has given us. I hope this article has helped clear up some common myths about marriage you might have heard as well as given you some keys to help you in your own marriage.
What do you think are some keys to a healthy and happy marriage?