While the socio-economic factors that contribute to a strong marriage -- such as education, income, age and when you have children -- have remained relatively consistent, in recent years, the institution of marriage in Middle America is showing strain. This could be due to shifts in values, increased unemployment, the decline in religious attendance, or other factors. The 2010 report from the National Marriage Project called "When Marriage Disappears" suggests the institution of marriage, once a stable feature of American life, is in trouble [source: When Marriage Disappears].
You've heard the phrase "the honeymoon is over," but that doesn't mean the marriage is kaput. It just means you may have to work a little harder -- especially when faced with economic troubles. The specific reasons for divorce vary, but the most often-cited reasons include the following:
- poor communication
- spousal incompatibility
- financial problems
- abusive behavior
- sexual difficulties
Though no long-term relationship is free of conflicts and challenges, some couples are able to stick together and make it work. So what's their secret? Good communication is the key to any successful relationship, and it is especially vital in a marriage. Mutual respect and an investment of time and energy into listening and sharing will lead to greater understanding and can eliminate some of the hurdles commonly faced by married couples [source: Psych Central].
When couples openly communicate with each other about the most intimate details of their marriage, from finances to sexual issues, it can help the relationship flourish and prevent other threats like infidelity and abuse from germinating. Marriages, like all friendships, work best when both people share similar perspectives and respect their differences. By accepting that there will be disappointments along the way and working through them openly, spouses can grow together and keep their marriage healthy.
Many of the choices that you make regarding your marriage increase or decrease your chances of getting divorced. So those up-front decisions are important, because about 43 percent of first marriages end within 15 years [source: National Center for Health Statistics]. That's down from 48 percent in the 1970s [source: Journal of Economic Perspectives]. The numbers still are scary, but your chances of staying married are actually better today than they were a few decades ago. Many of the factors that increase the likelihood of divorce are out of your control. For example, you're less likely to get divorced if your parents are happily married. It also helps, though, if you and your partner are in good health and if you earn more than $50,000 a year.
Age also is a huge factor in divorces. People who get married when younger than age 20 are much more likely to get divorced than those who marry after age 25. This could be from a lack of maturity or outside influences -- after 25, we're all more likely to be out of school and less influenced by peers or tempted by college parties. Couples with big age differences are also more likely to divorce than those who are closer in age, probably because partners near the same age have more in common and might have an easier time adapting to and understanding each other.
Your choices regarding children also affect your chances of getting divorced. Childless couples are more likely to divorce, partly because of loneliness and partly because with no children involved, there are fewer reasons to continue fighting to keep the family together. If one partner wants children but the other partner doesn't (or is not sure), the likelihood of divorce also goes up. This is one of the reasons it's important to discuss crucial factors such as having children before getting married.
If you really want to reduce your likelihood of getting divorced, you might want to move. Certain states are more prone to divorce than others. As a general rule, colder, northernmost states have lower incidence of divorce than warmer southern states [source: Scripps Howard News Service]. Nevada has the highest divorce rate in the U.S., at 6.4 per 1,000 people; the lowest goes to Massachusetts with 2.2 per 1,000 [source: CDC].
Molly Edmunds Staff Writer, HowStuffWorks.com
In the first glow of romance, it's hard to imagine that you'll ever want to be apart from the person you love. And newlywed couples are often said to be in the midst of a "honeymoon period" -- a time when everything is perfect. You believe your partner is free of flaws.
But then, it seems, reality sets in. You notice that your beloved clips his or her toenails during your favorite television shows. He or she never takes out the trash or washes a dish, no matter how many times you ask. You may start having kids and feel like you never see your significant other, let alone get any quality time with him or her. You're fighting all the time. Is it time to call a divorce lawyer?
Marriage is like a roller coaster, with many ups-and-downs. Researchers have even identified when some of those downswings are likely to happen. In one study, scientists found that during the first 10 years of marriage, the fourth year was particularly bad, but then the relationship stabilized again until around the eighth year, when couples experienced another dip. The first decline was attributed to the erosion of the honeymoon effect, while the second decline might occur around the time a couple has children and must deal with changing roles and relationships.
Anthropologist Helen Fisher even noted that four years is a standard relationship length in many cultures around the world, perhaps for evolutionary reasons. She posits that four years is enough time to conceive and raise a child through infancy, at which point our evolutionary ancestors may have wanted to have a child with someone else -- access to many gene pools may have increased the chances that at least one of their children would make it to adulthood.
So if we're doomed to dips, should we give up on marriage? Of course not. Relationship experts say that simply being aware of the inevitable dips and declines can help you improve the state of your marriage by providing a reminder that you need to put a little more effort into your relationship. Set aside some time for a one-on-one date night, recreate one of your first dates or leave little notes around the house for your special someone. If you invest time and energy into your relationship, you have a better chance of seeing long-term dividends.
Divorce continues to be prevalent throughout the U.S. However, some researchers from Rutgers University have found that certain social factors can reduce the likelihood you'll get divorced. Barbara Whitehead and David Popenoe researched factors for the National Marriage Project and published their findings in the book, "The State of Our Unions" (2004). Some of these factors are within your control. For example, you can reduce your chance of getting divorced if you marry after age 25, attend college and attend church as a family. There are other factors that you can try to influence, but those are not entirely within your control, such as earning more than $50,000 a year or having a child more than seven months after you've married. One important factor over which you have no control: Did your parents get divorced? If your own parents remained married, your chances of staying married go up as well.
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