Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Makes Marriages Last: Just the Facts

Want to create a lasting marriage?
Making a marriage that lasts “until death do us part” is a challenging proposition. 
There are a lot of obstacles that come up over the course of a lifetime that can derail even the happiest of couples.
So, what makes a marriage last?  This is an important question to ponder if you want your union to stand the test of time.  I’ve gone on a search for the answers to this very question and today I’m going to share what I’ve come up with.

The Facts About Lasting Marriages

Not surprisingly, there is a lot of conjecture out there about what truly makes marriages last.  You’ve seen the interviews with couples that are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries.  They get asked, “How have you stayed married for so long?”  The answers are always pretty subjective at best.  For example, you hear things like, “We just never fight.”  Really?!?  Are you both just floor mats continually submissive to the other’s opinion?  I have a hard time believing answers like this.
Regular couples get mad at each other.  They fight.  They argue.  They disagree.  This is natural.  It is to be expected in marriage.  Life is not a fairy tale.  However, just because you have a fight, it doesn’t mean that you are heading toward divorce or that your marriage is even in trouble.
The facts about what makes marriages last and what makes them fall apart are probably a bit different than what you hear on the six o’clock news.
Here’s what I discovered about what makes marriages last:

1.  Pick the Right Person for You. 

People sometimes get swept into marrying the wrong person.  This generally happens in one of two ways:
  • Whirlwind Romances – When courtships are brief and romance is high, people can enter marriages with rose-colored glasses.  Their criteria for choosing their mate is often too shallow or short-sighted.  They are blinded by “love”.  Take your time.  Courtships that last 2 or 3 years generally produce more lasting marriages.
  • Caught Up in the Process – Despite some warning signs, people sometimes feel they are just too far along in the process of getting married to stop for further evaluation.  They dismiss too many incompatibilities as symptoms of “cold feet”.  They simply feel they can’t stop the runaway train they are on.  This is a mistake.  Slowing things down can help you to avoid a disaster.  It is better to stop the process now than to have to endure a divorce later.
Marrying the right person is probably the most important determinantfor whether your union will last.  Therefore, you want to take your time and be sure you get it right.  There are never enough good reasons to hurry things along.  A mistake here will likely cost you big time down the road.

2.  Maintain that Lovin’ Feeling

Ted Huston, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has done some very interesting research into what makes marriages last.  His studies, “showed that loss of initial levels of love and affection, rather than conflict, was the most salient predictor of distress and divorce.”  In other words, it is important that you do your best to maintain some of those “lovin’ feelings” that are present early on in a romantic relationship.  Obviously, the intensity is going to diminish with time (no one can maintain that level forever), but preserving as many of the positive feelings as possible will go a long ways toward making your marriage last.

3.  Research the Family History

Believe it or not, a person’s family can tell you a lot about whether or not they will become a lifelong spouse.  Studies have shown that children of divorced parents are significantly more likely to get divorced themselves later in life.  Also, brides that have a poor relationship with their fathers are more likely to get divorced from their husband.  However, a groom’s relationship to his parents doesn’t seem to impact his odds of staying married.  Of course, none of this seals ones fate, these are simply indicators.  If these are present in your relationship, then you may want to do some more research to find out how to overcome these obstacles.

4.  Check Their EQ

Another factor you want to consider is your mate’s emotional intelligence quotient or EQ.  John Gottman, Ph.D. in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work says he can predict divorce with 91% accuracy.  Gottman has discovered that:
Happily married couples aren’t smarter, richer, or more psychologically astute than others. But in their day-to-day lives, they have hit upon a dynamic that keeps their negative thoughts and feelings about each other (which all couples have) from overwhelming their positive ones. They have what I call an emotionally intelligent marriage.
Most of us commonly think of emotional intelligence simply as maturity.  A mature, emotionally intelligent adult controls their thoughts and doesn’t let their emotions (or the emotions of others) control them.  They are cognizant of swings in their moods.  Generally, they are more stable because they perceive, use,  understand and manage their emotions in a healthier, more productive manner.  This translates into being a better spouse.  A high EQ is very desirable in a potential mate and can certainly be a key factor in whether or not a relationship stands the test of time.

Your Marriage Can Last

Finally, I just want to say that marriages of all shapes and sizes last.  You hear a lot about divorce and other marital failures, but what you don’t hear is that many marriages last.  The factors above are some good things to consider, especially if you aren’t married yet.  But, just because you have a few of these things going against you doesn’t mean that your marriage is doomed.  You may just need to work a little harder in certain areas.  The facts above will help you pinpoint what might be wrong and show you where you can make adjustments so you can live happily together for years to come.


  1. Nice post!
    Great blog.

  2. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Great post and interesting blog, keep it up! + following!