At a recent relationship and marriage education conference, distinguished professor and author Dr. Pat Love challenged the audience to consider their beliefs about the permanence of marriage.
“According to research, 95 percent of young people still want marriage and children as an ideal, but there are more people living single than ever before,” said Love. “The median length of marriage today is eight years. Three out of four people say that marriage isn’t about family, it’s about me. Twenty-nine percent of people who are married say they are lonely.
“Just listening to these statistics can be extremely discouraging. It makes me think that perhaps we need to change the way we think about marriage. Maybe marriage isn’t for everybody.”
Think about the day you said, “I do.” In that moment when you were ready to make a commitment, what did you believe about your fiancé, yourself and marriage?
While looking at this research, Love found that there are four beliefs that couples must have that significantly impact whether or not you will have a long-lasting marriage.
• You have to believe in the permanence and purpose of your marriage.
“One study showed an increasing number of people no longer believed in the permanence of marriage as an ideal,” said Love. “This shocked me. Participants didn’t believe it could, or would happen, and didn’t feel a commitment or obligation to make it happen.
“Another study showed that in 45-plus-year marriages, the happiness level is like a U curve. It bottoms out around the 20th year. If you hang in there, believe, hold the image that it will happen and are committed to making it happen, your happiness quotient then starts going up and keeps going up.”
Additionally, Love stated that you need to have purpose for your marriage. We make goals for our weight, grades, work, etc. We need goals for marriage, too.
• You have to have romance as well as realism in your marriage.
“The criteria for dating is different than mating,” said Love. “When you focus more on romance, you miss an important part of marriage. If you focus on the ‘Hollywood love’ you will miss the challenges. Marriage is harder to maintain than ever before due to greater expectations and stressors. Part of the realism is believing in the romance, and the reality that investment in home improvement may not be a new bathroom; it might mean a trip somewhere fun. If the couple isn’t happy, it is unlikely the family will stay together.”
• You have to believe in health and wealth.
“Healthily married people live longer – it doesn’t just feel like it, they do,” said Love. “Married people recover from illness and diseases quicker. You have to believe that a good marriage is part of good mental health and physical health care.”
According to Love, the latest research shows that money predicts stability in marriage. How you manage budgets and work together is vital to the health of your marriage.
• You have to believe in sacrifice and sanctity.
When you are selfless, willing to sacrifice at a cost to you, you get happier and more committed to your marriage. It’s not enough to have the wealth. There has to be generosity also, and a belief that sacrifice is sacred; never to be dishonored.
Bottom line: In order to do married well, you have to believe.
Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.