by Kassandra Lamb
As we move into the stress of the holidays, adding it to what we’re already dealing with during this crazy year of 2020, I thought it worthwhile to review and add to the info in this blog about maintaining healthy relationships. Over the next few weeks, I plan to revisit several posts I’ve done about relationships, refreshing and re-presenting the information in a more concise form (hopefully). And I will have an additional post or two with new info.
Today, I want to address a couple of myths and then take a “refreshed” approach to the challenges regarding love and marriage.
Marriages Actually Have an 80% Chance of Success
Yes, the widely accepted belief that the divorce rate is 50% is a total myth. (I’ve addressed this issue in a previous post.)
And this myth does our society serious harm. If you believe your marriage only has a 50/50 shot of success, then it feels kind of like a crap shoot.
Your attitude may very well be: Yeah, I’ll get married, but it may or may not work out. The odds are not in our favor. Then, when the going gets rough, it’s a lot easier to shrug and throw in the towel.
But if you believe that 80% of marriages last, than you don’t want to be in that 20% of losers who can’t make it work.
So where did that 50% myth come from?
Yes, statistics can lie!
Especially if you are looking at the wrong statistics.
Every year, the statistics are released for how many people got married that year (i.e. registered a marriage license) versus how many people got divorced (i.e. filed a divorce decree). For 2018, these numbers are 6.5 per 1000 people and 2.9 per 1000 people, respectively. In other words, out of every 1000 Americans (including all adults and children), 6.5 of them got married at some point in 2018, and 2.9 of them got divorced.
These are cut-and-dry numbers so they should be trustworthy, right?
WRONG! They are comparing apples to oranges. Over time, the number of people getting married in any given year has gone down, as has the number of people getting divorced, at about the same rate. Thus comparing those two numbers still produces the 50% erroneous figure.
Extrapolated from that is the conclusion that the divorce rate is slightly lower than 50% of the marriage rate, therefore roughly 50% of marriages end in divorce. And our society believes that this 50% trend has been steady over the last several decades.
The real divorce rate hovers just below 20%.
And it has done so since the early 1990s. If anything, the rate has gone slowly down. How is this real rate determined?
Every TEN years, we conduct a census in this country. The CDC then analyzes the data from that census to determine a lot of interesting stuff.
For example, with that data, they can compare who got divorced in any given year with the number of people who are STILL MARRIED!
This comparison has produced a divorce rate under 25% for the last four decades. (If you don’t want to take my word for it, here is a good article on the subject at PsychCentral.)
And the rate is fairly steadily going down some every year.
Indeed, research is finding that millennials are less likely to get married and/or are marrying later, but when they do, they are less likely to get divorced (see this interesting article on the subject.)
The Odds Against Marital Success
Having said all that, there are other challenges regarding love and marriage that can very much work against the success of long-term relationships.
- There’s the whole choosing-the-right-person-to-begin-with aspect. Which brings us to another myth about marriage—love will conquer all. No it won’t. Brain research has found that the brain of a person newly in love is comparable to that of an addict on a cocaine or heroin high. Yup, being in love is similar to addiction—and we know how well drug addicts process reality.
- Then there’s the men-and-women-don’t-really-understand-each-other thing. There are multiple gender differences that impact dramatically on how successfully we negotiate relationships. (More on this in a couple of weeks.)
- There’s also the psychological baggage that each person brings to the relationship. Past experiences—while growing up or in earlier adult relationships—may set one or both up to be critical and/or defensive, to be afraid of intimacy and/or commitment. A partner may have scar tissue from abuse in the past. And if one or both parties suffers from a psychological disorder, either biologically caused or related to life events, that creates challenges as well.
- Then, throw the stress of parenthood into the marriage mix. Are we clueless about what we are getting into there, or what? But then again, if we weren’t, the species would have died out long ago.
- And then we’ve got the aging process, and the fact that people change over time. We don’t always change at the same rate or in the same direction as our partner does. So it takes a lot of work to stay in sync with each other.
Keep in mind that the concept of marriage started back when the average lifespan was much shorter. In the Middle Ages, it was 35, and people usually married between 16 and 20. In the early 1900s, the average lifespan was still only 50. So a couple’s marriage didn’t have to last as long as it does today (when people marry in their 20s or 30s and live into their 70s and 80s). One partner or the other was bound to die after two to three decades of marriage—from childbirth, disease or a cattle stampede.
So what is the key to dealing with these challenges regarding love and marriage? How do we maintain a healthy relationship, decade after decade?
Actually, there are four key components. More on that next time!!
Your thoughts on these myths and challenges regarding love and marriage? Any challenges I’ve neglected to mention?
And don’t forget to enter our November contest — “Fall” in Love with Reading.
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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.
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