by Kassandra Lamb ~ On this relationships topic page and those topic pages listed under it, I’m going to summarize the information on love and marriage from our blog. (By the way, I’m a retired psychotherapist, so I’m not just pulling this out of my hat.)
Most of this info also pertains to good friendships and same-sex couples as well.
First, some myths and realities about love and marriage.
There are several myths about love and marriage that are widely accepted as truths in our society, but the two that I think do the most harm are the often proclaimed divorce rate of 50% and the belief that love can conquer all.
Marriages Actually Have an 80% Chance of Success
Yes, the widely touted divorce rate of 50% is a total myth. And this myth does our society serious harm.
If you believe your marriage only has a 50/50 shot of success, then it feels like a crap shoot. Going into it thinking the odds are not in your favor may mean that, when the going gets rough, it’s 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? There are several ways to calculate the divorce rate. The simplest and least accurate way is to compare 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).
The number of people getting divorced is around 50% of those getting married every year. However, this statistic ignores two things. One, both the marriage rate and divorce rate have gone down over the last 4 decades, at about the same rate.
Two, a more accurate picture of divorce comes from comparing the number of people getting divorced to the number who are still married in any given year. But this is a much more difficult statistic to calculate. That figure peeked in 1980 at about 23% and has been gradually declining since, hovering around 20% most years.
Love Is Not Enough!
Having said all that, there are many factors that can worked against the success of long-term relationships.
- First, 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. 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.
- There’s also the psychological baggage that each person brings to the relationship. Past experiences 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, that creates challenges as well.
- Then couples often throw the stress of parenthood into the marriage mix, perhaps with little or no understanding of what they are getting into.
- And last but not least, 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 what are the key components of a healthy relationship? See this topic page, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, for the most important factors influencing the success or failure of relationships. Then check out the gender differences page for more insights into how to keep your relationships strong and healthy.