Why Do People Get Divorced
Yesterday the husband of one of my patients came to visit her. Nothing unusual about that, except that my patient was ninety years old and had been married for sixty-five years. Now you might think that after sixty-five years this couple would be bored stiff with each other and may be just going through the motions of staying together. Well, think again. This husband and wife huddled together, hugging and laughing and when it was time for him to leave, she linked her arm in his and escorted him to the door. All of us staff members smiled and commented on how wonderful it was to see such a display of love between two people who had spent more than half a century together.
Some important statistics
In this day and age when couples break up over silly things like one partner's snoring, or because they simply "lost that loving feeling," it was delightful to just look at this couple. According to statistics, the divorce rate in America for first marriages is 45 - 50%. For second and third marriages it can go as high as 73%. Can you imagine what the rate would be for fifth or sixth marriages?
Statistics also show that women 25 to 29 years old have a divorce rate of 16% and that couples with children have a slightly lower rate than childless couples. Well, my couple beat them on both counts. If she is now 90 and has been married 65 years, that makes her 25 when she was married. And, guess what? She and her husband have no children. Therefore it's not your age or whether you have children or not that would determine the longevity of your marriage.
So, what are the key factors that keep a marriage from ending in divorce. A few ideas come to mind.
1. Love. Okay, you might say that is a no-brainer. They wouldn't be getting married if they didn't love each other. But what does it mean to love? The next time you gaze into someone's eyes and whisper, "I love you," think of what you are saying. Do you love the person because of the way he/she looks right now? What he/she can do for you? How you feel when you are with him/her? All these are just superficial and may not last over the long haul.
2. Trust. Do you trust your mate? This is a big one, and something you should be certain about before you say, "I do." Because if he is not trustworthy now, what makes you think he'll be trustworthy 5 or 6 years down the road? According to statistics, 17% of divorces in the US are due to infidelity, with men being more likely to commit adultery. But trust has more wide-ranging implications; trust with finances, for example, is something that causes problems for a lot of married couples.
3. Interests. You may have heard the family that plays together stays together. The same goes for couples. What interests do you share? What brought you together in the first place? If all you share is between the sheets, that will diminish by the time you get home from your honeymoon. If you find you and your mate drifting apart because you have different interests, try to learn more about his interests and invite him to participate in yours. You'll both learn something new and maybe some sparks will fly.
4. Beliefs. Do you know that couples separate over religion? This is why I personally believe that biblical instructions give us the best guide for living and should be followed. The Bible states we should not be "unequally yoked," meaning that a believer should not go outside the church and marry an unbeliever. Even though some Christian marriages do end in divorce, the numbers are still lower for Christians, 26%, for non-Christians 36%.
5. Commitment. Anyone who is married will tell you that marriage is not something for the faint-hearted. It takes lots of work, perseverance and commitment. You have to be able to commit to staying married when your spouse is out of work, when she is sick, when she loses her figure (moving along) and when she is tired from running after the children. If you do not have the personality to stick it out "for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or in health." then marriage may not be for you.
So, how does your marriage stack up? I've tried to list the major contributors to a good marriage. I'm sure you can name more. I'll try to speak with my little ninety-year-old patient and ask her what made her marriage so successful. If I do, I'll come back and let you know. In the meantime, if your marriage seems a little shaky right now, I hope these points will help you get back on track. if you're contemplating marriage, these can help you establish a solid footing on which to base your future.