Most people who get engaged think their marriage will last a lifetime, but up to 40 to 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce. So there’s a disconnect. About half of them will not make it. How do you know if you’ll be among the couples with staying power?
- Can you survive the honeymoon? Believe it or not, most couples are happiest after the first year of their marriage. Because right after the wedding, there’s often a letdown. You’ve been building up to the big event, planning and thinking about it constantly, so afterward, reality sets in. And you have to cope with wedding bills and adjusting to your new life. Navigating your way through post-wedding blues. Picking up someone else’s socks when you never had to before. Supporting your partner through down times. Finding your new normal together. The good news is, if you manage to stay married a long time, chances are you’ll score higher than honeymooners on the happiness charts.
- Have you discussed finances? It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor; you need to have the money talk. The subject of money can be very touchy with all sorts of pejorative notions ascribed to certain attitudes. For example, if you are careful with you money, your partner may think you’re stingy. Or if you like to enjoy an expensive restaurant now and then, your partner may think you’re a wastrel. Your ideas about how to save and spend are often based on what you learned growing up. When you and your partner have compatible ideas, you have a better chance of a long-term relationship.
- Are you prone to snarkiness? If you and your partner can learn to tone it down you have a better chance at longevity. It turns out that contemptuous behavior is the number one predictor of divorce. So watch your body language, like eye-rolling when your partner says something you disagree with. And watch your sarcasm; you probably think it’s funnier than the person on the receiving end. And name-calling is an absolute no-no unless it’s a charming nickname that your partner loves. If you have these problems as a couple, then you should ask yourself what you’re doing together. Treat each other with loving kindness, not contempt.
- Do you share housework? It doesn’t have to be exactly 50-50. But it does have to be some arrangement both of you are happy with. Studies show partners who divvy up the household chores are more satisfied with their relationship in general and with sex specifically. They have sex more often and both partners find sex more satisfying than those couples who have lopsided responsibilities for tasks. When you both feel you’re making a fair contribution, sex is better. So grab a mop and get going.
- Can you sustain cuddling in your relationship? Yes, intercourse is important and great. But a little post-sex cuddling is important, too, and enhances the sex life of most couples. Kissing, caressing, a little sweet talk after sex—these can really help a couple create a more intimate bond. It’s especially important for those who have kids and serious time constraints. Take a little extra time to strengthen your connection after sex and help build a long lasting relationship.
- Are your friends fractious? It turns out that divorce among your social contacts can act like a contagion. When your friends and the people around you are getting divorced, whatever stigma may have been attached is mitigated. If others are doing it, it may not be such a bad thing. In fact, it may be a good thing to be free—and you will have compatriots to be free with you. And so you are influenced, if only subtly. You may want to hang out with people in solid, healthy relationships—a much better influence if you want to last as a couple.
- Can you act to save your marriage before it’s too late? Couples wait up to six years on average before seeking help from a therapist. By then the acrimony has settled into the fabric of your relationship and it’s hard to get it out. Even the best marriages suffer from down times. So go to counseling at the first sign of trouble to ensure you prevent further damage. Some couples go before troubles starts to build a resiliency to inevitable problems marriages can face.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.