Couples That Date Longer Stay Married Longer

Couples That Date Longer Stay Married Longer

If you saw a man in a bar, slept with him that night, got married four months later, and are still together thirty years later, good for you.

This is a wonderful story and proof that a broken clock is right twice a day.

It’s important to say this up front because, somehow, folks seem to take great offense whenever they’re told that their way of finding love is somehow suboptimal. You shouldn’t. No one is judging you.

I just find it far more important to share facts than feelings. You may FEEL that you should “just know” when you’ve met your “soulmate” and when you have that feeling, you should both just lock it in as quickly as possible. That’s fair – and hey, every once in awhile it works. Alas, most of the time, it doesn’t, according to this study by Randy Olson, which looks at certain factors in how long marriages last:

Spending a ton of money on your wedding will not CAUSE you to break up, but it happens to correlate with higher divorce rates.

The charts on the linked page talk about correlation, not causation, which is an important distinction. In other words, spending a ton of money on your wedding will not CAUSE you to break up, but it happens to correlate with higher divorce rates.

To me, the most salient data points on those graphs state the following:

The more money a couple makes, the less likely they are to divorce. 

Again, this is correlation, not causation. But it makes perfect sense. People with more education are more likely to get married, to use birth control, to delay marriage, to come from functional families, and to make more money. Couples who make over $125K are 51% less likely to divorce than couples making less than $25K. 

The more people a couple has at the wedding, the less likely they are to divorce.

Makes sense. Couples that elope, run off to Vegas, or choose not to include family are often doing so in the heat of passion, without parental blessing. It’s not a huge shock when these relationships don’t work out. (And yes, I know there are second marriages where the couple decides not to make a big deal about the wedding. Just know that these marriages fail two-thirds of the time also!)

The longer a couple dates before a proposal, the less likely they are to divorce.

Life is a marathon and slow and steady wins the race.

Not remotely surprising, but surprisingly controversial to people who don’t want to believe this. Couples that date for less than one year have the highest divorce rate. Couples that wait 3 years before getting engaged have a 39% lower divorce rate. In essence, if you spend three years dating before you tie the knot, you are much more likely to discover whether you are long-term compatible than a couple that falls in love, ties the knot, and tries to figure it out AFTER the wedding.

This is IMPORTANT news for both women in their 30’s who are feeling the pressure of time and women in their 50’s who feel like they have less time and more maturity so they should just KNOW better.

Uh uh. Life is a marathon and slow and steady wins the race.

Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Joe

    The last point only makes sense.  The longer you date, the better you (should) know your prospective mate.  The better you know your prospective mate, the better you should know whether or not you’re long-term compatible.

  2. 2
    Julie

    I wanted to say I Disagree with this point here.  The more money a couple makes, the less likely they are to divorceCouples who make over $125K are 51% less likely to divorce than couples making less than $25K.

    Maybe the reason the couples that make more money stay together is because they have A LOT MORE TO LOSE by splitting up.  They might have the mind set to try and stick together better because if they divorce, they could lose the life style and luxuries they have, be forced to sell their home, and lose an awful lot of money.  People who don’t have so much, they are sticking together more for the true intent, which is Love.  If Love fails, then they have no material reasons to prosper by staying in a bad marriage.

    You don’t have to have a college education to have good common sense.  Heck, there are a lot of people with degrees out there that don’t have a clue.  I bet if you surveyed the people who make more money if they are actually “happy” in their marriages it would be a different story.  People tend to stick together when they are getting something out of their situation.  Even if their situation is really bad, there must be a payoff somewhere to that person to continue on and stay.

     

     

    1. 2.1
      Joe

      So you disagree…which means you think that couples who make more money are more likely to divorce?

      1. 2.1.1
        Julie

        Hey Joe, I’m disagreeing with the reasoning behind that statement.  Statistics are statistics.  But I feel more so the reason the couples are staying together is not because they are better educated, coming from functional families etc, but what I stated above.

        1. Gilbert

          So it sounds like you are offering an *additional* reason why higher income people might stick together, but how does that contradict the reasons Evan offered?  There are almost certainly multiple causative factors for each of the strong trends in the data.  Evan seems to provide five reasons that higher earners might divorce less in his post, though he doesn’t separate them out quite this way;

          1. More education – these people have the patience to go through college, and probably more verbal/problem solving skills for when issues arise, makes sense.

          2. Higher marriage rate – not sure why this one would lead to a lower divorce rate among people who actually do marry?

          3. Birth Control – this seems viable, though it would be nice to figure out a way to tell if having children tends to keep more marriages together (for the children!) or drive them apart (rumor has it there is some stress involved with children. . .)

          4. Delay marriage – I assume this means getting married older, rather than dating longer, which is covered elsewhere.  Makes sense, getting married at 18 when someone is still changing and developing who they are must be risky.

          5. Come from functional families – this makes sense.

           

          Julie, do you think none of these are factors, or just that the primary factor is fear of loss of lifestyle?

           

    2. 2.2
      Josie

      I have to disagree about the premise of people sticking together because “they have a lot more to lose” at higher incomes.  I have heard from many women who would have gladly left their husbands (or, in the case of those who did leave, would have left sooner) if they had the means to thrive on their own.  My closer women friends and colleagues are largely in the demographic you describe (college or graduate educated, well-heeled upper middle class folks making at least $150,000 as a married couple).  They have, by and large, divorced at least once by the time they are mid-40s.  My Match.com results attest to this as well. I think the “they have a lot more to lose”  theory may be more workable at MUCH higher incomes, i.e. $400,000-and above, but then again I have friends in those circles (divorced women with substantial trust funds).  

      Also, lower income people tend to be religious at a higher rate, so that may account for them staying together to try and maintain those “sacred vows”.

      1. 2.2.1
        Jenn

        I’m just curious, why would you put the words “sacred vows” in quotes? They are sacred (after all, marriage was designed by God to mimic the sacrificial bond Christ has with His church – us).

        1. Josie

          Sorry, but I grew up in the Bible Belt and am a tad cynical based on the high divorce statistics among the most religious folks I knew.  Many of those divorces involved cheating.  So my quotes were a reference to those who find the Christian marriage concept to be an automatic method of insuring success and compatibility.   there is an entire theme of movies based on the concept that no issue is too bad to be prayed away – Fireproof, The War Room.  These are honestly very harmful to women particularly War Room which minimizes domestic violence .  See http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/war-room-2015

    3. 2.3
      Hildegerd

      But poor people doesn’t have stabile relationships, they don’t even marry.

      1. 2.3.1
        Julie

        Hi Gilbert,  I guess what I am saying is that I don’t think it’s fair to say that education lets you stand a higher chance at a successful marriage.

        People who are well educated in school, are not necessarily well educated in Life.  To say that low income people are not educated enough to make a marriage work, I feel is unfair.  Think about the reasons that might hold you back in a marriage from getting divorced.  If you had a lower income, if you split, there may be nothing to divide.  Your comfort level would not change much, although there is of course the pain of the separation.  People with higher incomes, life changes can get very complicated and messy.  They might own a home, 401k, cars, boat, who knows what else.  Together they are living comfortably.  But apart, who knows how much their comfort level could go down.  Change is scary.  It is very necessary and a part of Life, but never the less it is scary.  When you have more invested than just your heart, it can make you look a little harder, a little wider, to finding reasons to stick it out.  There for appearing that people with higher educations have more success.

        Truly, what is a successful marriage?  Because in my eyes, it’s not sticking together for an ungodly amount of years unhappy, it is about how fulfilling it is to you and your partner.  Are you happy, are you able to grow as a person with them, are you loving and being loved unconditionally?  Marriage is just a piece of paper until you decide to live your lives like it’s not.  That they are precious vows that you want to uphold and keep.

        To stay in a bad marriage, you must have a reason.  Whether it is to keep it together for the children, fear of being alone, not wanting your comfort level materialistically affected, anything? The pay off to stay has to be better in your eyes than the payoff to leave.  And maybe having a higher income is just that incentive to stay.

    4. 2.4
      Rachel

      Amen…so true

  3. 3
    alley

    I dated 7 years before getting married!

    One of which was long distance cos he went over seas to study.

    I was married 13 years afterward.

    Both professional high earners.

    Yet…we will be divorcing …its been 3 years since the split.

    So much for that.

     

     

     

     

    1. 3.1
      SparklingEmerald

      This is just my opinion, based on observations and my own thoughts.  No scientific study to back this up.  But I think there is a window of time for a couple to date that gives the best chance for a lasting marriage.  Not just a minimum, but also a maximum. 2 -3 years is a reasonable time to get to know each other and decide on marriage.  I would say a relationship of  much more than 5 years, and the chances of the marriage lasting start to fall.  Not because the long dating period caused the marriage to fail, but a long drawn out dating period is a symptom that one or both people didn’t want to marry, and eventually did so due to pressure.  I have been to weddings where the couple had been dating/co-habitating, etc for 7 or more years, and then divorced quickly afterwards.  Of course, if we are talking about high school sweethearts , then a longer dating period would be logical, because of needing to finish up school, college, get established financially etc.  But if a couple is 25 or older and have been dating for over 5 years and one still “isn’t sure”, I would think that if marriage means that much to the one who is sure, it would be best to part company with Mr/Ms unsure and find someone who WANTS to get married and doesn’t need 5+ years to decide.

      1. 3.1.1
        Christine

        I agree that there is a maximum and that after a certain point, it’s just dragging feet.  I actually know a couple that just got married, after six years of dating.  I do wish them the best, but have to admit I have my doubts.  I don’t know if they’ll be married longer because they dated longer.  While he was attracted to her beauty and sweet personality, he had a ton of doubts about her long-term potential because she isn’t very ambitious and doesn’t have a stable career.  I always wondered why she stuck around him for those six long, painful years as he hemmed and hawed.  She’s young and beautiful, and there are a lot of other men out there who would want her without also requiring professional success.  She could have probably found someone else who was more sure about her, and wouldn’t have put her through six years to decide.  I really hope all his doubts about her, that he’s had all along, don’t doom their marriage.

        The only happy marriages I know of with more than 3 years of dating usually have other unusual circumstances.  One that comes to mind is a couple I know who first met in junior high (and well, they frankly had to wait that long because from the junior high through high school years, they were still minors and it would have been illegal for them to marry!)

        1. Julia

          I think you hit the nail on the head.  Getting married too soon isn’t a good idea but at the same time I believe people who wait too long are probably avoiding taking the plunge because deep down they don’t really want it.  I know a couple who has been together seven years and only just moved in together 6 months ago.  When the topic of marriage comes up they both come up with reasons why now is not a good time.  They are both around thirty and set up in their careers so they can’t really blame life circumstances.  I suspect that in their case there will always be an excuse to put off marriage.

      2. 3.1.2
        Henriette

        I remember reading a statistic (can’t remember where or when) that backed up this theory, @SE.  It was along the lines of more than 2 years but less than 4 years before marriage = lowest divorce rate.  BUT, there are exceptions, like if marriage is delayed beyond 4 years because couple is caring for sick parents, or attending grad school in different states.  If there’s no “good” reason to delay past 4 years, it indicates serious doubts on one or both parties’ parts and even if they eventually agree to wed, the chance of divorce is high.

        1. SparklingEmerald

          Hi Henriette – After I posted my observations and theory, I searched the net, and did find a few articles that backed up what I already thought (talk about confirmation bias –  LOL)

          But as you said, there are exceptions.  I think people who meet very young need a longer courtship, ( a 7 year dating period for 2 people who met in HS would not be too long) and people who are much older, like 75 + don’t need a full 3 years because “til death do us part” is not such a huge comitment, both parties  are likely retired and have their finances set, and they obviously will not be having children, and while children ARE wonderful, they also strain a marriage.

          I also think that two people who were dating intentionally (IOW, dating for a spouse) might get by with a slightly shorter courtship period (say 2 years vs 3 years), because they would be studying each other as a potential life partner from day 1.  People who just kinda sorta slide into a relationship by hanging out, friends with benefits, or some other non-commital beginning might need a longer courtship, because the beginning of the relationship was so casual to begin with, they weren’t really building towards marriage.

          Then of course, there are ALWAYS exceptions.  There will always be the 30 year couple who dated for 3 years, were college educated and serious about marriage who end up divorced, and the couple in their young 20’s who married 6 months after a whirlwind romance who celebrate their golden anniversary.

    2. 3.2
      Jenn

      Hi Alley,

      You brought up an interesting point – you say you “dated” 7 years before marrying? The fact that you were together that long before marrying is the other extreme. Were you living together during that time? It’s been my observation that couples who stay with each other that long (whether they’re cohabitating or not) can also have a higher rate of divorce after eventually marrying. There are a few common reasons for that, but I’m not going to speculate. It will suffice to say that I’ve learned through observation that it’s neither prudent to get married too quickly nor to wait for ages.

      I will say in response to the post, that I think one thing that doesn’t often get taken into account seriously, is age. It seems to me that marrying quickly shouldn’t be as much a problem for older couples who are actively discerning marriage. They have more romantic experience under their belt and are more likely to know sooner with whom they’re truly compatible. Statistics can reveal trends but studies are often biased and results can be manipulated in conclusions. I wouldn’t necessarily think that this research proves beyond a doubt that shorter courtships don’t work. If you do it right (as in not having sex before marriage, not moving in together, and going into relationships with the intent of discerning marriage), then a shorter length of time could be much less of a concern.

      1. 3.2.1
        Noemi

        Jenn said “statistics can reveal trends but studies are often biased and results can be manipulated in conclusions. I wouldn’t necessarily think that this research proves beyond a doubt that shorter courtships don’t work.”

        Yes, there are high-quality studies and low-quality studies out there. It is wise to engage in organized skepticism when reading about studies. You are rightfully prudent in being critical of research findings. Yet, you arrive at the conclusions that people who abstain from marriage before sex are doing it right. Says who? I think you’re taking it too far by saying that people who don’t move in and have sex before marriage are doing it right. Right by whom? You’re taking it way too far when you claim that shorter length of courtship is less of a concern for these people. Wow! Can you cite any research to back these claims?

        1. Jenn

          Yes, I can. I’ll post a link when I have time later, but for now I’ll just address your question of “who says?”. God does. People who actively follow His plan for relationships and marriage are doing it right because as the Bible says, “do not awaken love before its time.” Basically what that means is, by staying chaste and not cohabitating, people can get to know each other without the love goggles on. Having sex and living together causes people’s judgement to become clouded by their feelings. Keeping that part of the relationship reserved for marriage allows the couple to see each other more clearly and serves to cement their bond once married. Doing it any other way just makes it harder to maintain that bond in marriage, which is critical to the survival of the marital union. Can people still have good long marriages if they choose not to do it God’s way? Sure. Me, I’d rather not gamble on it that way.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          You’re back again to assert that God is the world’s best dating coach. As always, you’re working backwards from what you believe as opposed to what actually works. I’m not going to argue teleology with you. I will only point out to you for the umpteenth time that you are entitle to your feelings, not to your facts. The fact is that 97% of people have premarital sex. The fact is that people who marry quickly are more prone to divorce because they’re marrying virtual strangers. The fact is that living together is the best simulation of marriage and if you get married first and then live together, you risk finding out that you’re incompatible after its too late. We see it ALL the time. Religious people get married younger, faster, and have a higher divorce rate. So you are allowed to do whatever you want with your life, Jenn. Really. I don’t judge you. But when you state things that are objectively false, you can expect to hear a factual retort.

        3. Jenn

          Okay where’s your citation for the statistic that truly religious people have a higher divorce rate? Because here’s the thing: there is a HUGE difference between people who IDENTIFY as a certain faith and those who actually PRACTICE it. And those who faithfully follow God and His teachings (He is the author of love and marriage after all) ARE much less likely to divorce BECAUSE they have followed God’s plan for marriage. Trying to mess up His plan does not work, as evidenced by the multitudes of messed-up marriages which end in divorce because people chose not to do things God’s way.

        4. Noemi

          “And those who faithfully follow God and His teachings (He is the author of love and marriage after all) ARE much less likely to divorce BECAUSE they have followed God’s plan for marriage.”

          Christians may be less likely to divorce because their religion forbids it, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily happy. You’re conflating an absence of divorce with marital happiness. Christians may stay in an unhappy marriage simply because there is no way out of a marriage for them.  

          “Trying to mess up His plan does not work, as evidenced by the multitudes of messed-up marriages which end in divorce because people chose not to do things God’s way.”

          What about those who follow God’s way and are unhappy in their marriage? Might their unhappiness be due to their willingness to say forever without having known the person for some time?

        5. Jenn

          I can understand your point, Noemi, it’s only natural that we want to find partners with whom we can be happy. But the Christian view of marriage is not “happiness” per se (because let’s face it, if you’re not happy single, you ain’t gonna be happy married either!), but commitment. In other words, because traditional Christians are committed to an unselfish, unconditional service to the other person in the name of God, they are much more likely to be fulfilled, provided they’ve chosen their spouse well. Contrast that with someone who says, “I need this, this and that from my partner and THEN I’ll be happy.” See the difference?

        6. Noemi

          Jenn, you’re completely misreading my comments. Its a given that a partner can’t MAKE us happy. I’m talking bout the fact that divorce rates may be lower among Christians (i doubt it’s true, however), but lower divorce rates are no indicator of happiness within a marriage. Many cristians simply don’t view divorce as an option. So, if you’re going to present any findings that divorce rates are lower among christians, interpret those findings with caution.

        7. Russell

          Noemi,

          Actually, Christians do divorce less, and this is even more true for Jews.  However, where the really big difference comes in is when you compare non-religious, vs Christians/Jews that go to church very little vs those that attend nearly every week.  I don’t remember the exact figures, but they were very distinct, and even more amazing was that for Jews, it was something like a 95% success rate.

           

          You might try to argue that Christians (and Jews) simply don’t see it as an option, but I disagree.  Christians and Jews do see it as an option.  The difference is closer to what Jenn suggested above.  If your focus is on self, you really aren’t committed to the other person.  Your vows, if stated correctly would go something like, “for so long as you make me happy.”  The problem again is that the other person CAN’T make you happy.

           

          I would say that they simply have a different view of marriage, and where their view often comes into play on divorce is that they don’t think it should be a quick out at the first sign of trouble.

           

          Additionally, they may be more forgiving after an affair, and they may also be a little less likely to have an affair.  Nobody would ever suggest that there aren’t Christians who have affairs.  But I would suggest that among the devout…those that attend regularly, they tend to take their vows more seriously, and see extramarital sex as not an option.  Their typical friends are also likely to be devout, so less likely that a friend would initiate and affair with their friend’s spouse.  They also tend to have less alcohol and drug problems.  The church also provides at least some forms of support networks when people are in trouble.  This can relieve stress on a marriage.  Their relationships are also less likely to begin through cheating.  Many relationships among non-believers begin through cheating.  Often the girl is seeing one guy, but a better guy comes along and she begins seeing him, but doesn’t cut the first guy loose until she is sure the new relationship is going someplace.  And it can happen the other way around also, with the guy cheating on his girl with a new girl that comes into his life.  That does not provide a stable trustworthy base for a relationship to start from.  It just all starts to add up little by little.

           

          Again, I would never begin to claim that Christians and Jews do not have any problems among the devout, but they do tend to have fewer incidences of those problems.

           

           

          It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if two people are devoted to each other such that they put more focus on the other person’s needs, and both are actually doing this, it is likely to be a happy marriage.  Contrast that where both people are actually more focused on their own needs, and less on their partner’s needs.  That doesn’t sound very sustainable, and is likely to be a much less stable relationship, which will become filled with more strife and negative drama.

        8. Russell

          Evan, we have to be careful to just by into what some researcher finds in their research  I’ll tell a quick story first, then list an article that might shed some light on why you are right and wrong at the same time about some of the stats you claim.  We all fall victim to those researchers because we trust them when it’s “research.”

           

          OK, first, while I was in the Navy, we were given a survey.  This survey was supposed to assess the general climate with respect to equal opportunity, and relations between the races, and between men and women on our ship, the USS Theodore Roosevelt CVN-71.

           

          As I was taking the test, I noticed a very severe problem with the questions.  The questions were going to show something that did not exist.  Why?  Because it to seemed as if that was the goal, because it was so obvious.  For instance, one of the questions simply asked if you had heard anyone on the ship use the N word.  I should note that it made no distinction in who was using it and who they were directing it at.  The problem?  Not one single time would any white person on the ship use that word…ever.  You would be at Captain’s Mast so fast your head would spin.  Who did use it?  Black guys…constantly.  So I brought this to the attention of my superiors.  Nobody cared.  Nobody.  Sure enough, a few weeks later, the news van was at the end of our peer, with a field reporter talking about this survey and the “racial problems” we had on or ship.  So I called the news station myself and talked to the actual anchorman that did the story.  He hung up on me after hearing the majority of my story.  He didn’t care.  He had his story.

           

          When I went back to college recently, they taught us to be very careful about believing research findings.  We were taught to look for biases, such as who was funding the research, and methodology problems, small sample sizes, a history of activism by one or more of the researchers, etc…  With that said, here is an article that addresses divorce numbers among Christians and Jews.  After rereading it, I will note that I had it wrong for the devout

           

          http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/february/marriage-divorce-and-body-of-christ-what-do-stats-say-and-c.html

      2. 3.2.2
        Shaukat

        Hey Jenn,

        Do you know what else the Bible implicitly endorses? Incest, slavery, and the killing of civilians. So you can either get on that or, if you recognize that such prescriptions and descriptions are simply representative of a particular historical period, then perhaps you should also acknowledge that the Bible’s prescriptions regarding romantic relationships are also a little dated.

        I really would like to look at that study you referred to above, but I’m not holding my breath.

        1. Holly

          I just want to point out that the Bible doesn’t ENDORSE those things. The people who wrote it were sinners – some of them did those things, but that doesn’t mean God always called it good. I’m a Catholic so I know that following God means more than just reading the Bible. And you don’t have to be a Christian to understand that feelings are directly influenced by hormones, hormones are released during sex, sex therefore makes people feel more bonded (however temporarily), that “bond” makes people think they’re more compatible in other ways, then they do dumb things like move in together because they think they found The One. Contrast that with two people who go into a relationship with their eye toward marriage, who want to do things God’s way. They decide together to abstain from sex and cohabitating. They use the time they spend together to grow their relationship, actively looking at their partner in the lense of a potential spouse. They’re not only physically attracted, but match on almost every important value and lifestyle choice.

          This isn’t even about religion, really. Take any two couples and the latter trumps the former. The point is, if two people are being purposeful in their relationship, there’s no need to wait an arbitrary length of time. Certainly not three years! If everything fits and they’ve really taken care to discern fully that marriage is the right way to go, and both parties are for it, then I say there’s no real need to wait.

        2. Noemi

          Holly said:

          “They’re not only physically attracted, but match on almost every important value and lifestyle choice.”

          And how do you arrive at this conclusion? By taking the time to know the man. Even if–during the course of a few months–you find that you are compatible in terms of values and lifestyle, how else do you ensure that you are with a man of character? Time only reveals those things. Early on, everyone is on his/her best behavior. If timelines are as arbirary as you claim they are, why not take a little time to get to know a person?

      3. 3.2.3
        Noemi

        Russell:

        It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if two people are devoted to each other such that they put more focus on the other person’s needs, and both are actually doing this, it is likely to be a happy marriage.  Contrast that where both people are actually more focused on their own needs, and less on their partner’s needs.  That doesn’t sound very sustainable, and is likely to be a much less stable relationship, which will become filled with more strife and negative drama.”

        Exactly. This is true regardless of one’s religious preferences. Going back to the earlier posts, it’s not christianity but character that determines the quality of a relationship. This is what Evan endorses. Find the man who is devoted to you. One way to discern this is to take the time to know the man, not rushing into a relationship (contrary to what Jenn has said). Part of knowing a man is being aware of his day-to-day behaviors.

        Going back to the earlier statement that “If you do it right (as in not having sex before marriage, not moving in together), then a shorter length of time could be much less of a concern.” I wholeheartedly disagree. Not having sex before marriage only protects you from getting STD’s and becoming pregnant. And the only thing that happens when you don’t move in with a man is…not moving in. 

        1. Lily

          Agree. Christians may be more inclined to stay in their marriages if they are committed to the relationship. But their divorce rate is the same as the general population. And for those Christians who waited to have sex until they got married, they are MUCH more likely to be sexually incompatible. I actually thought I disliked sex when I (a Christian) was married to my children’s father (also a Christian). I currently am very happy dating a very sweet, kind Jewish man.

        2. Holly

          Sexual incompatibility is a complete myth, in my opinion. It’s based on the false idea that people are static beings whose sexual tastes and drives can never, ever change, which is completely ridiculous. The problem with this view is that it’s inherently selfish, because it puts more of a focus on the individual (ie. “I’ll never marry someone who doesn’t like oral sex”), rather than focusing on the kind of sex life that two people can share TOGETHER. This is why waiting until marriage is so much better, because there is much less of a focus on what you’re not getting. If you enjoy rough sex, and you’ll only marry someone who will give it to you, that’s not loving the person the way they deserve to be loved. It’s using them. It’s conditional love. Or what happens if you do marry someone who will do all the things you want, exactly as you want them to, and then one day, they can’t have sex anymore? Maybe they become paralyzed or suffer a chronic illness which makes it impossible to have sex anymore. Or they develop cancer of the mouth and it’s suddenly too painful for them to give you oral sex? What then? See what I mean? That’s why the utilitarian view of marriage is so damaging. They ought to change the vows to reflect the attitude of today: “Until death do you part” should be “Until you stop making me happy”.

    3. 3.3
      JJ

      What happened? Why didn’t it work out?

  4. 4
    Josie

    Very true, Sparkling Em…I agree that “a long drawn out dating period is a symptom that one or both people didn’t want to marry, and eventually did so due to pressure.”  

    Evan’s recent response to the prior letter is indicative of this.  I stayed with a man past the three-year period and that was the point when I really started questioning the situation and imposed a “me-a-matum” (telling myself that I had a year before I would leave, had a heartfelt conversation with him and told myself I would leave within a year if he did not set a date, emotionally prepping myself for breakup). Even my dad, who certainly has not read any online dating advice, called things into question once 3 years had passed.  That seems to be the standard.

     

     

    1. 4.1
      Hildegerd

      If grown up people haven’t decided after 18 months –  two and a half year that they want to get married and actually set a date, I don’t believe in their relationship.

       

       

      1. 4.1.1
        SparklingEmerald

        I agree with about 80% of what EMK says, and the 3 year minimum period before marriage is one thing I am not in 100% agreement with.  I think a     1 -3 year dating period to get engaged is reasonable and a 6 month to a year and half engagement period is reasonable.  The stats didn’t say that marriages with a courtship period of 2 years and 3 months were completely doomed.  Perhaps a one year until engagement period followed by an 8 month engagement would work well for an over 30, financially stable, college educated couple, marrying for the first time, who used the time they were dating and engaged to really discern and communicate their hopes and expectations for marriage.  A couple who met their first year of college, might not get engaged until 3rd or 4th of college, and take a 2 year engagement period to get to know each other outside of college, and to establish themselves financially, so even a 6 year total relationship prior to marriage might not be “foot dragging” and sign that one of them wasn’t committed to getting married.

        A 3 year relationship period is probably a good average, but people and circumstances vary and even the article had SEVERAL variables (education, income, etc).  I think anything at either extreme spells trouble (marrying after 3 months, or living together for 15 years prior to marriage)

        I will say that my 2nd marriage is a bit of a puzzler for me as far as the co-habitation/courtship thing.  We were engaged after 6 months, married after 10. (I was age 32)   Not a timeline I would recommend for anyone under the age of  80 !  We did not co-habitate.  My marriage lasted 23 years, about half of it very happy.  So I really do wonder what a 2 and half year  or 3 year period would have done.  Would we have broken up ?  Would we have made better choices within our marriage because of the longer courtship period ?  Or would we have just divorced in middle age regardless, just because of who we are and how we matched up (or not).

        Anyway, I don’t completely regret the marriage, I have about 10-12 years of  happy memories, and a really awesome grown son, who makes me proud every day, and makes me smile every time we visit.

        I really hope the women on this blog who desire motherhood, take EMK’s advice to take their love lives seriously sooner.  While I DO wish my marriage made it to the finish line, I am glad that I at least gave it a shot (really believing in forever that time around) and had my son.

        I think if I had never experienced motherhood, that would have been 10 times more excruciating than any frustration/sadness etc. I felt being single.

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          I never said three years minimum. Ever. You’ll know more in three years than two, but I never made a rule about it. If anything, I recommend 2-3 years and if there’s no ring forthcoming shortly thereafter, I recommend moving on. Please don’t quote me on things I’ve never said. It’s tiring to refute.

  5. 5
    Carol

    At my age, 65,  my boyfriend and I should wait three years to get married???!!!!

    1. 5.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Yes. What exactly is the harm in making sure you make a prudent decision? You are aware that 67% of second marriages fail, right? Combine that with the higher incident of divorces for people who marry fast, and you have enough evidence that being older doesn’t always mean being wiser. You’re banking on not being statistic. That’s fine. I just want to know what the actual rush is. You’re not having kids, so I can’t fathom why it’s so important to tie the knot fast. Is it because you’re afraid you’ll fall out of love? Is it because you’re a romantic? Is it because you’re concerned he might die and leave you with nothing if you’re not his wife? Whatever it is, it had better be pretty compelling to justify marrying a guy that you’ve known for less than two years.

      1. 5.1.1
        Christine

        I’ll be curious to see if anyone comes up with any reason, besides wanting kids, that justifies a faster timeline?  Right now me and my boyfriend are trying to strike the right balance between dragging things out too much and rushing.

        I certainly don’t think being afraid of falling out of love justifies getting married faster.  If two people have real love, it should still be there after they get to know each other better, and then they can marry at that point.  If the love fades, then I would think they’re better off not having been married, and then going through a divorce.

        1. Joe

          How about “I might die in 5 years?”

      2. 5.1.2
        Crystal

        Being older may not mean being wiser but it does mean you are closer to death than most people who are younger than you. And being aware of your mortality and the fact that most of your years are behind you gives you a perspective on life that a younger, healthy person (versus one with a chronic life-threatening illness) simply can’t understand, no matter how much they think they do.

        In other words, it’s an age thing, you can’t understand–until you’re older and closer to death.

        I’ve been married twice and am dating a wonderful man who wants to marry NOW. However, I’ve told him we’ll have to wait. I want us to get to know each other better.

        But, if I decide I want to marry him, I’m not going to wait three years to do it. (The fact is, I’m ambivalent about marriage right now. So it’s not high on my To Do list), If, at my age, and if I was seeking marriage, I felt I had to wait three years to see if I’d want to marry this man, I should have left him long before then and spent my time looking for someone I felt more compatible with.

        The other issue is, although the statistics point to the correlations presented here, the fact is some marriages defy all of those numbers.

        Personally, I’ve lived most of my life very differently from the average person. If I used stats to determine my decisions, most of my major life choices and experiences would have been different and more mainstream.

        But life is full of ups and downs for everyone. I have no regrets about most of my choices–including my two previous marriages. In fact, unlike those who depend on others’s opinions (or stats)  to determine which course to take, I have few regrets that have to do with living in a way that someone other than me thinks is best.

        This means I have to own up to my mistakes but it also means I have the joy of knowing I lived the life I chose, not the one anyone else thought I should. For me, this thought is a very liberating.

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          “The other issue is, although the statistics point to the correlations presented here, the fact is some marriages defy all of those numbers.”

          Yes. But most don’t. NOBODY thinks she’s going to be a statistic. NOBODY plans on making a mistake. EVERYBODY thinks she’s going to defy the odds.

          So here’s one last statistic that you can defy: third marriages fail at a 73% rate. You may not regret your choices, but it seems your gut instinct for choosing men hasn’t exactly been spot-on. Good luck to you either way.

        2. Crystal

          To add on to what I said previously, I’m all about the present moment. It’s not that I ignore what the past has taught me, or that I don’t make plans for the future.

          It’s that I am keenly aware that the present is the only moment that actually exists. The past is gone. The future may never arrive for me personally. But I am alive right now.

          So, while I was definitely more future-oriented as a younger person, and I think that’s natural, as an older woman (almost 54), I am focused on making each moment count. Therefore, if, after a period of time that I felt was enough, I wanted to marry, being one who believes in making this moment count, I would.

        3. Crystal

          Evan,

          Hopefully, I’m done with this thread. But I wanted to clarify that when I said the reason I’ve improved my odds of having my current relationship be long-lasting by choosing a different kind of man, that was just have the story of why I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever experienced.

          The other half is that, thanks to “Why He disappeared” and “Finding the One Online” I am behaving very differently than I did with my first two husbands. I am more feminine than I used to be, grant “mulligans” when I almost never did the first times around, and I give of myself to my man in all kinds of ways that I never did with the other two.

          As a result, my man constantly comments on my sexiness and gives me affection and material things in such a way that I am constantly surprised by his generosity, warmth and displays of love.

          I just wanted to make it clear that my belief in the potential longevity of my current relationship is not simply wishful thinking. I put in the effort to change myself and seek a more compatible partner. So I am optimistic because I took it upon myself to create the ideal conditions for this relationship to thrive when the others didn’t.  This fact combined with the fact that I am a serial odds defier who never gives up until I achieve goals that my seem impossible to others is the basis of my confidence.

    2. 5.2
      Karmic Equation

      Yeah. What’s the hurry? What are you afraid of?

      Name the fears. Some may be valid. Some won’t.

      But unless you’re afraid he won’t love you anymore in three years, isn’t it better to NOT have been married to him if that’s the case? Then you’re both free to exit the relationship without all the hassles that a divorce entails.

      The only hurry would be if either he or you are a gold digger.

      If neither of you are, and your love is true, you can get engaged in two years and married in three. By then you both will have experienced a lot of ups and downs together and have had fights. Knowing how your partner acts and reacts when things are down and knowing how they resolve (or not resolve) arguments and disagreements is really important to know before committing to spending the rest of your life with them.

  6. 6
    MikeTO

    Women who don’t sleep around more likely to be married longer.

    1. 6.1
      Karmic Equation

      Cuz they have nothing to compare to, and probably don’t know what they’re missing.

      That’s probably one of the reasons why men don’t want women to have any experience. So that they can be lazy or terrible lovers and their gfs/wives would be none the wiser.

      1. 6.1.1
        Russell

        Think about what you said KE.  First of all, the same could be applied to the women.  Maybe some of the women in those marriages are not the best in bed, but because the husband is also likely too have no, or limited experience, he doesn’t know she’s not that great.  But then, because he doesn’t know, he actually thinks she’s great.

         

        Like it or not, the sexual revolution has not been very kind to women…or men, except for the top 20% maybe.  I do know a few guys that would fall into that category and they all think it’s simultaneously funny, and cool that they have been the first to sleep with the future wives of many many men.  Yeah…nice…

         

        Yeah, all those Don Juan’s and what is the actual result?  A lot of women who end up tossed aside by those guys, and then they are supposed to find the guys that will actually marry them as worthy.  Yet, the dirty truth is that if women operated the way men do, and the men operated the way men do, women would not be too happy at all.  Yeah, what if men were very selective with who they slept with, but women were not?  So pretty much all of the men would have slept with women way out of their league, and then those women the end up “settling for,” are going to feel like they can’t compete.  And maybe the really can’t compete.  Not all women are sexual acrobats.  Not all women like to give head, and many don’t like to swallow.  Many don’t like anal.  Many don’t want threesomes, etc…  Yet they have to deal with guys who have had those things, and now want them from her.

         

        I have news for ou KE, sex is not everything is a relationship, and while I have been with a good number of women, I can only think of a few that were not enjoyable in bed, even though if I wanted to, I could rank them from best to worst.  At the same time, I can look back and realize that if I had never slept with anybody else, I would have been more than happy with any of them as a wife and only sexual partner.

         

        No man can be all things, and neither can a woman.  What I see looking back is that what was far more important was how we connected out of the bedroom.  And when that was great, the sex was enjoyable, and also more emotionally fulfilling.

         

        I would also say that a partner who displays the ability to wait will also inspire in you a better sense of trust.  A man or woman who can’t wait will be far more likely to cheat.  Think about this…if a man can’t wait a few months for sex, how can he wait if you aren’t interested in sex during pregnancy, or what if you get hurt in a car crash and can’t have sex for a while because you are in traction at the hospital?  As a former sailor, I saw that in the Navy where guys couldn’t resist a hooker in a foreign port, and some wives and girlfriends back home couldn’t resist having affairs and one night stands.  I would prefer somebody who loves sex, but also has self control, and proves it.

        1. Karmic Equation

          Russell,

          The number of sexual partners a person has had does not reflect that person’s integrity or character. It just means they had a sexual past.

          You waiting for sex for 3 months doesn’t mean you’re not a lying, cheating, embezzler (not saying you are that, btw). It just means you can wait for sex. That’s it.

          Date and marry a person with INTEGRITY. Who says what they mean and means what they say. A person with integrity can withstand temptation. End of story.

  7. 7
    Erin

    “This is IMPORTANT news for both women in their 30’s who are feeling the pressure of time.”

    Oh man.  Evan, I know you didn’t mean it this way but my takeaway here is that if you are 35 and unmarried (as I am)…it is already too late for you.  My only consolation is that I have been dating a lovely 38 year old man for 4 months and if anything HIS clock seems to be ticking.  But if he doesn’t work out – I’m basically screwed.

  8. 8
    Crystal

    To your reply, Even. I understand your points. And I don’t disagree. Stats are stats.

    But, the fact is, I’ve defied odds all my life. If you knew me, or anyone who knows me, you’d know it’s true that I’ve colored outside the lines in almost every way imaginable.

    So, for me, although I’d be entering a third marriage, with this particular man, it’s also true that my first two marriages were with very different kind of men–men who came no where near being as compatible with me as this one is. In that sense, I think I am wiser. I chose a better mate for me.

    In that way alone, I have exponentially  increased the chances of this relationship lasting while the others failed by changing a critical factor–compatibility. I don’t believe time of engagement trumps compatibility in terms of which is more important in a relationship, no matter what the stats say.

  9. 9
    Crystal

    P.S. As I said, “I chose a better mate for me” this time around in great part because I applied the advice you gave in “Why He Disappeared” and “Finding the One Online,” Evan.

    Had I not read and followed this material, I would never have looked twice at the man I am with now, although he fits me like a glove, I would have never known that because I would have thought he wasn’t my “type.”

    In fact, had I not reached out to him online, he would never have messaged me. He’s a year older than me, but strictly dated much younger woman and, when he saw  my naturally grey hair, thought I looked like a “grandma”–even though, grey and all, I’m pretty hot, if I do say so myself.  Now he doesn’t let a day go by without showering me with affection in intangible and intangible ways.

    Bottom. Thank you very much for your great advice.

  10. 10
    phxgirl

    I have also seen that spending more money on an engagement ring is correlated with higher divorce rates.  I wonder if this is because, like having an expensive wedding, the relationship has become more about the “stuff” and less about the actual relationship.

    I have to say that three years seems a little long to be dating before a proposal.  If you are with a person who won’t commit or is simply incompatible, that should be obvious in most cases by the second year (assuming both of you are finished with your educations).  Just thinking some people might think they should give it three years, when really the answer can be obvious if it is the right person in one to two years.

  11. 11
    Belinda

    Correlation is not causation. You can cherry pick data to support your beliefs but that is really not substantial. You know who have the lowest rates of divorce? People who never get married. That is a fact. All this other stuff is bs. So maybe people who take longer to date until marrying are indesicisive types, so they also take longer to divorce or stay in a bad marriage and never leave. Who says all long married couples are happily married? Most are not, they just don’t want the cost and drama that goes with divorce. I know many couples who have net worths in the millions. They can’t stand their spouses, they cheat and basically live separate lives. Are they still married? Yes. Are they happy? No!

    1. 11.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      “The people who never get married have the lowest divorce rates” is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. It’s akin to “The people who have never been in car have the lowest auto fatality rates.” You are entitled to avoid marriage all you want. But you’ll be missing out. Same as someone who never gets in a car out of fear of the worst.

  12. 12
    Belinda

    @evan-

    you obviously didn’t get the sarcasm in my comment. Of course it’s stupid, no more stupid than the other “facts” you noted. As for being married, you assume I’ve never been married, and I had for 24 years. Getting divorced was one of the best decisions I ever made. I will not get remarried because there is no point. I enjoy being independent and I have a boyfriend of over four years. Marriage complicates matters, especially the second time around.

  13. 13
    MikeTO

    M”akes sense. Couples that elope, run off to Vegas, or choose not to include family are often doing so in the heat of passion, without parental blessing. It’s not a huge shock when these relationships don’t work out. (And yes, I know there are second marriages where the couple decides not to make a big deal about the wedding. Just know that these marriages fail two-thirds of the time also!)”

    Really? You realize about half the marriage end in divorce and we aren’t talking about eloping here.

  14. 14
    Ronin

    Actually those who profess to be atheists have lower rates of divorce and incarceration…so much for the fear of God keeping people on the straight and narrow 🙂 In terms of engagement, it’s been my experience that if a lot of couples don’t get married before the hormonal honeymoon period is over (18 months to 2 years) they tend to split up. One or the other has “Lost that Lovin Feeling”. Generally the topic of “I need to know where this is going” about that point, the guy has to either get the ring out or he’s likely history.

  15. 15
    Holly

    That could be because there are not a lot of people who profess to be atheists than there are non-practicing Christians.

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