What Makes Marriages Last (Or Not)

I’ve been getting into it recently with some readers who have a slightly different take on when people should get engaged. Hey, different strokes for different folks.

One reader on my Facebook page wrote: “When a man’s in love he wants to propose as soon as he can.”

Needless to say, I disagree with that. Wait. It’s not that I disagree with that. There are MANY men who propose as soon as they can when they’re in love. But are they making the wise decision? That’s something else entirely.

Another reader – who was attempting to shoot down my assertion that you should ideally wait 2-3 years before getting engaged – sent me a link to a super-informative article. In it, Professor Ted Huston studies 168 couples for ten years. Not a big sample size, but an interesting result.

“Researchers saw some typical changes that take place in all marriages during the first couple of years: fewer overt displays of affection; less sex; and fewer leisure activities together, as the relationship evolves from a romantic, recreational relationship to something like a working partnership.”

This is all normal and predictable, says the married dating coach. If you expect your marriage to be otherwise, you’ve got a big surprise waiting for you.

“The fact of a couple moving quickly toward marriage is not in and of itself a problem as much as what is driving the speed. (The average length of courtships in the study was two years, four months)…Speed can become a problem when it is driven by romance and fantasy because, unless one is extraordinarily lucky, the suitors discover that the partner was not as lovely as they had imagined. Long courtships, Huston argues, are rarely long because the partners are exercising due caution. If a couple is still finding lots of reasons not to marry after four or more years, then that’s usually because they’re subconsciously picking up on problems or even thinking that they themselves aren’t suitable for marriage, ever.”

Makes perfect sense to me. Which is why I’m going to double down on my theory that you shouldn’t get engaged before at least two years (like most couples already do) and you shouldn’t marry when you’re caught up in those giddy feelings. By the same token, if one party is really delaying marriage (going beyond 4 years), then it’s not a matter of being cautious, it’s a sign that he/she doesn’t really want to get married.

Other useful takeaways:

•Happily married couples shared many traits, including courtships that progressed smoothly toward marriage with little drama; their courtships had a quiet, romantic feeling, but as important, they sensed they were marrying someone who could be a good friend.

•Unhappily married couples had low-key courtships that moved forward slowly because either one or both of the partners lacked much warmth or had difficult personalities.

•Early exiters (what Huston calls “Country Music Romances”) divorced very quickly, within two to seven years of marrying. They have very long courtships and appeared to marry with the hope that it would “improve” the relationship, though they’re well aware that they have major problems.

•Delayed-action divorces (“Hollywood Romance Group”) had highly romantic courtships, but their affection declined considerably over the first few years of marriage. They were labeled “delayed-action” divorcers because they stayed married for at least seven years, long after the passion that led them to marry had dissipated.

•Women who sense future problems while they are courting generally find out after they are married that their concern was well-founded.

•Whether a marriage will be happy or whether it is headed for the divorce court can be foretold from the courtship.

•Couples who are passionately enamored as newlyweds are likely to divorce.

•Men with traits stereotyped as “feminine” make better husbands.

•The extent of differences in tastes and ideas among couples does not predict divorce. Some couples bury their concerns over such differences; others brood over them. Those who brood are more likely to divorce.

•Anxiety, moodiness, and emotional swings in the wife or the husband do not preordain divorce, but they are related to unhappiness in marriage.

•The birth of a child transforms couples’ lifestyles, but it does not change the feelings husbands or wives have about each other.

•All marriages, even those that are happy in the long run, show declines over the first two years in marriage in the following categories: sex, overt displays of affection, and leisure activities spent together.

It’s a really great article. But everything you read there, you could also have read here. I’m just sayin’.

My biggest takeaway is that if the courtship is smooth, the marriage will be as well.

Please share your thoughts about any of the central premises of this piece. Do you disagree because you have this one friend who met her soulmate, married him in six weeks and they’re still together twenty years later and they have sex twice a day? If so, God help you.

 

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Comments:

  1. 1
    henriette

    A man in love might want to propose as quickly as possible but he should have the wisdom and self-control to override that desire.  Love is one thing, but a loving marriage is something else entirely.   It’s entirely possible – I might argue, probable – to fall in love with someone who would be a terrible spouse for you.  Taking time to really know a partner and to ensure that he/she really sees you is the best idea. 
    I would argue that, say, over 35 years-old, people need less than 2 years pre-proposal because they know themselves better than do the young’uns. 

    1. 1.1
      rich

      What about if the man is 35 snd the woman is 24. They moved in together after a month. Engaged at 5 months and married 10 months later?  

      1. 1.1.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        I’d say – without knowing much more – that this is a recipe for divorce.

  2. 2
    my honest answer

    I totally agree that the  biggest indicator of a happy marriage is lack of drama. I keep trying to get across to my readers that if you are with the right person, there IS no drama. They want to see you as much as you want to see them. You’re not hanging out by the phone waiting for them to throw you crumbs of affection, nor are you fighting / breaking up / reuniting. A lot of people mistake passion and strong feelings for love. It’s good to have some research to back it up though, thanks Evan!

  3. 3
    Laya

    Evan, I just wanted to clarify that I didn’t intend to shoot down your premise that couples should wait. I just didn’t agree that it should be so rigid…as in only after 3 years. In this article the average time for happy marriages is 2 years and 4 months but that also includes couples that fall in the range before that time and after. In the end, I agree with 2-3 years as good time frame.
    I also agree that this article confirms many of your observations and beliefs that you have been putting forth all along.

  4. 4
    Laya

    By the way, I believe the article indicated that it was 2 years and 4 months to marry. In your article you stated 2-3 years before you get engaged. I believe in 2-3 years before one marries (not engaged) is a good time frame…maybe that is splitting hairs but just saying.

  5. 5
    Daisy

    1.5 years ago a girl friend of mine got engaged after only 3 months of dating her boyfriend. They were 24yo, the guy was caucasian and my friend was southeast asian, she couldnt even speak English well at the time. They seemed to be so in love and so into each other despite the language difficulties on my friend’s part (I wonder how they actually communicate important stuffs to each other!). She didn’t know the guy at all before they started dating. 1 month after the engagement they got married. The guy even converted to the girl’s religion. As of now they’re still together and they look like they’re still a happy couple. They havnt passed the 2-3yr mark as Evan had suggested, so I hope their marriage will last a lifetime. We shall see if they can be the extreme exception to the 2yr suggested rule.

  6. 6
    Heather

    @Henriette,

    I’m over 35 and I definitely might need 2-3 years before my current guy proposes, and that’s only if he’s still around, mind you.

    I really got burned pretty badly in my marriage, and have seen some marriages break up badly, lately, and that’s really made me very gun-shy about marrying again.  I’m not too sure that I want to put myself out there like that and then out of the blue, bam, broken heart, debt, and divorce, once again.  That sounds about as appealing as a root canal, if you ask me.

    And even with courting someone for 2-3 years, how do you really, truly know for sure that they’re not going to bail on you because they want someone younger, or just randomly decide they don’t love you so they want out?

    Sure, I know “myself” very well and have learned alot about what to avoid, what to watch for, etc.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to totally know my partner, and maybe never will.  And that, is what scares the ever-loving poop out of me.

  7. 7
    SS

    I meant to get back to you on the other thread, but it’s probably better to do so here since this one is actually on the topic of time of engagement.
     
    Coincidentally, I found the same article when I went to do more research on Huston’s study of length of time of dating before marriage. Interesting stuff!
     
    However, like Laya said, I don’t see that the article proved or disproved anything about the ideal time of engagement, nor did it indicate anything about the ages of the couples involved, which to me makes a huge difference. The only true negatives stated in this research and others (John Molloy) were that those couples that married within a year of knowing each other were more likely to divorce and those that waited longer than three years to marry were more likely to divorce. No argument from me on any of those factors.
     
    Also, if we were talking about a bunch of 20-somethings — the age range in which the majority of Americans do marry — I totally agree that they should date two years before thinking about engagement.
     
    But there is nothing really conclusive anywhere (yet) to say that the marriage that took place when a never-married 30+ year-old guy waited two years to propose and one year to marry is more likely to last longer than the marriage that took place when the never-married 30+ guy proposed after a year and then married a year later. Everything I’ve seen so far has indicated that longterm marital success is most likely to happen if the couple dates between 1-3 years, which would include the couple where the guy who proposed after a year married within the next year. 
     
    My only point is this… like you said, different strokes for different folks. If a woman in her 30s, especially her late 30s, is dating a never-married man in his mid-late 30s and she doesn’t want to wait more than a year (give or take a few months) for a proposal, she’s not necessarily doing anything hasty or making the wrong choice. She might be making the right choice in certain instances. While we women need to understand how men feel and behave (the main reason I was attracted to your blog in the first place when I was dating), we also have to look out for our own needs. My desires for family were ultimately more important to my long-term well-being than being the cool fun girl who gave a not-yet-committed man more space than I felt necessary so he could make up his mind. I broke up with a man at the six-month mark for that very reason… because he said he didn’t see himself marrying for at least three years.
     
    And guess what? He’s 42 now and still unmarried. Meanwhile, six months later, I met my husband, who was on the same page about marriage and family as I was. I think I made the right choice letting the first guy go because I was able to sense that he was overly hesitant about marriage and he was not a good bet for me to wait for for two years. Because it’s a lot harder to break up with a guy after 2-3 years when you feel you’ve “invested” something in the relationship versus cutting the cord earlier when you get the clear sense that he’s not interested in marrying you, or in marrying at all. I know too many never-married 40-something-year-old childless-not-by-choice women who were too cool, laid back and patient with the wrong men, and they admit that they would have been better off having a much shorter timeline in their 30s for a proposal.
     
    I know you’ll write that off as just a couple of exceptional anecdotes, but my anecdote isn’t any less valuable than someone else’s anecdote about waiting two years to propose before marriage, and only time will tell if one set of marriages is longer-lasting than another set of marriages. Or maybe it ultimately won’t make much of a difference at all, meaning those 30-something women who don’t want to wait longer than a year for a proposal and hope to marry within two years of meeting a man are making a smart choice for themselves.  
     
    Different strokes for different folks!
     

  8. 8
    Heather

    SS,

    Exactly.  Different strokes for different folks.  I had dated my now ex-husband for about a year and a half before we got engaged, married seven months later, and were separated, one month before our third wedding anniversary.  We totally rushed into it, I never should have told him I wanted to get married sooner rather than later, and I never should have married a man whose family pushed him to marry me, for all the wrong reasons.

    If I ever do feel comfortable enough to remarry, some day, it’s going to take a lot of time and commitment.  There are no guarantees in this world and I know that full well, but I want to make sure I’ve really covered my bases and am making a very informed leap of faith, if you will.  And that’s IF I decide I’ll remarry.  At this point, watching so many trainwreck marriages, staying single forever sounds pretty darn good.

  9. 9
    SS

    Heather @8…
     
    And I see no problem with your point of view!  :)  I think that’s the overall point I’m trying to make… we’re all approaching this relationship thing from different perspectives and different pasts. Most of my friends are never-married later 30-somethings with no kids (I was early 30s with no kids), so the mindset about marriage and timeframes might have been different. I noticed as well that divorced men I dated were much more reluctant to get back into a marriage mindset, even if they knew they wanted to remarry.  I understood that as well, so I took that into account when I was looking at the type of men I wanted to date. 
     
    Anyway, just wanted to say that I totally support your point of view as well… enjoy your singlehood! Or a non-marriage!  :D

  10. 10
    Fusee

    First time commenting! Evan, I’ve been reading your excellent blog for a few weeks now, and I have only one thing to say: SPOT ON!
    @SS (#7): “Or maybe it ultimately won’t make much of a difference at all, meaning those 30-something women who don’t want to wait longer than a year for a proposal and hope to marry within two years of meeting a man are making a smart choice for themselves.”
    * What makes me comment for the very first time is the topic of time, which is a much debated one and that hits close to home for myself. Hey, I’m a 33 yo woman who is not going to take much more then 12-18 months to reach a decision for marriage with her boyfriend. See I did not say “waiting for a proposal”, but reaching a mutual decision that will be wise for the both of us.
    I agree with Evan regarding his recommendation on avoiding making the most important decision of your life based on unreliable information such as feelings and wishful thinking. I also agree with that part of your comment, SS, because, well, I’m that woman! The thing is, time is important, but what is truly important is what you do with it. You can spend one year, two years, or even ten years dating, courting, being engaged, and yet miss the whole point of the purpose of that special time. People spend years in relationships talking about random stuff, watching movies, going on fun trips, and if all these are an essential part of dating, romance, and getting one another, this must be secondary to evaluate one another’s goals, values, characters, relationship skills, and ability to handle life as a team. Oh, and grow the missing skills and actively working on making compromises when needed for a future together.
    Now, how long does it take to meet, experience attraction, move towards discussions around relationship goals, grow in intimacy, get to know one another’s character, values, communication skills and ability to make and hold a commitment? It depends on the people! Surveys and statistics sure are valid but collect everything and present them as an average, so making your specific situation conforms statistics will not garantee that you will fall on the right side! Marriage is not about numbers, but about character.
    Since I’ve figured out my part and decided that I was going to only let myself be attracted and interested in someone who would have figured out his part as well, I do not need years to make a decision. I will also not wait around investing the most productive years of my life with someone who might not be on the same page. However it does take some time to grow in intimacy, in trust, in love to have these conversations and become emotionally ready, and once you know, then it is wise to wait for a little bit longer to confirm your decision. There is no need to rush, and one year is to my opinion the very minimum time to dedicate to this purpose.
    So here is my take on the debate between “but I do not want to wait around, I need to know NOW – on the first date – if he wants to get married” and “the whole process takes 2-3 years”: there is a middle way, ladies! No need to push an agenda on the first date, or even the second or third. It’s inconsiderate if you can’t even give someone an hour or two of your time that would not necessarily “pay off”. But there is no need to “go with the flow” and “wait for a proposal” either. Invest the first few months to investigate, make sure the relationship progresses organically, and if it stalls, be realistic and open to let it go. A relationship that does not grow, dies. And you should see the potential for growth toward marriage well before the one-year mark.
    Thanks for the wonderful advice, Evan!
     

  11. 11
    Jill

    Relationships do have a shelf life and expiration date but that does not mean a whirlwind engagement is wrong or that waiting 3 years is right.  Most divorced couples admit that the things that drove them apart were the things that they questioned from the beginning.  You should commit when it instinctively feels right and if that ‘right’ feeling usually feels ‘wrong’ then you should wait.  People who are on the fence about marriage and how much time is appropriate might want to look at their situation as though they were purchasing a home (yes, I promise it will make sense..).  There is a similar equation in the level of commitment and investment.  Most of us take out 30 year loans.  Compare your answers:  did you shop around and do your homework?  Will you be happy with it as it is now 30 years from now? Does it require any updating/remodeling in order to suit your current needs before purchase or will you need to make some major changes?  Is it missing any features that you may be unhappy with later?  Will it accomodate hosting family, friends, get togethers and make you proud?… You get my point.  Foundations of relationships are usually set from the beginning and be prepared for some ‘settling’ and understand that you will need to make repairs, budget for upkeep, work hard to maintain regularly and once in a while add a fresh coat of paint.  I am currently with my boyfriend of 2.5 years and while he has some personality challenges, I can see myself making the commitment (after taking time to get to know him) and that there is a value on our investment in each other that will pay off for years to come (and I am here doing my research because as I want to qualify my huge emotional investment with confidence!)

  12. 12
    Honey

    Jake and I fell into the opposite camp.  We dated for 2 years, moved in together, lived together for another 3 years before he proposed.  We eloped within two months of the proposal, though we didn’t tell friends/family and are having a traditional wedding a year after the proposal.  So as far as most people we know are concerned, we’ll have been together 6 years by the time we are married.

    Though honestly the tax implications of our marriage seem so sucky I would rather that we hadn’t done it.  Since we are not having children it doesn’t seem necessary, and after 6 years we certainly know how devoted we are to one another.  But I guess I’ll wait to see the tax return before allowing my frustration to become official ;-)

  13. 13
    Heather

    Jill,

    Spot on!!!  And you raise a good point, are folks going to be happy with things “as is” in 30 years?  That’s what scares me the most about remarriage.  Am I going to wake up in 30 years and have potential husband #2 go, nah, I don’t love you anymore, etc.  Me, I can easily see myself being fine with a good, life-long marriage, on MY part because I really did want that.  However, society being as it is now, people bail on a hair trigger now, from marriages, without warning, without working it out first or at least trying.  That is my biggest fear is that it seems like people can more easily commit to a mortgage, than a marriage. 

    I just don’t know that statistics or anything can really prove or not prove or show what marriages will work, and what will not.  My aunt and uncle seemed to have a pretty typical marriage, been together 35+ years, and suddenly, my uncle decides tht my aunt is not what he wants, and bails out.  Hello!!! 
    @SS: why thank you!  It’s refreshing to talk to someone who doesn’t tell me, “Oh you’ll be fine, just get over it.”  How do you do that?  Isn’t it better to be single than sorry and jump into something that’s going to burn you even more than you were already burned, before?  I even told my parents that if they want some in-laws and kids, they better talk to my younger brother and leave me out of it, LOL.  Growing old with a dog as a life partner just doesn’t seem like such a bad option.  At least you know the dog won’t leave you for another owner!!! :P

  14. 14
    Marie

    The examples in my life are so random. I dated a guy for 8 completely drama-free years before we got married. The reason our courtship was so long was becasue we were both earning advanced degrees and purely logistical issues. We divorced after 11 years of marriage.

    My parents, on the other hand, dated for 3 months before my dad proposed. My mom said no and dumped him. However, he won her back (after a dramatic fight with M&M candies). They were married within 6 months of meeting. Next year, they celebrate the 40th anniversary of their marriage, which has been seemingly content, drama-free, and sickingly passionate every year I can remember.

    While I like to play it safe and follow conventional wisdom and research, I do think that to some extent, love is a crap shoot.     

  15. 15
    helene

    I agree that for younger couples (under 30) more time is needed before committing – at that age you have less relationship experience, are less able to assess a potential partner and most importnatly, you yourself are growing and changing and do not yet know who you are, who you want to become or what qualities are most importnat to you in a mate. The older we are, the more we know ourselves and what we want. I also would say that for young couples the highest chance of marital success will come if you marry someone who is ADAPTABLE – a lot of thingsd change in life, new circumstances present themselves and the ability of two young people to adapt and grow and allow each other to grow is key. For older couples, it is more important to pick someone who is aligned with you in their goals and habits, becuase neither of you id likely to change so much. Both of you are likely to be less adaptable, so someone who already meshes well with you is what you need to find.

    On the subject of “progressing smoothly without drama” whilst i would agree that couples of this disposition are more likely to have stable marriages, unfortunately this simply will not work for certain personality types. Some people NEED a certain level of drama and passion to feel alive, and whilst it is true that their relationships are more at risk of failure, nevertheless these are the relationships that they should pursue because they are the only ones that will work for them. A stable but drama-less relationship would be pointless to these people, so it really is irrelevant that it would last a long time becuase they wouldn’t enjoy it anyway!

  16. 16
    helene

    Sorry for the double post but I wanted to add something – controversially,I would like to say that I do not necessarily agree that so much importance should be placed on the LENGTH of a marriage when judging its success. There is more to a good marriage than simply its duration – some marriages can be good, worthwhile but not lifelong. You wouldn’t judge anything else in this way “Yeah, it was a great movie, it was really really LONG”! So why do we place so much importance on this one aspect of marriage? Weirdly, all marriages that end before one person dies are somehow classed as “failures” and those that last a lifetime are “successes” – I don’t think this is a helpful way to view things.

    1. 16.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Helene: “Why do we place so much importance on this one aspect of marriage? Weirdly, all marriages that end before one person dies are somehow classed as “failures” and those that last a lifetime are “successes”. This isn’t controversial. It’s inane.

      The nature of marriage is a lifelong commitment, signed on paper, witnessed by families, in the eyes of God. If you leave your marriage, it doesn’t mean that the entire relationship is invalidated or that you’re a bad person or that there’s something wrong with you. But ultimately, while it was once a successful relationship, it’s termination signifies it as a failure.

      The very nature of marriage is that it’s supposed to last. The very nature of movies are that they’re supposed to end. The best marriages last until death do us part. The best movies, thankfully, do not. So while there’s a relevant point somewhere in here, this is a terrible metaphor to explain it.

    2. 16.2
      Martha

      So what on earth should people say when they get married?

      Do you promise to love and to cherish him/her as long as the marriage lasts?

      Crikey! Some of you lot are so negative. :D 

  17. 17
    amy

    Evan…I think your thinking’s rather rigid on this point. At some point you’re going to have to accept that fewer and fewer people share this view of marriage, or carry a sense of shame and failure about divorce.
     
    Why do people continue to get married if that’s the case? Well — more & more often, they don’t. They live together (or not), they don’t involve the state or religion. Some people do it — I kid you not — for the party and the presents, and out of a sense that they shouldn’t be left out of the fun. I think it’s poor arithmetic, but people do love a party and a fancy party dress.
     
    I don’t know about you, but when I married, I was under no illusion that marriage is forever. I hoped very much that marriage would see us through our children’s childhood. I thought that was important (and still do). But after 20 years people change, and they don’t always change in tandem, and I didn’t expect I’d want to be with anyone longer than that.
     
    I loved all my boyfriends very much, lived with one of them for 7 years, but there’s not one of them I’d want to be with today. I got married, in the end, because I thought it made sense for having children — but honestly it made no difference. All it did was make things more expensive and harrowing when it was time to split. People and institutions no longer expect that parents are married or that the people in a family have the same last name. (In fact I’m asked routinely when I sign my kid up for something: “Same last name?”) I recognize that varies by region, but really, I am far from coasts in nowheresville, and nobody’s expecting that the animals go two by two. I’d say lifelong marriages are very much the exception. 
     
    Is it sad? I think the way we treat children after divorce is sad. Really, adults are very selfish in how they behave afterwards, and there’s a lot of bad-faith talk about how resilient children are. If parents were more responsible, more inclined to remember that they are parents, and that the children have to come first? I don’t think there’d be any problem. Apart from that…my dear, when the music ends, the dance is over. 

  18. 18
    Katherine Wakefield

    For me marriage is like dating.  Dating is a journey not a race!  Slow down and enjoy the scenery.  Get a feel for the surroundings.  Check out if you like your new environment!  There are no prizes for getting to the finish line first! 

  19. 19
    Heather

    @ Amy,

    But see, your argument is precisely why I am increasingly gun-shy of getting married again.  If a guy doesn’t want to be with me for the rest of my life, then why bother?  And along your line of logic, if relationships aren’t meant to last, then why bother with those, either?

    I really am spooked by people who don’t believe in lifelong commitments, because it almost comes across as selfish in some aspects.  “Well, I don’t care that you want to spend the rest of your life with me, I want to do, what I want to do.”  I am not saying that you are selfish, but I am pointing out that the mindset can come across as such.

    Maybe I really am better off alone so I won’t get my heart broken once more, by more folks who think like that.  Jeez, I’m becoming more depressed as I read this thread!!!!

  20. 20
    DinaStrange

    @amy post#18.

    maybe in your case since you already decided that marriage doesn’t last you brought the end of it by yourself. as in fulfilling the prophecy. because what you believe, actually comes true…so if you didn’t believe it was going to last, it didn’t last. 

  21. 21
    DinaStrange

    I think marriage for life can work. If two people are clear, communicate and share similar core values, it can last. Sure passion might go away but deeper bond comes instead. Regarding kids. I think it’s absolutely necessary for kids especially in our society to have a loving family with both parents together. It will make the kids stronger to face the world and perpetuate the same attitude towards their future marriages. I am studying psychology and more often than not a lot of psychological deviations in adults are stemming from bad childhoods, broken families and issues that parents had. It’s almost like a plague being carried on by kids from the parents. It’s time to stop the infection from spreading.

  22. 22
    amy

    @Dina — if I’d been in the self-fulfilling prophecy dept, I’d still be married now. My kid’s not grown yet. We divorced because — well, not to put too fine a point on it, my ex lied about some serious things and turned out not to be interested in, maybe wasn’t capable of, being a partner and a parent. But he’s only one of several significant relationships I’ve had in my life, and I certainly wouldn’t just most by him. An outlier for sure.
     
    As for kids: I agree that an intact family is best, if only because it reduces instability. But I don’t agree that the parents have to be married in order to bring the kids up well together. That just takes being well-behaved grownups who put the children first.
     
    @Heather, then you need to find someone who doesn’t believe that people change significantly as they get older. If a man said to me, “I want to get married to someone for the rest of my life,” I’d say, “You probably want someone else.” I’m a markedly different person, in many ways, than I was even ten years ago. A few months ago I did a big reorganization and weed-out in my library — and frankly, it was kind of depressing. Like a mausoleum of old interests. They’re very good books and I may go back to them, but those stories and ideas aren’t what’s important to me now, maybe never again. I’m still great friends with some old boyfriends, but I have more experience now, see them differently now, in many ways understand them better now. Would I want to be with them? No. I’m glad their wives want to be married to them, but if they left I wouldn’t try to take their places.
     
    If a man is as active as I am, and I don’t want to be with someone who can’t keep up & play (and he wouldn’t want it, either, not really) — he’ll change too. Could something like that last forever? Eh, maybe. I wouldn’t count on it.
     
    So why do it?
     
    Because it’s fun. Because loving is better than not loving. Because there’s nothing better in life than the connection when it’s there. Because I’m tough enough to take the hit and get up again when it’s over.  Do you need more reason than that? My whole life has been mediated by men, by love affairs. I think that’s grand.

  23. 23
    nathan

    I don’t see why this has to be an either/or discussion. I share some of the concerns Heather has about the flimsiness of many relationships these days. Some folks do want to have everything on their terms, and aren’t terribly willing to work through difficulties because they believe it should always been fun and enjoyable. On the other hand, what I hear in Helene and Amy’s comments is a sense of realism. Over the course of a lifetime, people can radically change, and their goals/desires can become wildly incompatible. I can think of examples in my own extended family of couples that stayed married for 40, 50 years, because it was expected. Because of the “contract” aspect. The longevity really isn’t that impressive, nor a sign of success in my opinion.
     
    Failure, to me, is when lives become stagnant and people are living miserably. When people are choosing to stand far away from commitment out of fear and doubt, that’s pretty sad. And when people are staying together solely out of obligation (to family, to God, whatever), that’s sad too. I’m with Helene – success and failure need to be reconsidered.

  24. 24
    Heather

    Good points, Dina.

    My ex husband came from a very broken and violent home, and while I will not excuse him for one second, it certainly gives some context for his behavior and I really should have taken that more into account before I married him.  I don’t think he ever knew how to have a healthy relationship, as he was violent also with his ex-fiance.

    My current boyfriend and I are both from very healthy marriages, my folks are darn close to their 40th year together, and his folks I think have been married close to 45 years.  He does not believe in divorce except in cases like mine where abuse was involved.  However, he could be like my uncle and just suddenly bolt in 35 years, who knows?  My uncle claimed he believed that marriage is for life, as well.  It’s all well and good to say that it’s what you believe, but to actually “walk the walk” is very, very different.

  25. 25
    Karl R

    Heather asked: (#20)
    “if relationships aren’t meant to last, then why bother with those, either?”

    A good meal can take hours to cook, and about 30 minutes to consume. Why does anybody bother to spend time cooking?

    Most people cook because the pleasure the food brings them (and everyone else who eats it) is worth the effort. For many people, the process of cooking is enjoyable too.

    Similarly, the pleasure of a relationship is frequently worth the effort, even when it’s clear from the beginning that it won’t last.

    People come and go in my life. I enjoy them while they’re here.

    Heather asked: (#20)
    “If a guy doesn’t want to be with me for the rest of my life, then why bother?”

    I agree that it’s foolish to enter a lifetime contract (marriage) with the intent of severing it later on. If that’s what one partner wants, keep it as a less formal arrangement.

    I’m engaged. I intend to fulfill the “til death do you part” clause. But regardless of my intentions, I see three possible ways for the marriage to end: I’m a widower, I’m a divorcee, or I’m a corpse. Given our ages and the nature of our relationship, I’d put highest odds on widower, followed by divorcee.

    All three of those endings suck. So I either have to accept that the end will suck, and enjoy the relationship from now ’til then, or I can avoid having relationships.

    I’d rather accept the bad with the good.

  26. 26
    Kristen

    Great post. I previously thought that a quick dating period then marriage was a great idea until I realized that even when you love someone and he/she loves you, there is a lot to learn about someone. I’ve been with my bf for over a year now and we’ve been learning to negotiate, learning what is important to each other, learning what pushes each others’ buttons, etc. Each time we plan a trip or negotiate holidays I’ve realized that jumping into a marriage would have made these negotiations much harder because if we jumped into the marriage and had different situations pop up at us, it would have been such a surprise, because I think that I would have been so used to everything being “perfect”. Even in good relationships, communicating takes practice.

  27. 27
    Ellen

    The thought of living with someone again, even unofficially, give me hives, but for those ready to take the plunge again at least unofficially, be aware that there are now pre-nups for people just planning to live together indefinitely. See uslegalforms.com

    You can amend them to add powers of attorney for illness and your will can be attached, so there is no confusion.

    So, really, fully armed legally, there is no reason to live alone, miserably. I mean if you don’t want to, if you meet someone special.

  28. 28
    Vicki

    Well, I believe Arielle Ford met her husband and they got engaged within a few weeks after they met (at least, I think that’s what it says in her book). They are still married.
    I read a study somewhere (wish I could find the link…) that researchers could predict the success or failure of a marriage based on how couples interact together. If they talk to each other and seem to enjoy talking and laughing together, they are likely to stay together. If they don’t look at each other or address each other much, or one partner is sort of cold-shouldering the other, then those couples usually divorce. The researchers were able to correlate the level of affectionate/friendly conversation with how likely the couples were to get divorced. 
    Most importantly, the risk of divorce correlates to whether or not the parents’ of the couple were divorced. If your bf’s parents don’t get along, or they divorced, or cheated on each other or whatever – a rocky relationship in his parents’ history doesn’t bode well for your relationship with your bf. Observe carefully how his father treats his mother — that is how he will treat you!
     

  29. 29
    Christopher

    @Marie: “While I like to play it safe and follow conventional wisdom and research, I do think that to some extent, love is a crap shoot. ”
     That’s an awesome quote :).

    @Evan: Loved your response to Helene. Reading some of the other comments, it scares (and depresses) me how some people view marriage. Date if you want to enjoy a temporary experience, but the fundamental basis of marriage is life-long commitment.

  30. 30
    Spunky

    I know of a guy who proposed to his girlfriend on the secomd date,lasted for three months,5 weeks later meets anothet girl moves in with her after 2weeks he got engaged to her that lasted 5months he walked on her he lovef her but she wasnt right one for him,4weeks after he meets another girl moves in with her after 2 weeks,proposes to her after living with her for 2 weeks,got married 8 months later,they have been married for nearly a year now apparently very very happy, shes a dream come true for him. This is how i see it: they met, dated, moved in together, got engaged and got married within 9 months. This is their second marriage for both.

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