Are Marriages Better or Worse Than They Used to Be?

Are Marriages Better or Worse Than They Used to Be

Great insight from Eli Finkel, professor at Northwestern, courtesy of the New York Times:

“Perhaps the most striking thing I learned is that the answer to whether today’s marriages are better or worse is “both”: The average marriage today is weaker than the average marriage of yore, in terms of both satisfaction and divorce rate, but the best marriages today are much stronger, in terms of both satisfaction and personal well-being, than the best marriages of yore.”

This backs up what I’ve observed, and explains why I remain a marriage and relationship optimist. While there are many people who are opting out of marriage out of fear, and many people who continue to choose unhealthy partners, the benefits of a happy marriage remain self-evident.

Two people working 50 hours a week, who are committed to being great parents, sharing in the household duties, and maintaining separate friends and hobbies have a lot less time for their MARRIAGE than ever before.

“In addition to showing that marital quality uniformly predicts better personal well-being (unsurprisingly, happier marriages make happier people), the analysis revealed that this effect has become much stronger over time. The gap between the benefits of good and mediocre marriages has increased.”

Finkel talks about how our marriage needs have changed, per Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Before 1850, marriage was institutional. It was just what people did for stability and survival. Between 1850 and 1965, marriage was companionate – old gender roles were still in place, but love played a greater factor. However, since 1965, “we have been living in the era of the self-expressive marriage. Americans now look to marriage increasingly for self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth..”

Due to societal changes, feminism, and self-awareness, people have become busier, choosier, and less likely to be satisfied with a partner. All of which makes marriage a dicier proposition than it ever has been before.

“Relative to Americans in 1975, Americans in 2003 spent much less time alone with their spouses. Among spouses without children, weekly spousal time declined to 26 hours per week from 35 hours, and much of this decline resulted from an increase in hours spent at work. Among spouses with children at home, spousal time declined to 9 hours per week from 13, and much of this decline resulted from an increase in time-intensive parenting.”

As always, you have two choices. Spend your time on work, hobbies and interests and wonder why you have no time for a relationship. Or give more time to your relationship.

Yep, that sounds about right. Two people working 50 hours a week, who are committed to being great parents, sharing in the household duties, and maintaining separate friends and hobbies have a lot less time for their MARRIAGE than ever before.

Finally, Finkel nails the prescription for what ails us.

“First and foremost, couples can choose to invest more time and energy in their marriage, perhaps by altering how they use whatever shared leisure time is available. But if couples lack the time and energy, they might consider adjusting their expectations, perhaps by focusing on cultivating an affectionate bond without trying to facilitate each other’s self-actualization.”

As always, you have two choices.

Spend your time on work, hobbies and interests and wonder why you have no time for a relationship. Or give more time to your relationship.

Expect your partner to be your best friend, lover, partner in crime, soulmate, hero and champion all wrapped in one. Or accept that he may not be the living embodiment of perfection, but he can still be a hell of a husband.

What are you going to do?

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