Although fewer young people are getting married today than ever before, research suggests that getting and staying married is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
As the New York Times concluded, “being married makes people happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who remain single — particularly during the most stressful periods, like midlife crises.”
If you are considering marriage, or if you want to get married in the future, there are some things you should know that could help you maintain a successful marriage for years to come.
Here are 7 brutal facts everyone should know about relationships before getting married.
1) You’re not attached at the hip
Once you get married, it might be hard to forget that you lived an entire life without this person and you could go on to live an entire life without them again.
For newly weds, it can be a real eye opener when one partner remembers what it’s like to have independence and it can be taxing on a relationship when someone tries to regain that independence but still wants to be married.
2) Get excited about your partner’s good news
If you want to find lasting success in your marriage, don’t be jealous about your partner’s success. If your partner has good news, consider it good news for everyone and celebrate accordingly.
Everyone pulls their weight equally these days – we can’t afford not to – so don’t feel left behind if your spouse is moving up the corporate ladder or is finding success outside of your relationship.
In multiple studies, couples that actively celebrated good news (rather than actively or passively dismissed it) have had a higher rate of relationship well-being.
For example, say a wife comes home to her husband and shares an accomplishment. As we’ve reported before, an “active-constructive” response would be the best:
• An active-constructive response from him would be enthusiastic support: “That’s great, honey! I knew you could do it, you’ve been working so hard.”
• A passive-constructive response would be understated support — a warm smile and a simple “That’s good news.”
• An active-destructive response would be a statement that demeaned the event: “Does this mean you are going to be gone working even longer hours now? Are you sure you can handle it?”
• Finally, a passive-destructive response would virtually ignore the good news: “Oh, really? Well you won’t believe what happened to me on the drive home today!”
3) Your partner should be your best friend
Sure, you have best friends outside of your marriage, but if you want your marriage to work, your spouse should be your go-to person for the majority of the good, the bad, and the ugly in your life.
If you can’t trust your spouse with information about you, then maybe they shouldn’t be your spouse.
A 2014 National Bureau of Economic Research study found that marriage does indeed lead to increased well-being, mainly thanks to friendship.
Controlling for pre-marital happiness, the study concluded that marriage leads to increased well-being — and it does so much more for those who have a close friendship with their spouses. Friendship, the paper found, is a key mechanism that could help explain the causal relationship between marriage and life satisfaction.
4) Age plays a big part in divorce
Studies show that couples that are closer in age are more likely to stay married. And it’s no wonder. Why a big age difference might not matter when you are 20 and 30 years old, when you start reaching higher numbers, life phases can change quickly.
It’s hard to imagine a 35 year old having anything in common with a 55 year old, and they are more likely to get divorced because of it.
A study of 3,000 recently married and recently divorced Americans found that age discrepancies correlate to friction in marriages.
Megan Garber reports on The Atlantic:
A one-year discrepancy in a couple’s ages, the study found, makes them 3 percent more likely to divorce (when compared to their same-aged counterparts); a 5-year difference, however, makes them 18 percent more likely to split up. And a 10-year difference makes them 39 percent more likely.
5) Resentment can come out of everyday things like chores
When you get married, you might as well face facts that everyone in the household is responsible for everything in the household.
If you want to maintain a happy marriage, both partners need to do their fair share of the chores. It seems silly, but resentment builds up fast when one partner feels undervalued or exploited for what they do around the house.
Over 60% of Americans say that taking care of chores plays a crucial role in having a successful marriage.
“It’s Not You, It’s the Dishes” author Paula Szuchman recommends a system where each person specializes in the chores they’re best at.
“[I]f you really are better at the dishes than remembering to call the in-laws, then that should be your job,” she writes. “It’ll take you less time than it’ll take him, and it’ll take him less time to have a quick chat with mom than it would take you, which means in the end, you’ve saved quite a bit of collective time.”
6) Waiting to get married can be beneficial
People who wait to get married until they are at least 23 years old are more likely to find success in their marriage. Wait, who are these people getting married before 23 years of age? Seriously, that’s so young.
A 2014 University of Pennsylvania study found that Americans who cohabitate or get married at age 18 have a 60% divorce rate.
But people who waited until 23 to make either of those commitments had a divorce rate around 30%.
“All of the literature explained that the reason people who married younger were more likely to divorce was because they were not mature enough to pick appropriate partners,” the Atlantic reports.
7) Being “in love” doesn’t last forever
A lot of couples report the “honeymoon phase” lasts about a year and then they settle into their relationship and have to find new and interesting ways to connect with each other.
If you want to create spice in your marriage, you need to stay open to communication, spend time together, and make sure you don’t become resentful of one another. It’s not always easy, but it can be worth the effort.
The honeymoon phase with its “high levels of passionate love” and “intense feelings of attraction and ecstasy, as well as an idealization of one’s partner,” doesn’t last forever.
According to a 2005 study by the University of Pavia in Italy, it lasts about a year.