It’s summertime: the time for sun, swimming and weddings.
The cars with signs screaming, “Just Married,” pass on the streets. The dresses fill shop windows and “I do’s” echoes from churches.
Many of us are closing in on that point of getting married and some of us may already be there. Marriage is wonderful. It is a very special bond between two people. A bond that is meant to last forever. But there is a problem.
According to the Census Bureau in 2002, around 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.
As a new generation of couples, we need to learn from our parents failed relationships and not make the same mistakes. We have a lot more freedom now with marriage. It is acceptable now to graduate college without a spouse. It is okay socially to live with a partner before marriage. But unfortunately with these changes comes the acceptance of divorce.
Now I’m not saying divorce is always wrong. Sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes marriages don’t work.
But too often people get married too easily and divorced too quickly.
Easily does not necessarily mean time wise. In fact, my parents are attending a 50th wedding anniversary for a couple this week that were married after knowing one another only three days. Easily refers to not being prepared for marriage and a lifelong commitment. Easily means not attending pre-marital counseling. It means not being positive of the bond lasting forever.
Once couples are engaged many have second thoughts. Pre-marital counseling may help alleviate the questions, or may bring into light deeper issues that could make for an unhappy, rocky marriage. It is never too late to end an engagement, including the day of the wedding or even walking down the aisle. (Remember “Runaway Bride”?) The embarrassment may be huge, but not nearly as horrible as enduring an unhappy marriage or divorcing soon after.
Once married, the challenge becomes staying together. According to the Census Bureau the average marriage lasts 7.2 years. Why spend thousands on a ceremony when it will end in less than a decade?
The problem: people give up too easily. This is not to say if a spouse cheats or is abusive the relationship should not end, it is to say when a little problem arises too many couples call it quits. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, some of the main reasons marriages fail are poor communication, financial problems and lack of commitment to the marriage.
Through counseling or self-help books couples can learn to communicate better. Through books and financial counseling couples can discover better ways to handle finances. But the lack of commitment is a real problem. People today see marriage as something one may quit if it gets rough, like a horrible job. It is this attitude that leads many couples down the path to divorce. Though counseling or spending more time with one’s spouse may strengthen the commitment, but one must make the decision to be committed for life before getting married.
The AAML suggests tips on improving relationships before getting married, and improving a marriage:
– Treat your partner like your best friend or most important colleague.
– Don’t expect to get more from your partner than you give of yourself.
– Don’t lose your sense of humor; have fun with your spouse.
– Don’t demean your partner in public or in private.
– Learn to listen, learn to hear.
– Learn to argue respectfully.
– Look for resolution rather than victory.
– Assess your own mistakes and acknowledge them.
– When you apologize, mean it and sound like it. Be short on blame and long on forgiveness.
– Be willing to change your opinions and attitudes.
– Look at changes in your life as an opportunity to grow.
– Don’t try to change your partner, accept him or her “as is.”
Too often when couples are met with rough spots they end the relationship. This is fine in a dating situation, but once the commitment is made there needs to be more work put in before ending the marriage. We, as a generation need to focus on not committing ourselves to marriage before we are completely prepared. We also need to remember that marriage is not a bad job or a lease we can “just get out of.” If we focus on creating strong marriages and bonds with our partners, maybe that divorce rate will drop and our children will not grow up in the broken homes we did.
J.J. Babb is next year’s design managing editor. She would like to congratulate Kristin and Jed on their engagement. She is certain with their love, friendship and commitment to make things work they will have a long, healthy and happy marriage.