My husband and I got married young. Think that makes us likely to split? Here's why you're wrong.
By now, you've probably heard the widely touted statistic that the divorce rate in the U.S. is 50 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, though, the rate of divorce is on the decline (along with the rate of marriage). This success is likely due, in large part, to the fact that people are waiting longer than ever to walk down the aisle. On average, women and men are delaying marriage by 5-6 compared to people in 1950, leading some to conclude that getting married when you're a little older means you're both more stable and better prepared for the commitment.
While I agree that stability is certainly important, I don't buy into the idea that age is a deciding factor in whether a marriage ends in divorce. It's not the case at all with my marriage.
My husband and I met and began dating when I was a teenager and were married in our early twenties. More than eight years later, I am as confident as I was on our wedding day that our marriage will last a lifetime. In fact, I would go so far to say our union is divorce-proof. Here are 10 reasons why.
1. We wanted a marriage, not a wedding. Recently, I had coffee with a friend going through a divorce after only two years of marriage. When I asked what happened, she replied without pause, "I wanted a wedding, not a marriage." She went on to explain that, after years of dating, getting married seemed like the next logical step in their relationship and the timing was right for them to fund the wedding of her dreams. From seating arrangements to color schemes and everything in between, there are many decisions to be made while planning a walk down the aisle. It can be easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal: to begin a lifelong relationship with the person you love. But the hard part isn't in saying "I do," it's in choosing to say it again and again for the rest of your life. For my husband and I, the focus was always on the morning after (and every other morning after that) instead of the "big day."
2. We didn't wait until after the wedding to tackle important issues. It can be awkward when you're dating to discuss things like the number and timing of children, personal approaches to finances, where you see yourself living down the road, or what religion your family will practice, but knowing the answers to these questions before you marry can mean the difference between a rocky start and a smooth transition into your new lives together. Everyone has their dealbreakers, but identifying ours before we gathered 100 of our closest friends and family members to pledge our lives together for all eternity cut down on surprises after they had all gone home. I am always shocked by the number of marriages that end in divorce because a couple never bothered to discuss their ideas for the future.
3. We put each other and our marriage first. Our children come second. I've written about it before here on YourTango. I love my children, but I am in love with my husband and prioritizing our relationship is good for our family as a whole.
4. When it comes to our relationship, our in-laws are outlawed. Mother-in-laws are at the center of many a sitcom and romantic comedy shenanigan — and for good reason. They're notorious for causing marital strife both on-screen and off. That's why my husband and I have made it clear that while I can't control his mother's opinion on my cooking and he will never escape my mom's incessant nagging on the upkeep of our yard, their thoughts on our relationship are unwelcome. When we need advice or just to vent, we seek out the listening ear of a friend, not a family member.
5. Our bedroom is a child-free zone. Nothing kills the mood faster than reaching under the sheets mid-romp to dislodge an uncomfortable object that turns out to be a half-empty sippy cup.
6. We use our past to our advantage, not our detriment. My husband and I both come from divorced families, a fact that many studies agree puts couples at greater risk for divorce themselves. But history doesn't have to repeat itself. We talk openly, both together and with therapists, about what went wrong in our parents' marriages and how it affected our lives and our perception of matrimony.
7. We maintain common interests. One of the very first conversations my husband and I shared was a discussion of a book we had both recently read. It's dorky, but we're suckers for a good horror novel. While the differences in our personalities and our day-to-day are vast (he works long hours in law enforcement; I work from home as a freelance writer), we share reading material and talk about it regularly. A book club for two may not be the foundation on which our marriage is built, but it is a reminder of why we got together in the first place beyond the roles we have assumed since our relationship began.
8. We practice emotional self-regulation. In an article highlighting the skills every person should master before getting married, YourTango expert, Dr. Susan Heitler, emphasizes the importance of learning to control your emotions. You can remove nails driven into a board, but you can't undo the holes they create. The same is true for words said in the heat of the moment. Taking time to cool down instead of entering into a shouting match has been the difference between a marital spat and a major blow up.
9. We give each other space. When I step out for a much needed day away from the house, I am confident my phone will not ring unless there is an emergency. Likewise, when he arrives home from work, I give him time to relax before handing off the childcare responsibilities. A little independence and time to ourselves is as vital to the health of our marriage as fostering a common bond.
10. We split the parenting duties equally. Nothing breeds resentment faster in a marriage than feeling like you are solely responsible for the diaper changing and late-night feedings. Since the day our first child was born my husband and I have adopted a 50/50 approach to parenting. "You get this one. I got the last one," is a frequently uttered phrase in our home. We also share the burden that being a parent can place on a career. There is no expectation that, as the woman, I will shoulder the responsibility of taking a day off when our children are ill. Nothing makes me feel more supported and secure in our relationship than knowing my husband and I are partners in parenthood.
Are you confident your marriage is divorce-proof? How do you maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse?