If you've been feeling a little "meh" about marriage, you're hardly alone.
Bridget Jones, the fictional single woman penned by novelist Helen Fielding, and played by Renée Zellweger in two eponymous films, cheekily coined the term "smug marrieds," referring to couples who are overly proud of themselves for having tied the knot, and who encourage everyone else to do the same.
But new data suggests that many married people aren't feeling so self-satisfied anymore.
In 2014, barely 60 percent of people (both genders) said they were happy with their marriage, compared to more than 65 percent in 2012. And the dissatisfaction was mainly coming from women.
Only 57 percent of women said their marriage was happy in 2014, compared to nearly 65 percent two years before. And 4.4 percent confessed they weren't-at-all happy with the state of their union, the highest reported level in 25 years.
For both genders, the numbers were among the lowest levels of marital happiness reported since researchers started asking the question back in 1973. Even then, more than 68 percent of men and 66 percent of women said they were very happy with their marriage.
So, why are so many married people "over it"?
Maybe it's just a statistical fluke, some experts suggest, since in previous survey years the percentage of happily-marrieds had been on the rise. And maybe it's related to families' ongoing money problems from things like unemployment, debt, and wages that won't budge.
Alongside other recent data from the Pew Research Center, which shows a record proportion of Americans delaying marriage or never getting married at all, you have to wonder — what's going on with couplehood in this country?
Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, A History, says it might have something to do with changing expectations.
"[Women] feel more entitled to fairness and equality and at the same time, our expectations of ourselves as working women, and society's expectations of us as mothers have been rising as well. It's a lot of pressure on you."
The historical habits of marriage disadvantage women, Coontz explains. We're expected to do more housework, childcare and executive tasks like making doctor's appointments and planning vacations.
"It's not ill-intentioned; it's just habit,” she says. But the beneficiaries of all our hard work (ahem, dear husbands and kids) can be oblivious to it. Still, the old adage "happy wife, happy life" has been borne out by some studies.
You can try these tactics to make your marriage better:
- Share the household work, from chores to childcare. Women increasingly value equality in our division of daily labor.
- Communicate openly. "Women have a tendency to hint and hint and hint until they're so mad, they're over it. Ask for what you want directly," Coontz suggests.
- Really work at it. In the past, couples didn't have to work so hard at their marriages, because they had no alternative. Coontz says, "We're doing something unprecedented. We're trying to organize equal marriages between people who have the total option to marry or not, to stay married or not, so marriages require more work than ever before."
Of course, statistics have long shown that married people report being happier than people of any other relationship status, including widowed, divorced, separated or never married. For example, twice as many married people say they're happy, compared to those who've never married, according to other data from the General Social Survey.
So, keep working at your marriage, even through the "meh" times, and you'll probably end up happier for it.
Rebecca Webber is a journalist who covers women's lifestyle and personal finance for ValuePenguin.com, including topics like family budgeting and healthcare. She regularly contributes articles to magazines and websites.