This guest article from Psych Central was written by Marie Hartwell-Walker, ED.D.
The statistics can seem daunting. The U.S. divorce rate, although in some decline for the last few years, is still close to 50 percent. That brings Americans second only to Sweden for the highest divorce rate in the world! That’s certainly a dubious honor.
But there’s more to the statistics than meets the eye. In fact, 41 percent of first marriages (not half) don’t make it; 60 percent of second marriages and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce. Apparently practice doesn’t make perfect. The divorces of the several times married skew the statistics and can make first-timers more pessimistic than they need to be.
If you want to be among the almost 60 percent of first marriages and among those in subsequent marriages who do make it work, long-married couples have some tips for you. Follow most of these guidelines most of the time and you’ll up your chances for joining the group of success stories.
A Baker’s Dozen Tips for Making Marriage Last
Commit to the commitment. The long-married are those who take their promise seriously. “‘Til death do us part” means exactly that. Divorce is neither an option nor a matter for discussion. Having made the decision to be in it forever (with no loopholes, escape routes, or qualifiers), these couples don’t head to the lawyer’s office or out the door when the inevitable tensions and problems come up. They work on them.
Give it all you’ve got. Partners in long-term marriages aren’t in it 50-50. They are in it 100 percent-100 percent. The partners don’t keep a tally on how the other person is doing. They work on making sure they are putting in 100 percent of themselves and they are trusting that the other person is doing the same.
Bring a whole person to the marriage. “You complete me” is romantic only in the movies. Long-married couples are made up of two whole people who each have a strong sense of self and an equally strong interest in each other. They each have their own friends, interests, hobbies, and intellectual pursuits. They don’t see themselves as halves of a whole but rather as two wholes who enrich each other. They are rarely bored because they are always learning interesting things from each other.
Make time for each other. Separate interests doesn’t mean separate lives. It means enjoying each other’s enjoyment of things that are a mystery to you, learning about each other’s passions, and finding some mutual friends and interests that make for mutual pastimes and shared memories.
Be a team. Long-married couples value each other’s contributions and feel that they each are contributing their fair share. Equality doesn’t have to mean sameness. It means that the couple has come to an agreement about what each needs to do to feel equally important and equally respected. Distribution of roles, responsibilities, and decision-making feels mutual and respectful of each partner’s needs.