Decide to get married before living together; limit your sexual partners before marriage; and throw the big wedding. According to a recent relationship develpment study, following these simple ideas give couples a higher likelihood of “happily ever after” and tends to reduce the probability of divorce.
Galena Rhoades and Scott Stanley, psychological researchers from the University of Denver conducted the relationship development study in which they tracked the life choices of more than 400 single men and women. All were adults under the age of 40 at the beginning of the study and all had gotten married by the end of the study five years later. While the study linked percentages to the effect of various life choices to the ultimate success of the participants’ marriages, its conclusions seem to strongly show that experience and decisions made years earlier greatly impact future marriage health. “What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, so to speak,” Rhoades and Stanley concluded. “Our past experiences, especially when it comes to love, sex, and children, are linked to our future marriage quality.”
In their research, Rhoades and Stanley established a scale of what they considered high-quality marriages based on marital happiness, confiding between partners, positive beliefs about the marriage, and thoughts of divorce. They then tried to identify behavior or choices, and other relationship development factors, that more often led to high-quality marriages as well as behavior or choices that led to lower quality marriages.
Couples, for example, who got together more slowly and traditionally were more likely to have high-quality marriages compared to couples who started with a casual hookup. Research also showed that deciding on marriage before moving in together was better for the relationship than deciding on marriage based on living together as “practice.”
Previous relationships and larger numbers of previous sexual partners all showed evidence of decreasing the quality of marriage. Rhoades and Stanley speculated that prior breakups and partners may lead to a more casual approach to commitment and a more jaded opinion toward relationships in general. Having a child before the marriage also decreased the quality of marriage according to the study, whether the child was from a previous relationship or the couple’s own child.
Even the actual wedding seems to show some relationship to the quality of the marriage. The study found that formal wedding ceremonies were more likely to result in high-quality marriages and, in fact, bigger may be better. Larger weddings seemed to fare much better than smaller ones. Some may point out that large, formal weddings may actually be the result of stronger relationships rather than vice versa, as a couple more certain about their future are more likely to have cause for a large celebration. However, the researchers noted that most couples seem to strive harder to keep promises made public, and with more witnesses, the more important it can become to try and honor their commitment.
Rhoades and Stanley’s findings certainly demonstrate how life choices can affect future relationships. They also realized that the trends quantified in the study are not certainties for every marriage. Couples who have done all the “wrong” things can still have a very healthy and fulfilling marriage while couples who have done all the “right” things can end up facing divorce.
If you live in Illinois and are being forced by circumstance to consider divorce, an experienced DuPage County family law attorney can provide the assistance you need. Call us today and we will help you understand the divorce process and your options under the law.