Family and Consumer SciencesPractical Reasons for Greater Attention to Marriage

College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources

LIFE - Individual Growth and Development

Seven Reasons for "Getting Your Marriage Right from the Start"

1. Expectations of marriage are changing. When marriage was for economic security and husbands ruled the roost, the rules were more simple and straightforward. Expectations for affection were minimal, as were options outside marriage. Today, with love, companionship and equality so important, communication and problem-solving skills have become even more valuable for happiness.

2. Terms of marriage are changing. At the turn of the century, lifespan was shorter, more of marriage revolved around parenting, and couples often drew on family and friend networks for support. Today, couples are expected to meet their own needs (with minimal extended family support) and coordinate adult growth and roles through 50-60 years.

3. Life doesn't prepare most persons for new marriage roles. Couples face more demands and fewer supports, but few persons learn to be mature and equal partners in traditional dating roles. Conflict resolution and problem-solving skills are part of many job-training and volunteer groups, yet couple communication remains sorely neglected.

4. Benefits of marital adjustment. Research finds happily married couples have lower rates of illness, depression, and conflict in and outside their marriage. Well-adjusted partners make easier transitions to parenting and tend to be more supportive parents. For most persons, marital satisfaction is the best index of family satisfaction; family satisfaction is the best predictor of well-being.

5. Consequences of divorce. Divorce is not a long-term trauma for most children and adults and may be a preferred alternative to domestic violence. However, partners, their children, and their social networks experience emotional and financial stress which may have long-term effects. In particular, poverty, continued partner conflict, and isolation from old friends and family can limit the horizons of divorcees and their children. Most persons would choose to avoid these stressors if they could.

6. Benefits of assessment and training. During the past two decades, researchers have successfully identified "high-risk" partnerships before marriage (allowing for canceling or postponing weddings). Training programs have increased couples' skills and satisfaction long-term, lowered divorce rates by half, and reduced family violence rates.

7. Starting early sets a pattern. Couples who check compatibility, learn to problem-solve, and connect with support and skill resources become more aware and more capable of handling the challenges of marriage. Proactive couples tend to avoid relationship-threatening crises and enjoy the benefits of life together.

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