Do You Have to Be Married 20 Years to Find Happiness?

The philosopher Rousseau famously said “patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” Those words take on a special meaning for married couples in light of a new study from Pennsylvania State and Brigham Young Universities.

In their important findings, researchers Paul Amato and Spencer James, discovered that while happiness gradually declines during the first twenty years of a marriage, couples overwhelmingly report greater satisfaction once they’ve reached their second decade together.

This ebb and flow seems to support earlier research that nearly 20% of divorces occur within the first ten years of a marriage. The all-too-common struggles encountered after the “honeymoon phase” can cement negative patterns that often lead to a breakup. And because the initial months of many unions are so blissful, couples find it easy to ignore the obvious and significant differences that might eventually lead to separation.

Whether the stresses on young marriages are financial, interpersonal, or the result of unmet expectations or ineffective communication, the early pitfalls faced by many couples are often too challenging to overcome. From undisclosed debt, to incompatible life goals, to differing religious orientations, partners can bring baggage into a new marriage, and when the challenges begin to mount, seemingly small issues can take on greater meaning.

But in longevity, there is reason for hope. Contrary to the popular myth that couples tire of each other over time, or that the dynamic of a marriage becomes static or even boring after many years, Amato and James assert that marriages that make the twenty-year mark afford couples “deeper levels of appreciation” for one another.

It’s clear that couples in marriages that last twenty years or more have the opportunity to develop the skills that contribute to their long term success and happiness. The maturity that allows partners to cope with stressors, appreciate their spouse, and communicate openly, honestly and effectively is a product of time.

Ultimately, marriages thrive when a strong bond is supported by lasting commitment. For those couples who do enjoy a marriage that remains strong and intact after twenty years, they will find not only increased satisfaction, but a statistically greater chance of having the marriage they envisioned as a young couple — a full life together built on mutual love, admiration, and understanding.

5 Tips for Couples in the First 5 Years of Marriage:

  • Communicate: Open and honest dialogue is the key to effective communication in a young marriage. Couples who maintain a regular conversation about their goals, hopes and frustrations are better equipped to deal with the inevitable hurdles partners in a marriage face.
  • Listen: An integral part of successful communication is the ability to truly listen to your partner when you encounter difficulties in your marriage. Like anything, listening is a skill that can be developed, and sharpening that skill requires practice, focus and commitment.
  • Empathize: When tough times arise, taking a step back from an issue and putting yourself in your partner’s shoes is a vital tool for understanding and resolving conflict in young marriages.
  • Apologize: Communication, effective listening and empathy often lead to a positive resolution to conflict. But no marital spat is truly done without that age old tonic: apology. When you have done something that contributes to conflict or bad habits, a genuine apology informed by self-reflection and understanding is often the most meaningful step toward restoring harmony.
  • Plan Your Future Together: A big part of resolving the day to day tensions in a young marriage is the ability to put “the small stuff” in a proper perspective. If you and your partner share a vision for your future and direct energy toward achieving the life you both want to build, minor bumps along the road are easier to overcome.

Ultimately, marriages thrive when a strong bond is supported by lasting commitment. For those couples who do enjoy a marriage that remains strong and intact after twenty years, they will find not only increased satisfaction, but a statistically greater chance of having the marriage they envisioned as a young couple — a full life together built on mutual love, admiration, and understanding.

Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry 

 

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