Posts in the 'marriage' Category
I have a number of friends who are somewhat cynical about weddings: they point to the divorce statistics and scoff that people spent so much money only to be single again a few years later. But the divorce statistic alone doesn’t tell the entire story. The idea of what a marriage entails has evolved as a cultural notion, and with it, so have our individual expectations of it. Among the marriages that endure, those who are happiest in their marriages now are actually happier than at any point in history. Conversely, those who are unhappy in their marriages are more unhappy than ever before. But still, isn’t sublime happiness worth taking the chance and making the effort? You don’t gain anything by refusing to try.
ARE marriages today better or worse than they used to be?
This vexing question is usually answered in one of two ways. According to the marital decline camp, marriage has weakened: Higher divorce rates reflect a lack of commitment and a decline of moral character that have harmed adults, children and society in general. But according to the marital resilience camp, though marriage has experienced disruptive changes like higher divorce rates, such developments are a sign that the institution has evolved to better respect individual autonomy, particularly for women. The true harm, by these lights, would have been for marriage to remain as confining as it was half a century ago.
As a psychological researcher who studies human relationships, I would like to offer a third view. Over the past year I immersed myself in the scholarly literature on marriage: not just the psychological studies but also work from sociologists, economists and historians. Perhaps the most striking thing I learned is that the answer to whether today’s marriages are better or worse is “both”: The average marriage today is weaker than the average marriage of yore, in terms of both satisfaction and divorce rate, but the best marriages today are much stronger, in terms of both satisfaction and personal well-being, than the best marriages of yore.
Consider, for example, that while the divorce rate has settled since the early 1980s at around 45 percent, even those marriages that have remained intact have generally become less satisfying. At the same time, consider the findings of a recent analysis, led by the University of Missouri researcher Christine M. Proulx, of 14 longitudinal studies between 1979 and 2002 that concerned marital quality and personal well-being. In addition to showing that marital quality uniformly predicts better personal well-being (unsurprisingly, happier marriages make happier people), the analysis revealed that this effect has become much stronger over time. The gap between the benefits of good and mediocre marriages has increased.
How and why did this divergence occur? In answering this question, I worked with the psychologists Chin Ming Hui, Kathleen L. Carswell and Grace M. Larson to develop a new theory of marriage, which we will publish later this year in a pair of articles in the journal Psychological Inquiry. Our central claim is that Americans today have elevated their expectations of marriage and can in fact achieve an unprecedentedly high level of marital quality — but only if they are able to invest a great deal of time and energy in their partnership. If they are not able to do so, their marriage will likely fall short of these new expectations. Indeed, it will fall further short of people’s expectations than at any time in the past.
Marriage, then, has increasingly become an “all or nothing” proposition. This conclusion not only challenges the conventional opposition between marital decline and marital resilience; but it also has implications for policy makers looking to bolster the institution of marriage — and for individual Americans seeking to strengthen their own relationships.
Intrigued? Read the rest at The New York Times.
Marriage can have a lot of twists and turns, ups and downs. Our On Marriage series is an attempt to showcase the different realities people experience when it comes to Happily Ever After. This week, we’ve got an excerpt from Brenna of Suburban Snapshots.
I love my husband this week. This week, I look across the room at him and think, “How long can I safely assume Anna would stay glued to that iPad right now?” This week I want to tell his bosses what a dedicated employee he is and tell Anna to stop saying that she loves me better because I let her have hot cocoa after school. I want to make his favorite dinner even though it’s so packed with fat that I can’t go near it. I’ll tell him I’m proud of his work, that he’s a great dad and husband, that sometimes when I joke about my friends wanting to get in his pants I’m kind of serious and maybe a little concerned. This week he’s getting more random hugs, less sarcasm, and lots of appreciation.
Last week I wanted to beat him with the pillow he hugs to sleep and which inevitably ends up making its way onto my face when he lets go of it in the middle of the night. He couldn’t say a thing that didn’t annoy me, he was full of sarcasm and tone, he’d been sick and stressed and brought all of it into the house after work. All I could see were the piles of crap he makes on every surface in the house and the pile of dishes he ignored before work. His coughing annoyed me, the tissues everywhere annoyed me, the way he spoke to Anna led me a few times to break the cardinal parenting rule of not contradicting your partner in earshot of your children.
Steve is much more steady in things like this than I am. He doesn’t get annoyed like I do. I don’t consider myself moody, but I might walk around tense and aggravated and bottled up, I keep it in especially when I know I’m being unfair. Usually my first indication that he’s stressed or tired is that he stops trying to grope me every six seconds. And even when I’m such an irrepressible rag that I don’t want to hang out with myself, he wants me around. Two weeks ago when I couldn’t stand the sight of his wet boots tipped over at the back door, I thought about taking off to my mom’s for the day, just for some space, just to miss him again.
Love it so far? Check out the rest at Suburban Snapshots!
I packed up and left my hometown of Jackson, Wyoming, a bit over a year ago, shortly after I decided that I also needed to end my marriage. I put what I had (and actually wanted) in a U-Haul and made the nearly 1,600 mile trek to Louisville, KY, with my dad behind the wheel. I had secured my very first apartment all for myself, stopped at Ikea for new and necessary furnishings and planted myself in a fairly foreign locale (save for some amazing ladies who I’ve known FOREVS).
In the year since I was last in my mountainous place of birth, I have worked a couple of less-than-awesome serving jobs, learned how to bartend, and have relocated to Texas to be with my new fella. **Background: He and I met in a bar back home right before I was set to leave. He was also leaving, but we had a pretty obvious spark. We planned a trip to Mexico for Christmas, kind of leaving it at that. He came to visit me in Kentucky. I stayed with him in Texas for a week after our trip to Mexico. And then, a few months later, I moved there to be with him.
I’m in a happy, healthy relationship, and have now stepped foot back on my native soil for the first time since watching it fade in my rearview mirror. And my man is on my arm.
Throughout the years, I have left Jackson behind to explore new opportunities, see strange cities and feel out new relationships. I’ve come back for varying reasons, but this town is too small and too familiar for me, for now. I have never reveled in the return, and in truth have always regarded it with a sense of dread and disdain.
But this time is different. I have put my own life together in a way that makes me happy, comfortable, and successful. I have forged a strong, healthy relationship with someone who cares about me and cares for my safety. And this time? I couldn’t wait to return, to show off this new side of me that I deign to say no one has seen. I can’t wait to introduce him to my friends, my father and anyone else I may run into.
Returning home has always been difficult for me, because I haven’t been happy. And as we drove into the valley, I saw it through those silly rose-colored glasses everyone is always talking about. And I realized, not for the first time but for a new time, that I am happy in the choices I have made and the person I am. What’s different this time around is that I’m not worried about decisions that will be made, or decisions that have been made, but rather completely content that I’ve made the correct decisions for myself and only myself. I know I have the strength to continue to do so … for myself. For the first time, I’m able to walk onto my old stomping grounds with my head held high, knowing who I am, who I am with, and who I will continue to grow to be.
It’s easy to get caught up in fantasy land and think about nothing but whimsical details, cake flavors, and reception playlists while planning a wedding. Zach and I recently got smacked back down to reality, though, when we heard the sad news that two of our old friends are getting a divorce. It was hard not to feel a bit shaken by this event, especially because these two seemed so awesome together that we even held them up as sort of “marriage role models” for ourselves. This was also the first married couple in our circle of friends to break it off. We’ve happily celebrated with many different friends on their wedding days, and it is SO WEIRD to think that statistically, half of those marriages won’t make it.
Honestly, I haven’t pondered the topic of divorce too much until recently, when I talked to my now-divorced friend for the first time in awhile and she basically tried to convince me not to get married. Yeah, that was awkward. But it did get me thinking hard. It’s impossible, in this day and age, to take the cavalier “That’ll never happen to us,” mindset. So why do we get married when the divorce rates are so scary? Why do I, personally, still believe in marriage?
The answers, to be sure, are complex, emotion-riddled, and different for everyone. I think it’s important for every couple to take some time and let the sobering divorce statistics sink in, and then really consider WHY they want to get married. For Zach and I, from a logical standpoint, we want the many rights and benefits that accompany legal marriage (rights which someday soon will hopefully be extended to ALL couples!). From a more philosophical standpoint, we both still believe in the commitment of marriage. We find the concept of teaming up with one person for to be noble, desirable, and right. Love is an action and a choice, and we have decided to continue choosing each other for the rest of our lives.
Despite our persistent believe in marriage, the current divorce stats are still terrifying. I don’t really know what else there is to do besides support our friends in good times and bad and keep trying to be the best partners possible to each other. I also think discussing marriage and divorce with those holding differing beliefs is really important.
So let’s discuss! Do you still believe in marriage despite the sobering divorce rate? Why or why not? If you’re in a life-long relationship but have chosen not to get married, how has that decision affected your life?
This real wedding feature is not broke-ass at all, I must confess. I’m sure this wedding cost a lot of pretty pennies. But it is so stunningly, heartstoppingly rich with inspiration and love that I simply could not resist sharing it. It makes me feel like hearts are coming out of my head. There is so much mad talent and awe-striking eye candy in the photography and video of this wedding, in fact, that I am dedicating multiple posts to it. So, courtesy of Dan Chen, the ninja photog genius who shot our own wedding, get ready to drink in the deliciousness that is Puja + Stephen’s epic two ceremony wedding in Singapore.
I’m popping it off with this feat of artistic badassery in the form of Puja & Stephen’s wedding video, by videographer Sarah Krusen-Chen (who also happens to be Dan’s gorgeous and insanely talented wife), which will wet your palate for what delights are to come with the rest of our tasty feature. Warning: the following video may blind you with its beauty.
Stay tuned for our feature of the Indian Ceremony, coming up in our next installment of Puja + Stephen’s real wedding. Next stop, Singapore, yo!
Thank you all so much for your support and amazing feedback about this situation. I’ve loved hearing your thoughts and speculations about our decision, and you’ve been wearing your patient pants, so now its time for the big reveal!
In the end, we decided compromise was the best solution. Hunter still felt it was crucial to honor my name, despite us also honoring his parent’s wishes. He wanted to make a grand gesture to both show me that he was becoming as much a part of my family as I am of his, and to make better the disappointment we had been through before. I am so proud of him for standing up for what he believes in, as well as for doing right by his family (even if I still disagree with their opinion). He wins my heart over and over every day we’re together, delighting me with his thoughtful, loving nature and generous spirit.
So, today I write to you as:
Dana Susan LaRue Stiebel, wife of Hunter Hans LaRue Stiebel.
(I ain’t gonna lie – those are pretty rad looking names, no? Fortherecord: that’s Steeeeeble, not Sty-ble.)
I am “hyphenating” last names (but I prefer the way it looks without a hyphen), and he is adding my maiden name as a 2nd middle name. It was the best we could do, without alienating anyone in the family. I’m pretty pleased with it. And there’s a twist…
While I’m still let down that our child(ren) won’t share my last name as I’ve known it, we are leaving the door open to naming a child after my maiden name, just as Hunter was named for his mother’s maiden name. Its certainly a fun idea to entertain, and when we’re ready for kids, we’ll definitely revisit the idea. A little girl named LaRue Stiebel could be pretty dang fierce, methinks!
The best part? After months of waiting for the right moment to break the news to his parents, Hunter told them about our compromise and the response couldn’t have been better. Totally positive, on board, and supportive – exactly totally ultimately perfect. I’m so relieved to know that its over, and everyone seems to be at peace with the end result. Because at the end of the day, having a happy family is key, yaknow?
What do you think? Did we make the right choice?