Some new statistics surrounding marriage caught me of guard this week. The divorce rate among 25-29 year olds is on the rise although the overall divorce rate is dropping! As a 26-year-old who will be married this year, I want to know why this is. A theory that has recurred in my head is that we are a generation of divorced parents. Of my group of 10 best friends, there are only three of us whose parents are still married to one another. Perhaps that percentage is small relative to the world, but it demonstrates how divorce has become more normal than abnormal in the community I grew up in.
While the divorce of one’s parent’s doesn’t always cause him or her to avoid marriage altogether, I don’t think it is an encouraging factor. I have discussed with each of these women how it affected their desire to get married, and it was not something that made them any less nervous when the situation presented itself. They wish they had a healthy example of marriage from a young age, but also have faith in themselves that their marriage and commitment can be different.
So, how can someone who was raised by divorced parents feel more secure in beginning their lifelong commitment to their spouse? I believe there are a few key factors in feeling safe and sure that you want to make this commitment to the man or woman in your life:
- Have realistic expectations of what it takes to make a marriage work- I hate to say it, but there is no happily ever after. Life will throw the two of you challenges that you will need to work through together. Fights will occur, feelings will get hurt, and difficult decisions will need to be made. Accepting that can help you to feel better prepared when the inevitable ups and downs affect your new family. They can also help you and your spouse to grow closer in the hard times instead of growing apart.
- Learn how to communicate before you get married- I have heard many stories of people getting married despite feelings of apprehension because they assumed everything would get better if they were married. It would be the solution, but in reality, it just compounds the problems because they still need to be worked out and now there is a life long commitment in place. That increases the intensity, in turn, making it even more difficult to communicate with one another. Counseling is a wonderful way to learn strategies to communicate, but it needs to begin with a foundation of openness and honesty.
- Discuss the BIG issues before walking down the aisle- Money, kids, religion, and expectations of marriage are all things that should be discussed before you get married. People often step into marriage thinking their life together will be one way while their spouse is hoping for a totally different lifestyle. Counseling can also help sort through these major life areas together.
This is not so serve as a warning sheet! I don’t mean to make marriage sound impossible or like a full-time job you hate! I am simply hoping to set out the reality of what it will take when you commit your life to another person. If you can learn to communicate well, be flexible, and focus on the positive, you stand a wonderful shot at making your marriage healthy and rewarding. This is easier for some people, but with the right attitude and support for one another, a long marriage can be life’s ultimate reward!