As our loyal readers know, we have been researching successful marriage around the world for nearly three decades. In our travels throughout 47 countries in search of the best marriages we are often asked, “Are there ways to ensure that a marriage will succeed?” The answer is of course, “no.” Life, love, and marriage do not come with absolute guarantees. Marriage does not come with a warranty.
Let us hasten to add, however, you can greatly increase the odds that your marriage will last for a lifetime if your profile closely resembles the 15 predictors of a successful marriage discovered as a result of our 30 years of research in 47 countries.
The “15 predictors of a successful marriage” are:
1. It stands to reason that you and the one you love must first pass the Marriage Quiz. If you can’t get out of the starting gate with a successful marriage, the rest doesn’t matter. Take the Quiz and if you both receive a score of 18 or higher on the Marriage Quiz, you have met the first pre-requisite of a successful marriage.
2. Wait until you are at least 25+ to get married. Couples who get married after the age of 25 are far more likely to stay married than those who get married sooner. Experience and wisdom come with age.
3. Have an income-producing job with stability before you get married. Here’s what we know, couples with annual incomes over $50,000 (vs. under $25,000) experience a drastically reduced risk of divorce.
4. Do not have children in the first year of your marriage. Nora Ephron once said, “Having children is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage!” Children are wonderful, but they bring stress and challenges to a marital relationship, especially to a new marriage. Bring children into the world when your marriage is ready for them.
5. Being spiritual and/or religious is good for your marriage. Couples that consider themselves religious or spiritual (vs. not) are considerably less likely to get divorced. Faith and spirituality contribute to the sense of oneness felt by successfully married couples – a necessary prerequisite to a long and happy marriage.
6. Focus on getting an education that includes post-secondary training. College educated couples have a much less chance of divorce than those with only a high school diploma. Education almost always leads to enlightenment and understanding and more tolerance for the views of others – so critically important in successful marriages.
7. Make sure your spouse is your best friend. When someone asks you who your best friend is, the honest answer must be, “My spouse.” There is no other acceptable answer to this question. Being in love is never enough without friendship.
8. Always fight fair in your marriage. All married couples argue—the difference is how they argue. Arguing is healthy for a marriage. Just fight fair and never make your arguments personal and hurtful!
9. Never lose your individual identity or subjugate your individual strengths just because you got married. While in many ways “two becomes one” in the best marriages, losing the sense of “who you are” hurts your marriage.
10. Never engage in acts of infidelity. While some marriages survive infidelity, the overwhelming majority do not. Think long and hard about what you will lose before you engage in infidelity – before you violate the most sacred of marital trusts.
11. Always allow time to be alone – for both you and your spouse. We have learned over the past three decades of research that every human being has a fundamental predisposition to be alone. Allow yourself time to be alone to your thoughts each day. Extending the same opportunity to your spouse will pay huge dividends for your marriage.
12. Talk about anything and everything! Marriages thrive on open communication and honest discussion. The most successfully married couples we have interviewed around the world tell us that they have learned to communicate frequently, fairly, openly, and honestly. Mum is not the word in marriages that work!
13. Always show mutual respect and admiration for each other. The best marriages repeatedly engage in acts of kindness towards each other with no expectation of something in return. They work hard to understand each other’s needs and wants. But remember – these behaviors take daily practice!
14. The greatest joy in life for both you and your spouse is spending time with each other. If you do not feel this way, you do NOT fit the profile of the most happily and successfully married couples we have interviewed around the world. There is no substitute for togetherness when it comes to a happily married couple.
15. Understand that all marriages go through seasons – much like the seasons of nature. Those marriages that last over time started with the simple planting of a seed. The seed was nourished over time. Love grown with tender and loving care matures into fully-grown love that can withstand the tests of time.
These predictors associated with the best marriages do not occur by accident or happenstance. Heed the advice and the odds are in your favor for a lifetime of marital happiness. Ignore the predictors and do so at your own peril. The choice is yours.