The divorce rates for first marriages have declined in recent years and are now down from 50 percent to just over 44 percent (World Population Review, 2023). The rates rise to 60 percent for second marriages and 73 percent for third marriages (Divorce.com, 2023). According to the data offered by the Pew Research Center, divorce rates for people over age 50 have doubled in the last 25 years (Stepler, 2017).
I believe that if you marry for the wrong reason, barring intervention, you will pay the price. Listed below are five of the major reasons that contribute to a bad and likely fatal start to a lifetime of wedded bliss:
1. Ambivalence. If you are ambivalent about marrying for any reason, don’t do it. The excuse of having “cold feet” should not be substituted for “I think I might be making a big mistake.” Most people are nervous about the big day, but ambivalence indicates that you are not sure you are doing the right thing, and that’s a different issue.
Harry married his wife, Samantha, after a lot of coaxing from family and friends. Harry liked Samantha well enough, but in retrospect, he admitted that he found her both plain and boring. He believed that with Samantha, he would provide security and be a loyal spouse, but he also saw her as someone lacking in curiosity and a zest for life. The marriage lasted three years before Harry left Samantha for what he called a “more exciting” woman with whom he had much in common.
2. The buddy system. Those of you who have swum in a public pool or trained as a lifeguard has heard of the “buddy system.” It’s when you pick out someone who you can rely on to keep a watch over you while you swim and vice versa. While this system is great in the water, too many couples rely on it to make a marriage work.
It’s fine to be a friend to your partner, but if that is all you are and you try to make it more than that, you might be in for a rude surprise. I have seen many friends marry for safety only to discover that there is no passion or interest to speak of. These relationships leave the door open for affairs and the eventual demise of the buddy system.
Peter and Jennifer married in their junior year of college. While they were the best of friends and could talk about anything, there was always an awkward feeling when they tried to have sex. Peter described it as “strange,” as if he was violating his best friend.
Eventually, Jennifer lost complete interest in sex, and the couple focused on raising their two young children.
One evening Peter was devastated to find that Jennifer was having a torrid love affair with her boss. He found that she was doing things with him sexually that she would never consider with him.
When he confronted her with this, she cried and said she had lost interest in the marriage. She asked him for a divorce but added that she hoped they would always remain friends.
Peter said that it felt as if someone had just “ripped his right arm out of its socket.”
3. Self-identity crisis. Some people do not know who they are or what they want. These individuals are dangerous and use marriage as an experimental ground to discover themselves. I am sure you have heard the expression: “I have to leave and go find myself.”
When you marry someone like this, prepare for a roller coaster ride you will never forget. Sometimes this may include your partner’s erratic need to 1) search for a sexual identity, 2) change careers, or even 3) move a lot. The real danger, however, is when this partner does discover his or her true self, you may no longer fit into the picture.
Lisa, a lost soul, met Jerry at a bar in New York City and the two married after three months of dating.
Jerry was an ambitious, goal-directed man who made it clear that he would never want to leave New York City. Jerry was in finance and thought New York was the best place for him. He also had many friends and relatives in the city. While Lisa found New York exciting at first, she began to feel the itch to move around. Jerry tried to help Lisa find her passion, but he eventually gave up and allowed her to explore the world on her own.
While on a trip with a girlfriend to Oregon, Lisa sent Jerry a letter explaining that she thought she had finally found her true self and was not coming back. The couple divorced.
4. Lack of physical attraction. I have written on this subject many times, but I have yet to find any reason to change my mind about it. The need for physical attraction in a relationship is vastly underrated. I realize that there are many types of attraction (e.g., emotional attraction) and that many couples can survive without physical attraction. But a lack of physical attraction leaves the door open for affairs and to one day be left for someone who turns you or your spouse on.
Katie liked taller, more masculine men. She was also attracted to athletic men, and her husband Gary had gained weight over the years and was not interested in spending his time at a gym.
One day Kate met her prototype at her gym, and her marriage was history. Gary eventually admitted that he knew all along that Katie did not find him very attractive, but he thought she would change and focus on “more important qualities” once they were married. He was wrong.
5. Incompatibility of interests. I must admit that I never used to consider the concept of “mutual interests” that important; perhaps that was the “romantic” in me. But I now believe that life is so much easier and enjoyable when your partner has the same general interests you have. It also helps to prevent arguments about what hobbies to spend money on and how to use family time.
Vernon took up photography and had the desire to travel the world taking pictures. However, he fell in love with Gwen, who hated to get on an airplane. She also felt that Vernon was spending far too much on his hobby.
Gwen wanted Vernon to put his money into more practical things, such as a new roof or a college fund if they decided to have any children. Vernon put his hobby aside for a time but became depressed. He picked it up again, and Gwen made the decision to leave.
Divorce.com (2023). 48 divorce statistics in the U.S. including divorce rate, race, & marriage length. Retrieved from https://divorce.com/blog/divorce-statistics/
Stepler, R. (2017). Led by baby boomers, Divorce rates climb for America’s 50+ population. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/09/led-by-baby-boomers-di…
World Population Review (2023). Divorce rates by country. Retrieved form https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/divorce-rates-by-cou…