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Fellow Love Proofers,
Do you want lasting love? In study after study, most respondents say yes. But fewer and fewer believe they can have it.
Yet real and lasting love is a lottery you’re statistically likely to win. The data, whether in the Harris Survey or numerous other studies, strongly suggests enduring marriage is quite common: Even now, over half of first marriages (about 54-56%) last a lifetime, for instance. Those who divorce and remarry have higher odds of divorce the second time around, especially if both have children from other unions; but when we add the success stories to those of the lasting first marriages, we see that most folks eventually wind up in a lasting relationship. Finding and keeping love turns out to be more rule than exception.
But isn’t it just as likely that folks give up on happiness and stick it out in miserable marriages?
Doubtless that happens sometimes. But numerous studies find that most married folks say they're happy, as this study supported. The links in the post show that across the various questions relating to marital happiness, the vast majority of people were happily wed—no matter how they met.
So where has the myth of rare happy love come from?
I don’t know. Some easy guesses are: music and movies that emphasize that love cannot work; high-profile divorces; a divorce rate that has in fact risen appreciably within living memory. In fact, some very well-educated folks think success in love is rare: When I showed my original draft of this article to an editor, she said it was confusing because the stats were so low for divorce. I removed the statistics because the word limit made it impossible to explain.
But here, there’s not that limit ;).
So here you go. In the Harris Survey, 6% of couples who met online and 7.7% of couples introduced offline got a divorce. eHarmony’s divorce rate was 3.86%, versus 6.89% for all other sites. This was a truly representative sample—so it’s not the case that there was something bizarre about these respondents (or said another way—we’re all bizarre). What gives?
The divorce rate commonly bandied about (43-46% of first marriages, etc.) is based off lifetime divorce rates. The Harris Survey covered only 7 years—not a lifetime.
If I could squeeze the last 60 years of relationship science into a single sentence, it would be: If you can find and be someone kind and respectful, your marriage is likely to go well, and if you can’t, it probably won’t. There is a view that love is like a lottery, and that’s right—except that the odds are in favor of keeping love instead of losing it. Most of us, most of the time, manage to find and hold onto love. To play, if you will, for keeps.
Thank you to Harold Otts for inspiring this response, and kudos to Vincent for living it!
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