Relationships: Marriage redefined?

By Terri Reddout

Finish reading this blog and increase your chances of staying married happily ever after

Is it because this blog has the secret for a happy marriage?  No.  If I knew the secret, you’d be paying to read this blog and I’d be making a ton of money.

The reason I can say your chances of staying married increase is based on statistics.

If you’re reading this, you’re working at getting a college degree.  Couples with higher education tend to stay married.  By the time you finish reading this blog you’ll be a few minutes older.  Statistics say the older you are when you first get married, the better your chances of staying married.  The other factor?  Economic stability.

This picture is from my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding last summer on the side mountain.  They are bucking the odds.  They both earned advanced degrees.  Both in their early 30s.  They pull in a good income.  He’s a lawyer.  She’s in the medical field.  They a lot in common. Oh, and they love each other, a lot.

Wait until you’re 25 to tie the knot (but it’s no guarantee)

Statistically, the biggest factor in whether you stay married or not is age.  It doesn’t matter where you live, what religion or race you are or your education level, getting married young increases your chances of being divorced.  According to the National Center of Health Statistics, if you get married between the ages of 20 and 25 there’s a 60 percent chance you’ll end up divorced.  Let me repeat that.  There’s a 60 percent chance you’ll be divorced if you get married in your early 20s. 

But guess what?  Statistically, the chances of your grandparents (50+ years old) getting a divorce has doubled in the last 15 years.

The number of divorces in the 40-49 year old bracket continues to climb.

The only age bracket where the number of divorces has decreased in the past 15 years is ages 25-39.  In 1990, 30 out of 1000 marriages ended in divorce.  In 2015, the number of divorces in this age range dropped to 24 out of 1000 times couples said “I do.”

A little divorce history

Up until 1970, getting a divorce was tough.  Your spouse had to be beating you to death or cheating.  And even then, if your spouse promised not to do it anymore you would remain married.

In 1970, California introduced the “no fault” divorce.  Other states soon adopted it.  Suddenly divorce rates increased, dramatically.  Spouses who were in bad marriages could get out of them, even if the other spouse didn’t want a divorce.  (So, it’s kind of a myth that people stayed together in the old days. Yeah they did stay together, but only because to get a divorce you had to walk in the courtroom with bumps and bruises or your spouse walked into court arm-in-arm with the person they were cheating on you with. )

Of course, it’s not happily ever after after a divorce.  Half of all families who lived above the poverty level end up below the poverty level after the divorce.  The way the system is set up, custody goes to the “better” parent, which automatically sets up an adversarial situation for the divorcing couple.  If you want custody of the kids, you have to prove you are better at parenting than your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

So what can we do to increase marriage longevity and decrease divorce rates?  I think I’ve found the answer.  It’s called handfasting.

“Tying the knot” is more literal than you might think


We often hear the phrase “tying the knot” when someone gets married.

The origins of this phrase come from an ancient Celtic custom called handfasting. The couples hands and wrists are tied together ceremoniously.

But it’s more than just ribbon bonding two people together. Handfasting is a different way to look at marriage.

According to All about Handfasting  this type of marriage ceremony had some built-in get-out-of-the-relationship clauses.  For example:

The man and woman who came together for the handfasting agreed to stay together for a specific period of time, usually a year-and-a-day. At the end of the year the couple faced a choice. They could enter into a longer-term “permanent” marriage contract, renew their agreement for another year, or go their separate ways.

If you did decide to go your different ways the law specified how the property would be divided. The law also established inheritance rights of any child born during the relationship.

I looked it up. There are even verses for the officiants to say during a handfasting. Here’s one:

Now you are bound one to the other 
With a tie not easy to break.
Take the time of binding
Before the final vows are made
To learn what you need to know –
To grow in wisdom and love.
That your marriage will be strong
That your love will last
In this life and beyond.


While traditional handfasting, which included the set amount of time, has gone by the wayside , you do see it incorporated into modern wedding ceremonies.

Will and Kate included it in their wedding ceremony (although without the year and one day clause).

Today the tradition is often connected to Pagans, Druids and Wiccans, but it was a well-known tradition in Irish and Scottish society long before the other groups adopted it as their own.

I think if we made handfasting an alternative to weddings, divorce rates would go down.  The idea is kind of a middle level step between living together and actually getting married.  If it works out, great!  Call the wedding planner.  If it doesn’t work out, shake hands and go on your merry (not marry) way!

Your Assignment

So what do you think? How can we save marriage?  Or should we even try?  Should we change our attitudes about divorce?  How?

Do some research.  Look on-line.  Talk with your priest or minister.  Read a journal article.  The idea is to explore how our society views marriage.

You may want to review the articles I read for this blog.

Then go to the Should we give marriage a chance? discussion board and share your ideas.  I’m interested in your opinion, but I want to see some research to back it up.   For example, I suggest we should adopt handfasting (see above) as a legal alternative to marriage.





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