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 of Mt Hood.  (That’s Mt. Jefferson in the distance).  They are bucking the odds.  They both earned advanced degrees.  Both are 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?  Your age.  It doesn’t matter where you live or what religion you are.  It doesn’t matter what 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 25 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 in this age group 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 finally get out of them, even if the other spouse didn’t want a divorce.

So, basically it’s kind of a myth that people stayed together back in the “good old days.” Yeah, they did stay together, but only because it was so tough to get a divorce.  You either had to be beat up or had to come up with the evidence that your spouse cheated on you.  Divorce granted!  But wait… you promise not to beat or cheat on your spouse again?  Pinky swear?  Okay, divorce not granted.

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 split.

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 may have found the answer.  It’s called handfasting.

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

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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 separate 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.

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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 handfasting tradition is often connected to Pagans, Druids and Wiccans.  But  Irish and Scottish societies made handfasting well-known tradition long before the other groups adopted it.

If we made handfasting an alternative to weddings, would divorce rates would go down.  It’s kind of  a mid-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!

Marriage Update!

Last spring a student introduced me to the Beta marriage concept.  It’s a marriage model a survey of millennials said they would prefer.  What is a Beta marriage?  The marriage can be formalized or dissolved after a two year period.

Okay, the survey was done by a television show in USA called Satisfaction.  It’s the story of a husband and wife who are tired of each other.  Then, the husband finds out his wife has been seeing a male escort on a regular basis.  Based on that background, this survey probably isn’t scientific or as reliable as something from Pew Research or Gallup Polls, but the options they gave were interesting.

They asked millennials which of several marriage models they would prefer.  These were the top choices in the survey:

  • 21% chose Presidential – The marriage lasts for four years, and then you can re-up.  After eight years you can “elect” to choose a new partner.
  • 36% liked the Real Estate model: Marriage licenses would be issued for 5, 7, 10 or 30 year terms (like a home mortgage loan).  At the end of the term, you must renegotiate the marriage terms.
  • 46% chose Beta – After a two year period the marriage can be dissolved or formalized.  (Not so different from handfasting, huh?)
Your Assignment

So what do you think? How can we save marriage?  Or should we even try?  Should we try the handfasting, presidential, real estate or the beta model?  Should we stick with the traditional idea of marriage?  Should we change our attitudes about divorce?  Why? How?

Do some research.  Look on-line.  Talk with your priest or minister.  Talk to your parents or grandparents.  Talk to your friend who got married right out of high school.  Talk to your significant other.  Read a journal article or journal or blog.  The idea is to explore how our society views marriage.

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

 Go to the Blog#7:Marriage discussion board and share your ideas.  I’m interested in your opinion, but I want to see some research to back it up.  Research could be journals, newspapers, magazines, etc.  Or discuss these ideas with your parents, significant others, religious leaders and/or someone you know who is married.  I encourage you to start a discussion!
Just make sure to include your research in your post.   It could be as simple as, “I read this article in Newsweek…” or “When I told my grandma about the Real Estate model she said….” or “My priest makes a good argument for traditional marriage. 

BTW– If you want me to crush your ideas about diamond rings being an integral part of the marriage tradition, just watch this video.  Be WARNED!  They do drop the F-bomb on multiple occasions in this video.

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