Friday, 19 April 2013

How to make a 95 percent stable marriage...


From a prospective follow-up cohort study of 56 couples interviewed before marriage, one year post-marriage and eight years post-marriage - published by Thomas B Holman, 1996:


Average age of subjects: 21 - range 18-26.

Time between first acquaintance and engagement: mean 5 months (mode 4 months).

Divorce rate at 8 years c. 4 percent (two couples from the fifty-six).

At eight years post-marriage, couples were asked to evaluate the shortness of the mate-selection process. Most felt it was about right, a few felt it was too long, only one felt it was too short. 

Nature of choice: in this group the decision to marry was an individual, a personal choice. Parents, friends and others were sometimes consulted, but often not.

However, couples did seek spiritual input and divine confirmation of their choices: a 'spiritual manifestation' of the rightness of the choice.


Reference: TB Holman. Commitment making: mate selection processes among active Mormon American couples. In Mormon Identities in Transition edited by Douglas Davies. Cassell: London, 1996.  

Oh yes... I 'forgot to mention', this study was of active members of the LDS church who were married in a Temple where they were sealed to one another for 'time and eternity'. 



Matthew C. said...

There can be no doubt whatsoever that the Mormons have an enormous amount to teach all the rest of us about creating strong, stable marriages and families.

Adam G. said...

In general I suspect that prolonged engagements are a bad idea. Cohabitation is also a bad idea and I suspect that prolonged engagements are only a mini-version of cohabitation. It gives you much of the stresses and challenges of marriage without the actual commitment that makes marriage marriage. My guess is that prolonged "exclusive" dating arrangements are also functionally indistinguishable from prolonged engagements.

My wife and I knew we were going to get married within two weeks of staour first date. In chronological terms we had a long engagement but in practical terms it was quite short, since I was away on military service for most of it.

On two separate occasions, when I've told friends about knowing within two weeks--not in a serious context, just chatting--I've had Catholic dating couples come up to me afterwards and tell me they weren't just going out with each other, they were going to get married, and they had known within a few weeks or a month or two of their initial interest in each other. But please don't tell anyone, they said, our friends and family would be horrified if they thought they were rushing into this.

That they were Catholics is a coincidence. They could have been any brand of middle class Westerner. Romantic falling in love right off isn't for everybody. It's not even an ideal I'd want to hold up. But mature, responsible people don't need to be older, or get to know each other better, or get more established, before getting married. If its right, do it.

Arakawa said...

Hmm. I'm still trying to make sense of this advice, but here are my very incomplete thoughts.

In some respects this might not be a bad era for marriage. True, there is much sin in the world, of the sort that is punished by barrenness and isolation, but it seems likely that enough romance is still ordained in Heaven to continue society, if only people were willing to obey Heaven's dictates; so those who repent are more likely to receive a very direct mandate for marriage, romance, and all the rest. A prerequisite is a genuine (not counterfeit) willingness to take these things in their proper place. (This is very difficult in the sense that it is not a question of going through any outward motions of repentance, but easy in the sense that it is a matter of correct understanding.)

(There are good non-mystical reasons why this should be the case, but trying to combine righteousness and economics arguments coherently is difficult. Effectively, sin induces a form of blindness, which places one at an informational disadvantage in the "sexual marketplace" (bleah, hate this terminology). Very likely, being unrepentant oneself destroys any ability to recognize repentance or righteousness in another person -- hence the PUAs under the ludicrous but entirely convinced impression that marriage is impossible in modern society. Also, both repentance and sin are contagious -- in certain contexts, at least, but certainly this further affects the opportunities one is likely to encounter.

Or, per Tolkien:

"The men of Rohan do not lie, and therefore we are not easily deceived.")

At least, this is my impression when I compare the PUAs complaining that marriage is impossible for them and citing all the divorce-horror-stories, to the directly-opposite-in tone data gathered here of the quick-starting miracle marriages.

From this, practical advice for getting married seems to boil down to improving one's own character, just like every other endeavour under the sun....

Jehu said...

Mormon women derive a lot of benefit from the Mormon society network. The same network will vigorously punish her from frivolously divorcing her husband. In effect, her social life is a hostage guaranteeing her acceptable marital behavior, which partially neutralizes the threat point provided by no-fault divorce. Orthodox Jews have a similar thing going. If you want marriages that have similar odds, and directly defusing the threat point via covenant marriage isn't feasible, you need a similar architecture.

Samson J. said...

Or, per Tolkien:

"The men of Rohan do not lie, and therefore we are not easily deceived.")

At least, this is my impression when I compare the PUAs complaining that marriage is impossible for them and citing all the divorce-horror-stories, to the directly-opposite-in tone data gathered here of the quick-starting miracle marriages.

You've got a really great insight here. I only add my comment to say this happens to be one of my least favourite Tolkien "words of wisdom" - it doesn't ring true in my experience at all. Sadly, I think I am more prone to believing others' lies because I am honest.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJ - I think this is because we live in a dishonest society and none of us are really honest (we would be severely punished if we were) - yet we are strongly encouraged to believe what we are told. If we express reflex and default disbelief in even notoriously dishonest, provenly lying, sources such as the mass media, officials, writers, professors and teachers - then this is regarded as aggressive and ignorant.

When people are habitually honest and emotionally open, it becomes very hard to fake because to do so one must become (as moderns are) someone who controls their emotions and facial expressions (like a diplomat).

When closed faces and controlled emotions become normal, as in mainstream modern life - for example bureaucracies and the media; it becomes almost impossible to tell when someone lies and when they tell the truth - in effect people are behaving all the time as if they were lying, but they are only sometimes lying, and this is extremely confusing to our natural mechanisms of social intelligence.

In Rohan society most people would be open and honest, and they could tell when others, such as Wormtongue, were NOT being open and honest - but they could not tell when such people were lying and when they were telling the truth.

The men of Rohan would simply assume that those with closed faces and controlled emotional expression were liars by their *nature*, untrustable, and would shun them.

It makes me think of the American Indians in old movies who would say 'White Man speaks with forked tongue' - I think this meant that White Men generically (i.e. the White Men who had dealings with the Indians) could not be trusted because their society was built on legalisms not personal integrity, and therefore their word could not be relied upon: i.e. the Indians could not tell when White Men were being truthful and when they were not.

The Crow said...

How to achieve a 95% stable marriage?
Make sure you, yourself are a reliably known quantity. Then set about showing your wife how to be a reliably known quantity.
Then show her she can trust you, by showing her that she can trust you.
Actual results may vary.