Article Addresses “Myths” About Marriage
The fine people at Psychology Today recently asked experts about marriage as a lifestyle choice. Today, we consider the LGTBQ community a lifestyle choice, so why not married couples too? One of the tricky things when you ask this question, is that it then becomes one choice among many. If you asked most Americans, they would probably tell you that marriage is something that they would very much want in their future. In fact, 90% of Americans will be married at some point in their lives. Nonetheless, a growing number of Americans believe that marriage will not improve the quality of their lives.
For that reason, prominent family psychologists were asked to discuss widely held beliefs about marriage that were not necessarily true. They came up with three.
The seven-year itch
There is a widely-held belief that after seven years of marriage, you will be less satisfied in the marriage than you were for the last seven years. The term “seven-year itch” was drawn from a romantic comedy of the same name. However, recent studies have challenged the notion that couples automatically become less stimulated by each other after seven years. In fact, for some couples, this happens so severely, that it pulls the average down for everyone, and that, in fact, is what we’re seeing.
A more refined analysis begins from the starting point of couples who have a high degree of satisfaction in their marriage in the beginning. These marriages do not tend to show the same curve that other marriages have. In fact, the seven-year itch rule applies most notably to marriages that start off in a place of dissatisfaction. This happens when one spouse believes that marriage will significantly change the other spouse, or they will start behaving more responsibly once they say, “I do.” The study confirms that marriages that start off in the low-satisfaction range plummet rapidly, and that they break the curve for everyone.
Another widely-held myth that was challenged by the study indicates that couples who have poor communication skills are more likely to divorce. In fact, poor communication can be the result of other marital problems, as opposed to poor communication resulting in marital problems. While aggressive styles of communication will be bad for some marriages, those who communicate in this fashion tend to do so consistently. Spouses who marry those with aggressive communication styles already know what they’re in for, meaning the communication has less of an impact on the overall quality of their marriage than other factors.
White affluent couples as an exception
Studies indicate that poor families face different problems than rich ones. Of course, that’s true, but does it impact the quality of their marriage? We don’t know. Why not? Because we’ve been studying suburban, white, heterosexual couples for the past 50 years and cannot accurately draw conclusions about other populations from that data. Hence, data that makes assumptions about the general population is marred by the sample only containing one demographic. No conclusions about other populations can be drawn from that data.
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