Marriage can be an amazingly blissful union between people. It can also be heart-wrenching when things go wrong. So which is it most often? I was curious to know various facts about marriage to get a more solid birds-eye view about the topic, beyond common knowledge and hype. I’ve detailed below what I’ve learned about marriage based on facts rather than conjecture. By knowing the facts, you can then see where your own marriage falls within the spectrum, or perhaps get a better idea regarding a marriage you may be considering.
So what are the most basic facts about marriage? Marriage is described as providing more satisfaction in life than money, sex, or perhaps even surprisingly, having children, according to psychologists at Wake Forest University. But facts about marriage include some other surprising, some not-so-surprising, as well as interesting insights – ranging from how many marriages endure the test of time, variations in reasons to get married, factors related to age and education, cultural influences, and more.
Knowing facts about marriage can stimulate thinking about considerations both while you are married as well as beforehand. Furthermore, marriage facts are correlated with information about divorce rates and include variables that can either increase odds of getting divorced, or ideally, increase the odds of staying happily married.
For example, facts point to certain variables that can improve rates of enjoying a successful marriage. These include income levels higher than $25,000 per year, waiting longer to get married (over 25 years of age), higher levels of education, marrying someone close to your own age, and, interestingly, shorter work commuting distances, among other indicators.
Interesting Facts about Marriage
- Up until recent generations, historically, marriages were arranged and were not usually the result of mutual love.
The aim of arranged marriages had more so to do with making favorable familial connections, acquiring property, or to have children that would further family goals (to put them to work for the family, as one example). In some cultures, parents went as far as marrying a child to the departed spirit of a deceased child for the sole purpose of strengthening familial bonds.
- Though it’s become a fairly common statistic that roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, overall divorce rates have been decreasing…down from the commonly known 50% statistic to currently roughly 42%.
- Geographically-based education records relates to which age people tend to marry based on their levels of education. In locations where education levels are higher, people marry later. This would indicate the higher the education, the later those individuals marry, and vice versa (the lower the education, the earlier they tend to marry).
- Couples who spend more on their engagement ring and wedding tend to stay married for shorter periods of time.
- Individuals, on average, spend about two years considering divorce as an option before actually separating or filing for divorce.
- Nearly six percent of couples who have divorced eventually remarry each other.
- Of partners who choose to leave their marriage due to an extramarital affair, more than 75% of marriages between the adulterers eventually get divorced.
- Marrying young (under 25) dramatically raises the chances of getting divorced. Waiting until mid-thirties to become married is shown to increase odds of the marriage not ending in divorce.
- If the bride is much older than the man, the risk of divorce is higher, though the reverse hasn’t been shown to be true.
- A study conducted in 2008 found that once children leave the nest, marital satisfaction increases – except in cases where there were already problems in the marriage (in which case when children leave home, the problems become heightened).
- Historically and traditionally, bridesmaids would often wear dresses similar to the bride to ward away and confuse evil spirits, rival suitors, and thieves.
- In ancient Rome, a kiss indicated a legal bond sufficient to seal contracts. Since marriage was viewed as a contract, a kiss would seal the deal. For this reason, based on this history and tradition, marriage ceremonies today often end with a kiss.
- On average, married couples have sex 68.5 times a year(a little more than once per week).
- 1 in every 5 couples has sex fewer than 10 times per year
- The first marriages that result in parting ways typically last about 8 years.
Facts about Gay Marriage
For background, around 50 or so years ago, expectations within the model of traditional marriages began to change. With more women in the workforce (rather than staying home with children), a more balanced and equal partnership type of marriage model became more common.
Rather than viewing marriage roles of each partner based on their genders, most partners began to view their roles as more flexible in terms of the division of labor, companionship, and mutual sexual attraction and fulfillment.
This more contemporary model paved the way for same-sex marriages, as the traditional gender-based roles became less popular. Here are some interesting facts related to same-sex and gay marriage:
- Public support for same-sex marriage has grown rapidly over the past decade.
- Since 2007, when Americans were in opposition of legalizing same-sex marriages by 54%, that number of opposition has lessened to 32%. A recent Pew Research Center study found that more than 60% of Americans support gay and lesbian marriages.
- Though support has increased for gay marriage in general, demographic divides still exist, especially among religious groups.
Currently, more than 80% of Americans who are not religiously affiliated support gay marriage. Catholics and (white “mainline”) Protestants show support at rates higher than 65%, while other religious groups largely still oppose gay marriage (black Protestants and white evangelical Protestants, as examples), though opposition still seems to be decreasing over time.
- Generational differences also show divides, with support of gay marriage rising within older generations. 74% of Millennials and 65% of Generation Xers (ages 37 to 52) now support gay and lesbian marriage; 56% of Baby Boomers and 41% of those in the eldest category – called the Silent Generation, now support same-sex marriages.
- The popularity of same-sex marriage is increasing. Surveys conducted by Gallup over the past year found that about 10% of LGBT Americans are married to a same-sex partner (up from previous timeframes).
- As with traditional marriages, love is one of the most important considerations cited for those who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) in getting married. And, the same goes for citing companionship.
But interestingly, LGBT’s were twice as likely as those in traditional marriages to cite legal rights and benefits as a primary or very important consideration or reason to get married (46% versus 23% respectively). And, not as surprisingly, traditional marriage partners were twice as likely as LGBT’s to cite having children as a primary consideration in getting married.
- The United States is one of more than 20 countries or provinces to legally recognize same-sex marriage. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize gay marriage in 2000. Several other European nations – Spain, France, Scandinavia and Ireland – have begun to recognize and legalize gay marriage. It’s also recognized in Canada, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, and the list of nations is growing.
Interesting Facts about Christian Marriage
In considering facts about Christian marriage, it’s important to look further back in history, as the Christian Church played a central role in marriage as we know it today. Essentially, Christian marriage was intended to be loving and lasting – truly “until death do us part.”
- Polygamy was actually common in Biblical traditions. Jacob, King Solomon, and King David has multiple wives (thousands in some cases).
- The Christian Church was a trailblazer in promoting the idea of monogamy, which became customary for Western marriages sometime between the 6th and 9th centuries.
- By the 9th century, monogamy became a central guiding principle in Christian marriages.
- In the Bible, which lies at the heart of Christian practice and belief, marriages between cousins were common. And in fact, these remain common on a world-wide basis, especially in the Middle East. Furthermore, it’s estimated that, historically speaking, the majority of all marriages were between first and second cousins.
- According to classical Scripture,the Apostle Paul declared that the partnering between a husband and wife should be as the partnering between Christ and Church.
- According to Genesis, “marriage is God’s design” and “commitment was made to honor and love each other.” In the Christian view, the reasoning for marriage is not intended to be an arrangement for convenience.
- Jesus focused on marriage (not separation or divorce) and conveyed that marriage was meant to be permanent – only dissolved when one partner dies.
Facts about Second Marriage
Researchers have found that success with second marriages creates a deep feeling of satisfaction and joy for each of spouses, which often eclipses the satisfaction experienced within first marriages. Even with that understanding, the rate of divorce among second marriages is higher than divorce rates of first marriages.
Counselors strongly encourage people who have been married once (and divorced) to really think about why the marriage failed. The goal is for those deeper insights and lessons learned to be fully understood before entering into a second marriage.
In that light, here are some additional interesting and eye-opening facts about second marriages worth consideration:
- A staggering number – between 67-80% – of second marriages end in divorce.
- 40% of those who get divorced from a first marriage choose to enter into a second marriage. Fifty percent of second marriages have one previously married partner while the other fifty percent represents both partners being previously married.
- Most people wait about 4 years after a first divorce to get married a second time.
- Women who were raised in a two-parent family are less likely to divorce a second time than women who were raised in a non-traditional family or a single-parent family.
- Roughly 20% of men who get married a second time marry a woman who is at least 10 years younger than them. An additional 18% married a female who was between 6-9 years younger. With women who have been married before, 78% were aged within 5 years of the man they married, while that number goes down to 62% for their second marriages.
- In about four out of ten new marriages, at least one partner was married previously.
- Second marriages can seem more “serious.” First marriages are new experiences for both partners, and the fantasy is often stronger than the reality. But in second marriages, at least one individual has been married before and has a deeper understanding of how marriage affects other aspects of life.
So second marriages tend to have less of the “fantasy” aspect (the “honeymoon” period) and more of the realities of day-to-day life as a lens.
Facts about Sexless Marriage
A sexless marriage is considered one where partners have sex with each other fewer than 10 times per year ( according to marriage counselors and professional standards). And there are various reasons that a marriage may become “sexless,” even if it didn’t start out that way.
Here are some additional facts about sexless marriages:
- Approximate twenty percent of marriages are sexless — meaning, having sex ten times a year or less.
- Fewer men (roughly 20-30%) report having little if any sex drive, compared to roughly 30-50% or women who say the same. Since these numbers are self-reported, they conceivably could be even higher for both sexes.
- An ongoing (or recurring) lack of interest in feeling or being sexual or in having sex, as well as an absence or lack of interest in sexual fantasies or sexually-related thoughts, is known as “hypoactive sexual desire” (HSD).
- It’s estimated that approximately 25% of Americans, representing a higher number of women, are thought to have HSD to some extent.
- Psychotherapists and marriage counselors report that some of the most common causes of sexless marriages include: hurt feelings between partners (when one has been refused or turned down repeatedly), partners that are too busy in other areas of their lives and eventually neglect sex as an integral part of the marriage, and communication challenges between partners (or one partner not communicating openly and honestly).
Additional challenges include a lack of trust, anxiety and depression, overall life stress such as navigating life with children and heavy or stressful work issues, lack of sleep, and the use of antidepressants or other medications that may affect one partner’s sex drive (or both).
- Partners in a sexless marriage are at higher risk of seeking a divorce than those with satisfying or more active sex lives.
- Sexless marriages can also be short-term depending of life situations, such as after childbirth or in building trust after an affair.
What percentage of marriages are happy? Though “happiness” in marriage can be defined in various ways, according to a research poll of spouses, in general terms, 75 percent said they are happy at least three-quarters of the time. About 15 percent said they are happy at least half the time. Only 5 percent said they were unhappy all of the time.
What is the success rate of marriage? Marriage and divorce are equally common scenarios. In Western cultures, the number of people who are married by age 50 is more than 90%. That said, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. (The divorce rate for 2nd and 3rd marriages is higher than for first marriages.)
What should you consider before getting married? A 2014 University of North Carolina at Greensboro study found that in the United States, women who live with a partner prior to marriage and those who marry at age 18 have more than a 50% chance of getting divorced. Women who put off marriage or cohabitation until age 23 have a far lower divorce rate (closer to 30%). So, waiting a bit before getting married is a key indicator.
Another factor to consider is that the “honeymoon phase” most often lasts about a year. After that time, a chemical called the “nerve growth factor” starts to wear off. Lastly, friendship seems to be the best indicator of marriage success, so consider the friendship factor before tying the knot!