Secret to a happy marriage is getting through the first 20 years, study says
When was the happiest time in your marriage?
New research from the United States has shown that for many couples the happiest period is after they hit the 20-year milestone.
That’s around the same time couples’ participation in shared activities begins to increase and perhaps coincides with adult children leaving home.
While we know that not everyone in a successful long-term relationships has tied the knot, we asked ABC Radio Melbourne listeners for their thoughts on whether marriage became better after 20 years.
You just need the right 4WD
“It’s like a rocky road at times so you need the appropriate 4WD vehicle equipped with tolerance, empathy, similar moral and ethical values and filled with lashings of kindness,” Frank from Panton Hill said.
He has been married for 39 years.
“I’ve got a lovely marriage and it is not easy at times, particularly bringing up kids and the pressures of mortgages and financial stuff and other stuff that gets in the way, but it is really worthwhile.
“It’s for the long haul, it’s for a lifetime, so you make a real solid adult commitment to the marriage.
“My wife, when we got married, she chose a poem to be read at the service. It’s about the oak and the elm. You don’t stand together so close that one shades the other, you let each other stand apart and grow into their own tree so that they don’t shadow each other.
“I think that’s really important. I think you need to let the other person be themselves.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will celebrate their seventh wedding anniversary on April 29. (Tony Gentile: Reuters)
When a roadie met a punk
Andy from Torquay celebrated his 29th wedding anniversary last Sunday.
He was 25 when he and his wife married.
“We were introduced by mutual friends at the Prince of Wales Hotel in St Kilda. I was a roadie for a grunge band at the time and my wife was a punk,” he said.
His advice to other couples in the early years of married life was to “just stay the course”.
“Things do get rocky, they do get bumpy, but if you do honestly love each other, you will overcome those things,” he said.
“You have to understand that life is going to throw certain things in your way and they’re not necessarily deal-breakers.
“You just have to work together to find a way around them or over them and it is so well worth it in the end.”
It’s what you don’t say
Gail said the secrets to a happy marriage were the five things a day you don’t say.
She has been married for 29 years but admitted she didn’t always remember this wisdom.
Love, laughter and listening
Barb from Dandenong has been married for more than 40 years and has four amazing children.
“I firmly believe in the three Ls — love, laughter and listening.”
Like good wine
Lana has been married for 42 years.
“Married life is better than ever,” she said.
“It is like a good wine and gets better as time goes by.”
Compromise and negotiation
Duke from Macleod has been married for 43 years.
“The secret is tolerance to change in body shape, acknowledge [your] partner’s achievements, you marry your partner’s family [and] being prepared to compromise and negotiate your point of view.”
Chinese diver Qin Ki proposed to silver medalist He Zi during the medal ceremony at the 2016 Rio Olympics. (AP Photo: Michael Sohn)
When the wheels spin smoothly
One anonymous listener texted in to pass on some advice her mother-in-law gave her when she was first married.
“You spend the first years knocking the teeth off the cogs. After 30 years our now wheels spin smoothly … just a little sand every now and then to keep it interesting.”
Breakfast host Sami Shah said most of his friends in Pakistan had arranged marriages.
“In large parts of the world it’s just a common thing to happen,” he said.
“I’m not particularly a fan of the format but it does take place and some people swear by it.
“Arranged marriages are interesting because they have different expectations from a love marriage.
“In a love marriage you meet someone and you think you are the perfect person, that’s your expectation, and then you can only be disappointed from there.
“In arranged marriages, your only expectation is please don’t be a serial killer and your expectations can build from there.
“So you start one with low expectations and one with high and it’s about where you go from there.”
One thing’s for sure, marriage isn’t all smooth sailing. (ABC Open contributor Simon Pickering )
An expert opinion
Deakin University associate professor Gery Karantzas said the study, published in the journal Social Networks and the Life Course, bucked the trend of what had been found in most previous studies.
He warned 20 years was by no means a “magic number”.
“We also know that the divorce rate actually spikes between 20 and 25 years of marriage,” he said.
“I guess the moral of the story is we [as academics] tend to look at the kinds of things that make relationships work, what are couples doing on the ground?
“The things that we do know is that being able to resolve conflicts effectively, being able to ride out challenging times in a relationships really does matter, as well as the ability to kind of trust your partner, and to ask for help as well as to give the right kinds of help when it’s needed to a partner.
“These kinds of things are key things that we know keep relationships ticking over, irrespective of how long couples have been together for.”