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What predicts the longevity of a marriage? Anna Miller wrote an article for the American Psychological Association (April 2013) and reported that several factors contribute to the probability of a marriage lasting including ethnic background, education, and socioeconomic level. In simplistic terms, Asian women and foreign-born Hispanic men have the highest rate of marital stability while African-American women have the lowest rate according to NCHS reports. Higher educated people fare better, and couples with greater financial assets generally have greater success in sustaining marriage. But one very powerful predictor of marital longevity is stress. A 2012 study by April Buck, Ph.D., and Lisa Neff, Ph.D., from the University of Texas at Austin, found that stressful situations translated into negative interactions with their partners and took energy away from the relationship (Journal of Family Psychology, 2012).
Stress can be a huge contributor to marital conflicts and dissatisfaction, especially for low-income couples who have limited resources. Military couples deal with significant stress, but have strong social support, health care, child care, and allowances for housing which helps to reduce their stress. Often our coping mechanisms for dealing with stress determines the impact on our lives. Some lash out and displace their negative emotions on to others, while others hold everything inside and internalize stress. Working through stress constructively and letting go of the emotional conflicts can build greater connection.
Lastly, couples who report dissatisfaction early on in the marriage, even before they take their vows, are more likely to experience marital unhappiness over time and with the bad only getting worse. Couples need to get help early on rather than allowing problems to fester and build over time. Few couples seek premarital counseling unless serious issues exist, but this can “nip it in the bud” before it mushrooms into something insurmountable. We can positively impact our relationships with increased awareness, minor changes, and perseverance. Next week I will discuss the latest research on making marriage last.