Is marriage worth it? There are a few different ways that I could approach this question. And as a Ph.D. candidate and student, I can easily approach it from the research and data perspective, which I definitely will. As a wife, I can approach it from my lived experiences. And as the CEO of Marriage Helper, I can approach it from my experience and our organization’s experience with thousands upon thousands of couples.
But I believe you are asking the question, “Is marriage worth it?” You’re reading this article because you’re struggling with yours. And you’re trying to decide, do I stay in it? Do I try and fight to make this work? Or do I need to cut my losses while I can and move on to a relationship that might be easier in the future?
Let’s look at the research that examines the benefits of marriage.
Let’s approach this from the data and research perspective. We know from research that married people are more likely to have better health physically and emotionally. They have more robust immune systems, better financial stability, and the earning power of a married couple is well above that of a single couple or couples that live together and aren’t married. They also live longer as well as having drastic decreases in rates of depression and mental illness.
Now, of course, many of these research stats that I have given you are for marriages that are doing well. And these symptoms can temporarily be exacerbated on the negative side if you are experiencing a marriage crisis. But is that a reason to divorce? What I mean by that is you could be saying, “Well, I’m more depressed right now. I’m getting sick more. We’re separated and living in separate houses, so even though we might be earning more, we’re not financially in a better place than we were.” And I understand that.
But what I’m saying to you right now is that when we look at a great marriage and what a great marriage can do for you and society, there are so many benefits to it. So from a research standpoint, marriage is worth it; the data supports it, the research supports it. But here’s what we know about research from divorce. If you’re in that space in your life where you’re saying, “I’m considering divorce, I’m wondering if it’s worth it to save this marriage or to try a new relationship with someone else”, then let’s look at what the research says about divorce.
Let’s look at what the research says about divorce.
Here’s an excerpt from an opinion piece that I wrote that was published on Fox News. Now take whatever political stance you have and just put it to the side because it’s not political. Don’t take where it was published to say it’s true or not true. So here’s what it said:
“When we look at the realities of divorce and how our culture promotes divorce as the preferred outcome of a stressful marriage situation, we see that it is a short-term benefit with long-term negatives. First, there’s an increase in stress following the divorce. The stress stems from couples suddenly becoming single parents or losing time with their kids, losing emotional support, or continued conflict with their ex-spouse, and frequently an economic decline. Divorced individuals also suffer more from social isolation, feelings of loneliness, loss of social support, and less satisfying sex lives. So it’s no surprise that one study found up to a 188% increase in the odds of depression, which coincides with research that concluded divorced individuals suffer from poorer mental and physical health.
And exiting a bad marriage is not an indicator of happiness in a future marriage. The divorce rate for second marriages hovers around 60 to 70%, with third marriages closer to 85%. Remember, this isn’t just an opinion. All of this research has been done over decades, consistently finding similar results over and over again. But while research and data show the negative impact of divorce, existing in an unhealthy marriage isn’t the answer either. According to research, the top reasons given for divorce aside from cases of infidelity were: growing apart and not being able to talk to each other, a lack of commitment, and arguing too much. But here’s the good news, most of the reasons people divorce can be repaired and fixed through behavior and a change in perspective.”
Here is the bottom line.
Dr. Mark Regnerus, a world-renowned researcher in the area of marriage and divorce, told me divorce is just the gift that keeps on taking. It does ruin people’s lives. It ruins families. That does not mean that you can’t recover from it, and rebuild, and be resilient. And the same with your children. You can, and we help people do that. Even after their marriage didn’t work out at Marriage Helper, we still believe there’s a healthy and positive future for them. But that is why we stand our ground so firmly that we believe you should do everything you can to try and save and fix the marriage that you’re in right now. But even if it doesn’t work out, you will be better prepared and set up for any potential relationship in the future.
The evidence is clear that marriages are worth fighting for and saving, even though it may seem impossible in the worst of struggles.
Unfortunately, most couples wait six years after marriage problems start before they ever begin seeking help. So it’s likely that you are at the point now where you’re asking, “Is marriage worth it?” You have been sweeping issues and disagreements under the rug for about six years, give or take. No wonder you’re fed up. So here is my expert recommendation: Try hard to work on it. Don’t compare your problems and issues to the past six-ish years that you haven’t been getting help or haven’t been implementing support.
Recognize that the hurts and pains have occurred, the regrettable events and circumstances have happened, but mark a stake in the ground to where you are now, and begin to do things to make the marriage work.
Research also indicates that when individuals start working on themselves first, it has a direct correlative impact on the satisfaction of the relationship. What does that mean? Don’t give up on your marriage because you don’t feel like things will change. Don’t make the excuse that if only your spouse would change, then everything would be better. Instead, start working on yourself and making changes.
A real story.
I’m going to share a story of how this applies and how it has worked for one of the people we have worked with, which is just one representation of thousands of people. A woman started coming to Marriage Helper, started reaching out to us, and went through our material. She and her husband eventually came to our workshop. But when she first came to us, it was because her husband was in the middle of an affair.
We know at Marriage Helper that while affairs are not good for your marriage, they typically aren’t the sole issue in the marriage either. It generally is that an affair has occurred because of years of problems that haven’t been addressed. And it led to the fertile ground for this regrettable circumstance of an affair to occur.
So this woman came to us, went through our workshops, began working on herself, became the best she could be, understood the process of how people fall in love, and did everything she could to make her marriage work. She did this faithfully for four years; even in the middle of her husband continually coming back to her, telling her that he didn’t love her, that he still wanted to be with the other woman. Yet, she held true and stayed strong. She’s put boundaries in place and did what she needed to protect herself, but she didn’t divorce him. She stayed faithful because she wanted to do everything she could to make her marriage work.
She fought hard for four years, and eventually, her husband saw not only the change in her but began to see the change that he needed to make in himself. And he came back, and they have been reconciling their marriage now for a year. And this woman is one of our coaches as well. Can you imagine how powerful she is at being our coach because she has lived through these circumstances? She realized that there were years of things before that they didn’t fix. And she wasn’t going to hold that against the marriage. She was going to do what it took to make it work. She put the stake in the ground, and she started working on it. And yes, it did take four years.
And there are many of you reading this and thinking, “I don’t think I can do that”.
You can do that. As long as you are willing to put the work in and to fight for the marriage because you realize that it’s worth it, that this is the most crucial relationship in your life, and that your family is the essential thing that you’re responsible for in your life right now. I believe you’ll find strength, even when you didn’t think that you had any. Because there is nothing that compares to feeling safe and secure in a relationship, and realizing and knowing that there is someone there who is committed to you, and you are committed to them no matter what. That you will be there for them, and they will be there for you no matter what. That is what you fight for when you fight for your marriage. And that makes marriage worth it.
We want to give you access to our free mini-course so that you can learn how people fall in love, how you and your spouse fell in love, and how you can get you and your spouse to fall in love again. We’re also going to share in there how you can begin working on becoming the best you can be; at Marriage Helper, we call it the PIES of attraction. And we’re going to give you quick tips and tools that you can begin implementing today as soon as you watch the videos to start seeing the change in you, knowing that that is going to correlate to change in your marriage as well.
Do you believe marriage is worth it? Let us know your thoughts, give us your feedback and opinion, and share this article with someone you feel needs it.
If you want to talk with one of us about your situation and the best next steps for you, contact us here.