6 Signs Your Marriage Will Last

by Meredith Jenkins

According to Frank Sinatra, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. But statistics prove that this is not always the case. With about 50% of American marriages ending in divorce and the recent legalization of same-sex unions, it seems that the institution of marriage is boldly going where it has never gone before. This is truly exciting on many levels; however, for married couples, this can also prove somewhat nerve-racking as couples begin to explore uncharted waters.

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I’ve put together six tell tales signs that your marriage will likely last. While this list is far from gospel, it may give you and your spouse something to think about as the institution of marriage continues to evolve and become more inclusive. Without further ado, here are six signs that your happy union will endure the test of time.

1.)    You dated for some time while living separately before getting married.
According to researchers at Emory University, couples who dated for three years or more before getting hitched were 39% less likely to divorce than those who only dated for a year or less. The odds of your marriage lasting increased if you and your lover lived apart while you were dating. 

In my opinion (and I am certainly not a researcher at Emory University), I think that dating for a longer period of time allows each person to really get to know the other in casual, intimate and exiting ways. Moreover, living in different abodes allows you to have the critical “me time” necessary to explore your own feelings and slowly discover how (or if) you and your mate can truly live together as a couple. Living apart also sets the stage for your marriage in ways many people don’t consider. Marriages should not be about two co-dependent people coming together because the need each other. Instead, marriages should codify the union of two strong, independent people who share many things, but who also have lives outside of the marriage itself. No matter how connected you are to your spouse, every human being needs “me time” and your partner should not only respect that fact, but embrace it because he or she feels the same way.

2.)    You talk—like, for real.
A U.K. study showed that unmarried couples chat for about 50 minutes during an hour-long meal. On the flip side, couples married for about a decade talk for less than half of that time. Moreover, married couples with kids only talk for 10 minutes during an hour-long meal. Are you married? Do you think you and your spouse chat a lot? Let me ask you this: What percentage of your conversations are dominated by things like household maintenance, finances, child rearing and all of the important things that marriage entails? Have a number? Good. Next ask yourself: What percentage of your conversations are about other things, like a funny article you recently read, a movie you watched together or your thoughts on life? More often than not, married couples’ conversations become increasingly dominated by the former subject matter. Remember, conversations not about the daily routine of married life are what brought you together in the first place. 

Similarly, how often to answer a question or reply to a comment made by your spouse with a simple, “mmm-hmmm?” Do you even look up from your smartphone, lock eyes with your partner and give them the attention they seek when they come to you with a question? Marriages where one partner dismisses the other by responding with “mmm-hmmm” or not even looking up from their screen are, in the long run, not likely to survive.  

3.)    You increase the positive aspects of your partner.
Sure, you’re there for your spouse when they go through tough times—the death of a loved one, losing a job or a medical scare. But do you equally support your spouse when they have good news to share? If you greet news of your partner’s job promotion with genuine interest (like asking questions, celebrating with a nice dinner, etc.) it increases his or her joy and provides a genuine opportunity for you both to bond. People want to stick with those who make them feel even better about their happy moments. Never give your partner the cold shoulder during times of crisis. However, you should equally give your partner genuine positive reinforcement when they are jubilant. Would you want your spouse to be a buzzkill when you’re in a good mood? Didn’t think so.

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4.)    You didn’t have cold feet on your wedding day.
If both partners have warm feet on their wedding day, the marriage is more likely to last. It shows that you both have taken a lot of time to think about your individual needs, their individual needs and how you both want to build a life together. Cold feet often come from rushing into getting married. Take your time. Communicate openly and authentically with each other about what you each want from your marriage. With both of your respective cards on the table, when it comes time to exchange vows, you’ll both be blessed with warm feet.

Similarly, honeymoons could be a harbinger of a successful marriage. Emory University researchers found that newlyweds who took relaxing honeymoon vacation together were 41% less likely to split than those who did not take a honeymoon. When you’re budgeting for your big day, be sure to include plenty of resources for a romantic get-way after the wedding. You’ll be glad you did.

5.)    You fight fair.
What’s the #1 predictor of divorce? Contempt. Every couple has their fair share of spats. However, if you’re name-calling, eye-rolling or sarcastically mocking your spouse during a fight, you’re placing yourself in a superior position to that of your partner. It’s impossible to resolve something once disgust and superiority come into the picture. 

A close 2nd, 3rd, and 4th predictor of divorce when it comes to spousal spats are defensiveness (claiming you’re the victim), criticism (saying the problem is a result of your partner’s flawed personality) and stonewalling (shutting down and/or walking out). If your fights with your spouse include contempt, defensiveness, criticism and stonewalling, you’re not just fighting unfairly… you’re opening up your marriage to the likelihood of divorce. 

Researcher have found that couples who employ these four disastrous fighting styles creates a physiological “fight or flight” response. In this state, people are more likely to become aggressive and attack (both verbally and, possibly, physically). If you and your spouse get into a situation like this, the best thing to do is to take a 30-minute break to cool off and return your mind, body and spirit to a more normal state of being. But, be sure to set a time to reconvene so neither person feels abandoned and that the conflict does not fester without a fair resolution. 

6.)    You cultivate a culture of mutual appreciation.
Sure, you know your partner loves you and vice versa. So you don’t need to take time out of your busy day to express that appreciation towards your spouse. WRONG! Demonstrating frequent appreciation (making coffee in the morning, cleaning up a room in the house, calling to say hello, etc.) both shows your appreciation for your spouse and encourages other feel-good interactions. Researchers have shown that couples who routinely affirm their appreciation for each other are almost twice as likely to stay together.

For gay male couples, showing regular mutual appreciation is even more important than for lesbian couples. Whereas women are typically more demonstrative with others in the world, men tend to be more tight-lipped. Because of this, when they come home to their spouse, men need to feel appreciated in their marriage is extremely important. Take heed of this, men. Being married to another man makes the need for each of you to routinely demonstrate random acts of kindness towards the other all the more important. 

Take these six bits of advice to heart and you will experience love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage. 

This story could not have been possible without Time Magazine and author Kate Rockwood.