Research Blog #8

“Boomers Face A ‘Divorce Revolution,’ But Some Can Learn From Happy Couples”

In the special series featured on “All Things Considered,” host Michel Martin and author Barbara Bradley Hagerty speak about the trending phenomenon known as the Gray Divorce Revolution. This refers to the exponential growth in divorce rates from couples over 50 years old. Bradley Hagerty seeks to explain this trend as well as what has helped to sustain a healthy marriage. In this discussion, she cites several factors that influence higher divorce rates: previous divorce, women’s newfound independence, and the trouble of choice in a world with longer lifespans. To investigate what might influence higher levels of happiness in a relationship, she looked into research from Berkeley University. They found that couples who acted like a team, rather than two individuals, would do better in marriage. Collaboration was the key in dealing with life and its problems to maintain this relationship. She then goes on to speak about one study that explored chemical reactions in the brain of happily vs. unhappily married couples. While the unhappily married couples performed poorly in this test, after weeks of emotional therapy, they were able to improve to the level of happily married spouses. Thus, suggesting that there is hope for couples on the brink of divorce.

“When relationships are functioning well, your spouse takes a problem away. If the relationship is not functioning well, the spouse adds an additional problem.”
Immediately, I was drawn to this quote when reading the transcript for the first time. I think it profoundly simplifies the root cause of most marriage collapses. No matter the individual situation, a healthy marriage should collaboratively work together to tackle the issues in life.

“What’s So Crazy About An Arranged Marriage?”

Maura Kelly discusses the interesting benefits from a culture of arranged marriage in her article for The Atlantic. Initially, she points out the flaws in Western society and its view on romance and marriage. One major problem is the lack of commitment and confidence in relationships, with most people constantly wondering if they can do better. According to Robert Epstein, deep commitment is more important to marital success than deep connection. Therefore, arranged marriages are successful because these couples have practical attitudes and expect love to grow over time. Further, they are better prepared for tough obstacles as they believe love comes with effort and resilience. When speaking about their higher levels of contentment, he claims that members of an arranged marriage tend to focus on the positive aspects of their partner. Unlike the Western idea of “true love” and “soulmates,” they don’t have unrealistic expectations of what their spouse can do for them. While they are not suggesting that America should adopt arranged marriages, there are certainly many things to learn from its success.

“Westerners have an unhealthy tendency to think that true love can transform us…”
I love this section of the article that denounces the American idea of soulmates and “the one.” Mass media has certainly drowned us with this unrealistic notion, and it leads to many couples ending their marriage because it didn’t live up to their fantasy. Instead of believing that fate brings people together, it’s important to recognize that work and commitment are the only secrets to marital happiness.

 

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