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Premarital Couples: Is There a “Best” Age To Get Married?

Premarital Couples: Is There a “Best” Age To Get Married?

Does How Old You Are When You Marry Matter?

We do a lot of premarital counseling at Growing Self, and so I’m always interested in sharing information about all matters related to creating a happy marriage, and a lifetime of love. I recently had the privilege of speaking with Kristen Skovira of Denver 7 about a topic that I find fascinating: Recent research suggesting that there is an “ideal age” to get married — and lower your chance of divorce. I thought I’d share the highlights of our interview with you.

The “Sweet Spot” For a Successful Marriage

Nicholas H. Wolfinger, a sociologist at the University of Utah, has compiled data in family research which suggests that there is in fact a “sweet spot” for getting married. People who get married between the ages of 27 to about 31 have a lower likely-hood of divorcing than younger couples, OR couples who marry in their later thirties and forties.

 

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Why Do Older or Younger Couples Seem To Have More Problems

No one knows for sure, but I have a few theories:

1) Couples who marry in their late twenties may have personality factors and life circumstances that support happy marriages. 

There is lots of research documenting factors that support successful marriages. These include higher levels of education, higher socio-economic status, as well as personal factors such as strong commitment, values around marriage and family, responsibility, and conscientiousness.

People who get married in their late twenties have given themselves time to get through college and / or graduate school, and get established in a career — evidence of personal responsibility and conscientiousness. However, they have also prioritized finding a mate, and cultivating a relationship. (As opposed to spending six years hiking through Eurasia, messing around in the Peace Corps, or spending 80 hours a week clawing themselves up some corporate ladder).

Their life decisions may reflect their core values, which is “marriage and family is very important to me.” Having that core value may help sustain their commitment to the inevitable ups and downs of marriage during years to come, as well as seek out support that will help them nourish their relationship during hard times.

In contrast, people who delay marriage until later life may not have the same priorities around marriage and family. (Although many older adults absolutely do — they just haven’t found the one yet).

2) People who marry later may be carrying “relationship baggage” into their new marriages. 

Swapping out one relationship for another doesn’t necessarily change you. People who have had a string of relationships through their twenties and thirties may be repeating the same negative relationship patterns with a succession of new partners. If they don’t do some work to identify and fix their rigid and unhelpful ways of relating in relationships, they are likely to carry those destructive patterns with them when they finally do marry. This is particularly true if marriages are fueled by anxiety as well as love. (As in, “I’m thirty-seven and I really need to get married — stat.”)

Furthermore, all of us usually learn how to “do relationships” from our families of origin. The fact is that people in their 30’s and 40’s are children of the 70’s and 80’s — decades when divorce rates were at an all-time high.  Many Gen Xers and Gen Yers often did not have good models for how to repair and nourish healthy, happy marriages.  Their parents chucked it when it got hard, and chose to look elsewhere for their happiness. People who did not have good role models in the relationship department often need to get some guidance on “How To Do Relationships” — particularly if repeated relationship disappointments suggest that they may have room for improvement. Without using failed relationships as an opportunity for learning and growth, they’re likely to repeat negative patterns in new ones.

3) Blended family situations are very difficult.

The info-graphic we’re discussing is specific to first-time marriages. But I feel that it would be irresponsible for me to not touch upon a major factor impacting people who marry when they are older: Blended family situations.

Many older couples-with-kids (even those who love each other very much, and are extremely excited about getting married to each other) are absolutely shocked by how difficult negotiating blended families can be. The higher divorce rates for second and third marriages reflect the grim reality: Blended families are uniquely challenging.

There are many reasons why blended families and step-families are hard. Most couples attempting step-parenting require support and guidance as they work through the turbulent first years of creating new family roles, figuring out boundaries with each other’s kids, and supporting each other as parents — while establishing a strong marriage. It can be emotionally harrowing. Couples who successfully establish happy blended families do so through a great deal of intentional effort. I believe that statistics on divorce rates for older couples reflect the challenge that many blended families face.

Statistics Are Not YOUR Reality

But here’s the truth — MOST couples have lovely, happy marriages no matter what age they marry. Divorce rates are falling, and half of what they were at their peak in the 1980s. Furthermore, statistics don’t account for personal factors. I personally have been with my husband since I was nineteen years old, and got married when I was twenty-two. According to this nifty chart, I should have gotten divorced a long time ago. Twenty years on, we’re happier than ever.

One way to ensure that you have a happy, satisfying, and secure marriage — no matter what age you are — is to get involved in high quality premarital counseling before you get married. Premarital counseling allows you to get on the same page going in to your marriage, and to solve potential problems before they even become a thing. It’s the responsible thing to do.

All the best,

— Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

P.S. Growing Self Counseling and Coaching offers both private premarital counseling sessions in Denver, as well as our wildly popular premarital class, “A Lifetime of Love,” taught by Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists Meagan Terry and Brenda Fahn. Learn more about our premarital counseling and premarital class opportunities, and let us help you create a lifetime of happiness together…

Planning a Wedding? Ask a Wedding Expert!

How to Create a Lifetime of Love

How to Create a Lifetime of Love

You can have an amazing marriage that lasts a lifetime.

Smart, successful couples know that having a high quality relationship or marriage requires insight, effort, and practical skills. The good news is that everything you need to know to have a wonderful, satisfying marriage can be learned.

In particular, there are a few basic areas that couples need to focus on in order to have a happy relationship:

1) How to communicate.

How to you express your feelings? How do you ask for what you need? How do you approach your partner when you want to talk about something? How do you solve problems together? Any one of these moments can be opportunities to strengthen your partnership… or have hurt feelings and a fight. When you focus on hearing your partner’s perspective, and communicating compassionately (instead of to “win”) you are much more likely to have a good outcome.

2) Understanding each other.

I don’t have to tell you that people may seem one way when they are feeling another. For example, people often seem angry when they feel hurt. People often seem distant when they feel anxious. In order to have a successful relationship, you both need to “decode” what each other is communicating accurately. So think about the more vulnerable feelings like anxiety, shame or hurt that might be driving some of your partner’s behavior. When you can understand and respond to those feelings, you will have greater opportunity for connection.

3) How to deal with differences, constructively.

All relationships have inevitable conflict. People simply have differences of opinion. But how you handle these moments can make or break a marriage. Every point of conflict is an opportunity to have a bonding conversation that deepens your connection… or that drives a wedge between you. Consider that every friction point is an opportunity for a new agreement. When approached in that spirit, every difference becomes a “growth moment” that drives your relationship forward.

4) How to keep the best parts of your relationship strong.

To shamelessly misquote Issac Newton, “Unless you add energy, things fall apart.” Oh how true this is for a marriage. Staying in a good place with each other, and keeping your marriage fun, positive, satisfying and passionate requires you both to pay attention, and be making deposits into your “love bank.” But what kinds of deposits? When? Why do your efforts to “make deposits” sometimes fall flat? If the golden rule is to “Do unto others as you’d like done to you,” the platinum rule is to “Do unto others as they’d like for them.” In other words, think about what’s actually meaningful and important to them, and then be generous.

5) How to get on the same page.

All couples need to create agreements around big issues like how to handle finances, household responsibilities, sex, parenting, setting boundaries with friends and family, and much more. All of these areas can either become battlegrounds OR bring you closer together and become the very fabric of your strong partnership. Spend time investing in “this is how we do things” conversations and strategies so you both know what your roles are, and how you’re going to solve practical conversations together.

6) How to support each other’s hopes and dreams.

Sometimes couples feel like they are getting pulled in different directions, and growing apart instead of together. When this happens you can begin to feel resentful of each other’s interests and successes, instead of happy, proud and supportive. You can be each other’s number one fan again. More importantly, you can have goals, hopes and dreams that take you in the same direction. Working together brings meaning to your marriage that few other things can. Cultivate the perspective that you’re on the same team.

You can LEARN how to have a better relationship.

If these pointers remind and inspire you to do what needs to be done in order to have a better relationship, then my work here is done.

But if you’re reading through these tips and thinking “Yeah, that sounds great, but I / we don’t know how to to that…” then consider investing in “relationship education.” The truth is that all these are relationship skills that can be learned.

Starting on Monday March 30th Growing Self is proud to offer “A Lifetime of Love” which is a six week relationship class designed to teach you both these strategic skills. We originally created it for premarital couples but found that many established couples benefit from it so enormously we decided to open up to everyone that wants to improve their relationship.

This is a fun, lighthearted, and smart class that gets right to the point about what you need to do to have a better relationship. You’ll leave every class with new experiences, ideas, and skills that you can start practicing right away.

The next session of Lifetime of Love starts Monday March 30th at 6pm, at our Cherry Creek location. The class is taught by our resident relationship expert Meagan Terry. The class meets every Saturday for 6 weeks and is only a fraction of the cost of private marriage counseling. Click here to learn more about the best relationship class in Denver, and register online. Space is limited!

Growing Self Premarital Counseling Class Denver Colorado

The Biggest Mistake Engaged Couples Make…

The Biggest Mistake Engaged Couples Make…

… Is Skipping Premarital Counseling.

If you want a healthy, happy marriage that lasts a lifetime, premarital counseling is not optional. Trust me. I’ve been a Denver marriage counselor now for a decade, and I have worked with countless couples who struggled with enormously as a result of not addressing some problems prior to getting married.

Make premarital counseling a priority as you’re planning for your wedding. You can either do private premarital counseling one-on-one with a marriage counselor, or take a premarital counseling class. Just be sure you do it!

Here’s why:

1) Your relationship will be much more resilient.

Couples who go through good marriage counseling together have stronger marriages.  It’s easier for couples who’ve done PMC to weather inevitable hardships together, because they’ve talked openly and honestly, in advance, about the areas of friction the’ll encounter in married life, and how to handle them.

Knowing about the possible vulnerabilities of your relationship, and planning in advance for how to address them together will make it much more likely that you will be able to handle them effectively as a couple when they arise.

Think of premarital counseling as being kind of like a fire-drill for inevitable marriage issues you will have. You’ll both know exactly where the fire extinguisher is, what to do, and be able to put the fire out before it burns down your house.

2) You’ll learn practical skills that will make being married easier.

It can take a looooooong time — with lots of yelling and smashed plates — for couples to work out fairly basic life-skills together, like how talk to each other, how to manage finances, who is in charge of what around the house, how we handle boundaries with our families of origin, how we’re going to deal with religion once we have kids, and how we spend our time on the weekends. Even the simplest things can turn into fights when someone starts using “that tone” and constructive conversations about how to solve problems can start to feel very difficult.

It simply does not need to be that hard. Premarital counseling is all about teaching you skills need to solve problems when they first start to come up. Better yet, it allows you to come to agreements before they even become problems — allowing you to head yucky feeling fights off at the pass.

For example, couples who meet with us for premarital counseling do hands-on activities together like creating budgets, negotiating household responsibilities, learning about boundaries, and — most importantly — how to talk to each other, particularly in emotionally charged situations. Having these concrete skills in place before you get married will allow you to spend a lot more of your time in the few years of your marriage enjoying each other, and less time spent screaming at each other about who’s turn it is to take out the trash.

3) It will prevent you from having the “You’ve Changed” conversation 5 years from now.

Neither of you are perfect, and you both have hopes and dreams, opinions and preferences, habits and expectations that may be very different from each other. It’s not important that you are in exact alignment about every aspect of your life — you’re different people, and that’s a good thing. What is important that you have a full picture of who it is that you’re marrying so that you can decide in advance if the things they are bringing to the table are going to be okay with you in the long run.

Before you get married, it’s important to understand what those differences are, and whether the positive aspects of your relationship outweigh the negatives.  You need to know before you get married what things about your beloved that are probably NOT going to change, and whether you can live with them for the next 50 years.

Getting Married is a Big Deal. Do it Right.

Make premarital counseling a priority as you plan for the big day. Five years from now you won’t remember the flowers or what was in the clever gift-bags, but if you do premarital counseling you will likely be drawing upon the skills that you learned about how to have a happy and healthy relationship with each other.

Growing Self Counseling and Life Coaching offers private premarital counseling sessions with one of our expert marriage counselors. And this winter we’re very pleased to be presenting our Premarital Counseling Class, “A Lifetime of Love.” It meets for 6 weeks on Mondays starting February 9th at 5pm, at our Cherry Creek location.

Learn more about our Denver Premarital Counseling Class: A Lifetime of Love


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