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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
What is the secret to a lasting marriage?
Every couple planning to marry in England and Wales is to be offered a free magazine, entitled "Married Life - a Rough Guide for couples".
It is designed to encourage couples to not only focus on their wedding day but also to think about their long-term relationships.
The aim is to help resolve potential sources of difficulty including money, housework, communication, sex and children as well as balancing work and home life.
Can such a brochure help to bring down Britain's divorce rate, currently the highest in Europe?
Are there other ways of promoting happy relationships? Is there a special formula for achieving a successful marriage?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Julie, Arequipa, Peru, South America
I think the secret to a long marriage is an obedient wife who does what she is told, a woman who serves her husband's every need sacrificing her own needs to satisfy his. Too often we are faced with women not performing up to scratch, arguing with what the man says. Man Power!
Men: Don't get married. Find yourself a woman you don't like very much and give her all your money. Because that's what happens when you get married - you get divorced, you lose your home, your children, your pension, and after tax 70% of your income!
Leaflets do not make or break relationships, attitudes do. Leaflets do not change attitudes. Until you change people's attitudes you will not improve any single aspect of this country. This is what the Government seems to fail to understand.
Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the importance of marriage in sustaining democracy. We've got concerned about Third World debt and environmental issues but current research shows that a large number of our children are struggling with life because their mother and father, for one of many reasons, couldn't stay together.
A. Hughes, England
I've been with my boyfriend for less than a year, but I've already promised that I'll be there for him through good times and bad for the foreseeable future. That seems to be all that marriage means these days, so what's the point? This way is less messy and less expensive if things do go wrong.
I am still single. Frankly speaking I am too scared of unsuccessful marriages. I wish I could see more happy couples.
As I approach my fifth anniversary, I have a good deal to be thankful for. It is an old cliché but my wife completes me in so many different ways. Every relationship is unique but the fundamentals of trust, respect, support and of course love need to be present and need to be able to change in order for a marriage to grow and deepen.
A successful partnership is not divinely given. You do not become a good wife or husband because you are married, just as in the same way you do not become a first rate driver when you pass your test. We have fallen into an age where compromise and give-and-take are sometimes seen as a weakness. It is not. I should also add that my wife still moves me in ways that surprise and delight. That feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are excited, thrilled and content to be in someone's presence should always be there and I am fortunate to say that with my wife, that buzz is still gnawing away.
Stephen Kenney, USA
LIKE, as well as love, your partner. RESPECT them as an individual and don't put them down/make them feel small, especially in front of other people (it shouldn't be a battle, but if it is remember you're on the same side). Share experiences (communicate). The downside to this is, you BOTH have to feel like this, as it takes two to make a happy marriage. Marriage is a wonderful institution when you have real love. It's a prison when one doesn't love anymore. Divorce should always be easy to obtain, as who wants to waste their life in an unhappy relationship that can't ever be put right?
Some day we will be able to produce the perfect genes for the perfect marriage. I've been a tenant in common for 30 years. A slave to the land. Partners with my late father, partners with my elderly mother, who is malevolent and manipulative, and partners with my brother who is married with kids. Life is a beach, and I have been washed ashore.
John Tate, UK
1) be best friends, confide in each other and do not break confidentiality.
2) there are sometimes days when both are irritable, do not take it too seriously, next day you will probably not understand what was the problem.
3) grant space for each other.
4) there are exceptions but, in general, do not marry too young - the risk that you grow apart is too big.
Marriage is a wonderful companionship between two persons dedicated to be there for each other.
Accept that no-one will be happy 100% of the time. Every marriage goes through bad times - the secret is to work through those times, learn not to walk away, and if you and your partner love each other, the good times are going to be just around the corner again, and your marriage will be stronger for it.
Marriages don't last because people in the First World are too materialistic and don't believe in giving up anything. When you are not ready to compromise, it's better just to date.
There is no 'recipe' for a successful marriage. In my humble opinion, most successful relationships I have seen have trust at their base, followed by all the things that go with friendship (before love) such as respect (including simple manners), common goals, selflessness, commitment and a willingness to work very hard at the relationship.
Also, I think you need to know the person you're marrying very well before you make that commitment. The happiest married people I know are comfortable with each other (faults and all) and are the very best of friends.
Jane Green, English in Italy (married to an Italian)
Marriage goes against nature and that is why there are so many people getting divorces. Marriage does not promote survival of the fittest, which is what makes a relationship a challenge. In the animal kingdom, if your mate does not provide what you need, you look elsewhere. Getting married implies that you will stay together no matter what. And that is why it fails.
Who cares? Marriage is a flawed, boring and damaging institution which is not worth saving. 50% divorce figures today reflect the fact that in the past, when divorce was not so easy, 50% (or more) of marriages were unhappy. Evidence: now that we finally have some choice in the way in which we lead our personal lives, more and more heterosexual men are choosing to stay single, and financially independent women are, as the writer Amy Jenkins admirably put it, "refusing to compromise" (with inferior partners).
Only about one-third of men have any real enthusiasm for marriage, a third are indifferent or indecisive, and the other third are opposed to it. It is the 33% in the middle which represents the danger for women, as such men can be coerced into marriage by peer pressure or drift into it as the path of least resistance - with the unfortunate results that we see all around us. The government would be more appropriately advised to put out a pamphlet entitled: "Better ways of spending your time".
Greg, Florida, USA
Marriage - what is it now? The chance of a new ring? A night out? A get together? How long do marriages last these days? NOT LONG ENOUGH...long enough is FOREVER... Till death us do part (Life Long) - whether you marry at 21 or 91. In Sickness and in Health (just that, we all need somebody, even in days of despair, that is why the partner's there). To Love and Cherish - give love while your strength is there, Cherish when you can, you don't know what tomorrow will bring. Remember to say 'I LOVE YOU' - they may be the last words you ever say!
By the way, I'm 38 and have been married 18 yrs - till death do me part, whether he likes it or not. Fortunately he loves it.
Lots of back-scratching and chocolate and talking. Love letters help too!
Any marriage can be successful if there is sincere love, loyalty, trust, mutual understanding and dedication. It is every important to maintain the sanctity and serenity of marriage as it is supposed to be life long affair.
I was lucky enough to marry my best friend, respect, treat as an equal, and most importantly - humour.
Always imagine your partners as your boy/girlfriend so as to keep up the flame of curiosity and love for each other as you were feeling when dating before the marriage.
David Hazel, UK
Marriage is a commitment, not a certificate saying you own one another. If you remember that at the end of the day you are 2 separate humans who have their own needs occasionally the marriage will definitely last and I know this because I am happily married.
I take exception to the "Alastair, UK" suggestion of "Don't have children with special needs". How ridiculous can one be? I have a special needs boy who has managed to strengthen both marriage and family.
Last night my husband suggested having a takeaway, knowing that I never turn down the offer of chips! However, I'm trying to lose weight, partly because I want to look better for him, so refused. He ordered for himself but when the food arrived he presented me with a bag of chips and told me he'd rather I was happy than thin. I think that's a pretty good illustration of the secret to a lasting marriage!
PS We shared the chips!
Choose a kind, wonderful, beautiful, caring, intelligent, strong woman. So my wife says.
My relationship is on the rocks. The lessons I can offer are: 1 Don't take your partner for granted. 2 Don't let yourself be taken for granted. 3 Keep your record/CD collections and bank accounts separate. 4 Don't have children with special needs - useless advice except that it is a warning that the relationship will suffer extra pressures. 5 Think of the children and work at getting the relationship working at a level you can tolerate 6 As parents accept that, if you are to be a good parents, you dedicate your life to your family. It's a life style choice made when you decide to be parents. It's not easy and complaining only makes things worse. 7 Ignore the above - stay single, stick with casual sex and that way the human race will eventually return to the dust where it belongs.
Secret: hard work as well as give and take - most importantly talking.
Miltos Drandakis, UK
Why should marriage last any length of time? It should as long as the two consenting parties feel loving and loved, and comfortable in it.
Never yell at one another unless the house is on fire.
There is no formula for a lasting marriage. Marriage was instituted by God and it is supposed to be a life-long covenant. The problem is that we treat it as a contract that can be terminated when things go wrong. I believe that couples who intend to marry should seek counselling from Christian Marriage counsellors or read books by Christian authors such as The Marriage Covenant by Samuel Bacchiochi. It helped when I was about to get married.
The secret to a lasting marriage? - "Yes dear".
Too many people have been conditioned to believe that they will get married and have children, as if there is an inevitability about it. Think for yourselves! I'm married, but never thought I would be. Assuming you will get married means you may settle for the wrong person.
I have been married for 34 years, my husband is my best friend, we have had to work at it but nothing in life is easy. Just be there for one an other with love.
Our golden rule: never go to sleep angry.
It is a real pain to still be arguing at 1am, but
we always sort it out and there is never any]
resentment left simmering.
It is a shame that people don't keep promises these days:
whether it is the promise to be together always or anything else.
I think too many people dive into marriage without really knowing their partner. They have lots of good times together in the early stages of romance and expect it to continue. My (now) fiancée and I have been going out together for 5 years. In this time we've endured the highs and lows so well that I now know I want to be with her for the rest of my life. Without this time prior to marriage, I could never have been so sure.
The secret is that your wife/husband should also be your best friend.
There is no magic recipe, which results in a happy and lasting marriage. Marriage is a partnership between two people and like all things, which are worth having, you need to work on it constantly. My husband and I celebrate our 25th Anniversary this year and are still as much in love as we were when we first wed. We have never taken each other for granted and have always appreciated the other's point of view. In a truly happy union there must be give and take on both sides and everything should be shared, after all we marry for better and for worse, not for better and if it gets difficult - divorce. How many of these people that produce these booklets and leaflets are actually happily married or are they just graduates who feel that experience can be learned from a book?
Never criticise or contradict - as Horace Rumpole says - "She Who Must Be Obeyed".
Mohammad Luqman, USA
Accept that the lust dies and that for the best part of your marriage you will be companions.
In my view, two of the most important points are being able to admit that you're wrong, and being able to realise when a small problem is just not worth getting hot under the collar about. A good question to ask when having a shouting match is "What the hell are we arguing about?"
Marriage is a union thought up by God so the best way to keep your marriage together is to keep God in the middle of it. Make sure you listen to Him and follow his advice in the Bible on how to be loving and tolerant. Also, make sure God's telling you to get married in the first place!
A brochure is nice, but really a bit ridiculous in the end. So long as young people are bombarded with messages selling the idea that marriages can be founded on sex and infatuation, this brochure is no more than a breath of fresh air in the midst of a hurricane.
Marriage is like buying an almond; you don't know if it tastes bitter or sweet until you've tried it.
Wise Old Persian saying
My wife and I have been married for 20 years, and are looking forward to another 20 years together, this time without kids! We have never been unfaithful to each other despite temptations, we have seen richer and poorer, sickness and health, and better and - well better again. We have had rough patches, but as this was usually related to money (or lack of) we quickly learned to put it into the unimportant tray. Our house is filled with love and laughter and cooking. I consider myself a lucky man. As to the secret to a happy marriage, I think Mark Dickinsons' comments summed it up nicely.
Ches P, Switzerland
I've been married for 8 years and the secret to a long lasting marriage is to think of it as a partnership, where husbands and wives work together to make it a success...as long as my wife says it's ok.
Without a doubt marriage is something that has to be worked on. It doesn't come easy, and there are no hard and fast rules. My wife and I have been together for 12 years, and married for only 4 of them. I think the biggest gift you can give to your partner is the ability to laugh, no matter what is thrown at you. The ability to communicate is also very important, for the ability to share thoughts and feelings without them being ridiculed is important. People change throughout their marriages, and both partners should be able to recognise and accept these changes. My wife and I have been together for more than a decade now, and by far the last four years have been the best.
Isn't marriage a bit out-dated now anyway? I've never had the urge to dress in a ridiculous-looking, frilly, white frock and step into the spotlight for a day! Neither have I ever wanted to hand my life over to another human being as if they were going to do anything more interesting with it than I would! Could that be why my marriage only lasted 3 years and I've been happily divorced for almost 18 years now???? Where's that magazine .....
Marriage would be a more successful institution if it were an option for all couples who wish to be married, regardless of gender.
Andrew Kilgour, UK
So long as the wife can keep quiet during the football and save whatever she's got to say until the adverts at half time, any marriage has a chance.
Marriage is for insecure people, who require a slip of paper to convince themselves that their partner will not leave them. Which if you do get married generally happens!
I've been married for ten years. Some wisdom we were given that we have always cherished and passed on to others getting married is 'Always remember, you're on the same side!' Another thing - if you are the most important person in your life, your marriage is on a rocky foundation. If your spouse is the most important person in your life, you're on to a good start.
When entering marriage, check your ego at the door.
M. Innes, South Africa
Love is as much the 'will' as any feeling or emotion. Unfortunately words such as compassion, fidelity, sacrifice and commitment seem to have gone by the wayside.
I hope that everyone getting married is as happy as I tell my wife she is.
Surely the key is to not get married in the first place... it's an outdated, silly, overly romanticised and archaic institution!
I have to disagree with Michael Entill, UK, who said that the decision to get married or get divorced is nobody's business except the individuals directly involved. When couples divorce, not only are the children affected, but also society. Most divorced mothers find themselves on welfare or receive some other form of assistance. Public housing becomes necessary. Meanwhile, many of the men who abandon the family, or who force the issue by their abuse, go on to begin new families with new children. Many do not pay support.
I think that this is a wonderful idea because education is the key to success in almost any endeavour, including marriage.
Well, being with some one who isn't insane helps as does a fit wife, loads of cash, and high-strength lager to help you through those "rocky" patches. That's what has made my last seven or so marriages a complete success......
Don't have kids! They are ungrateful, demanding, mess up your stuff and get in the way of having a good time.
Other than that talking to each other and equal sex drives help.
As a bride-to-be with an August wedding on the horizon, I am taking heart at the amount of advice saying "you should marry your best friend". That's what we're doing. It's our first marriage each (and hopefully the last!) and you can't say we're exactly rushing into it - I'm 36 and he's 32. The wait was worth it.
I will happily read whatever advice comes my way on the subject from experienced people. In a society where divorce is so easy, I want to stay married and am not too ignorant to think we know all the answers.
Marriage is actually a fantastic institution. It's the care given to it that makes the difference. Servicing a car will make it run longer. Developing communication skills will make a marriage work well. People bumble along not thinking and talking about what's ahead. Learn to communicate more, and you'll learn to love more.
Ken Beach, Germany
People seem to correlate a "successful" marriage with a lasting marriage. There is only a problem with high divorce rates because the Government has declared it a "problem". If a relationship comes to a conclusion does this always mean it is a failure? My parents divorced after many years of unhappiness, trying to hold together something that clearly wasn't working. I think they are happier now.
The problem is that we live in a throwaway society where if something isn't working you throw it away, you don't attempt to sort through or fix the problems.
You have to work through the bad times and enjoy the good times.
A brochure will probably not mean too much to newly married couples, although it would be a nice thing to pull out of a box 50 years from now and smile at together.
I agree with Karen, the problem is not marriage break-up but relationship break up. By imposing a period of cohabitation before a marriage licence is issued, you would weed out the short term lust affairs from the long-term love affairs and as a result the divorce rate would drop significantly.
Having seen few successful partnerships, my point of view is that the best relationships are built by two people, who, if they had never met each other, would have been happy and comfortable facing life alone. If you are scared of being alone, you may be surprised how lonely it can feel to be together.
You have to be in love.
The best way to prepare for marriage is to work out what you expect from it and that those expectations 'marry' up with your partner's. If they don't then you're going to have serious problems. If they do then you'll be fine (highs and lows though).
Also it would be an idea to step back and ask yourself WHY you are getting married. The answer to that question may be quite interesting.......
S. Cole, UK
From my experience, the bedrock of a successful marriage is for both partners to be genuinely good friends with compatible long-term goals. Everything should then naturally flow from there - the respect, the mutual support, the affection, the giggles and everything else that makes communal living worthwhile.
The key to harmony in our house is for me do my wife's bidding at all times.
Knowing when something is important to your wife/ husband so that you should allow them their way in the hope that when the roles are reversed they will do the same for you.
Don't try to dominate and control their lives. Everyone, even married couples need their independence.
Be faithful, no affairs.
Having just celebrated 10 years of marriage, I would say that being best friends with your partner is a good base for marriage, as well as coping with the bad times as well as the good. It seems that these days some couples go through a bad time and give up without trying to work through it. This brochure may help those getting married and give some good advice (I haven't read any details), but will it be any good when they start arguing and forget everything they may have read?
1. Keep separate bank accounts
This is exactly what we don't want - more literature trying to sum up life in a few sentences. Marriage is an integral part of a complex community organism which has been eroded throughout several generations of liberalism. Until it is underpinned with love and support from those around the couple and not with silly rules, fear and easy get-out clauses, the situation will not improve. Marriage is a sacred and lifelong commitment which cannot and must not be treated as just another social or political experiment.
Michael Entill, UK
While I can't always claim to practice what I preach, the lessons distilled from my 11 years of marriage seem to be:
1. Listen to one another
Divorce is too easy and a brochure will not discourage it. The Government must make marriage an attractive option in an age where it is no longer frowned upon to 'live in sin'. I currently live with my fiancée and have done for over two years. We are getting married, because we believe it is right. However no other reason prevails as I feel that buying a house together is more of a commitment and harder to get out of.
My parents have been happily married for the last 28 years and are still as affectionate with one another as ever. Their success seems to be putting each other as their main priority. Throughout their marriage they have always put each other's needs first and have always been fully supportive of one another. Respect, consideration and love seem to be the vital ingredients to a strong marriage and their example is one I truly hope to replicate one day.
16 May 01 | Education
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