Marriage Statistics: Do Marriages Really Last?

Updated February 28, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Marriage is an often-discussed topic. Although most people have a story about someone they know who has been married for many years and loves being married, the same people can also usually point to someone who had a horrendous marriage and similarly atrocious divorce. Marriage, though it promises starry eyes forever and unending declarations of adoration, often results in anger, frustration, and resentment. This begs the question: do marriages really last?

I'm Worried My Marriage Won't Last

Defining Marriage: What IsModern Marriage?

Marriage is defined as a legal contract between two people, wherein they and their belongings are united. Although the dynamics within marriages might not always reflect this-- some people maintain separate bank accounts or vehicles, for instance-- the legal side of marriage is about sharing assets.

Marriage requires both parties to get a license from the city, county, or state in which they live, which is then signed by someone from the clergy or a justice of the peace to declare the marriage legally binding and legitimate. While many marriages incorporate religious ceremonies or similar beliefs, modern requirements for marriage focus less on the religious aspects of the union than on the legality of the transaction.

What Are theBenefits of Marriage?

There are numerous benefits of marriage, in many different aspects of life. Marriage has benefits in physical, emotional, sexual, and monetary realms. (And note that you do not have to be on your first marriage to reap these benefits.)

To begin with, marriage is linked to greater physical health. Married people are less likely to have heart conditions, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular illnesses and are more likely to seek treatment for existing illness. This may be because partners hold one another accountable and encourage each other to see a doctor if something seems amiss, or it may be because partners want to have as much time as possible together. Whatever the reason, research shows that married people live longer.

Married people also demonstrate better emotional health. People who are married consistently report higher levels of life satisfaction and overall happiness when compared with people who do not have a spouse. There are many possible reasons for this, among them the notion that having a committed partner with whom to experience life is a great source of joy, as well as the idea that such partners are more likely to tend to their needs than people who do not have someone with whom to express their feelings and desires.

Married people also have more sex than their single counterparts. Although the joke exists that marriage means the death of a couple's sex life, married couples actually have more sex than single people. This is likely due to simple availability: single people and those in short-term relationships simply do not have the same availability to sex as those with long-term, committed partners.

Finally, there are tax benefits to being married. When you are married, you may be entitled to tax breaks that people who are single or in long-term relationships but not married are not privy to. These laws vary from state to state, but marriage can be provided tax benefits not only during both partners’ lifetimes but also after one of the partners of the marriage has died.

Despite the fact that marriage is primarily a legal arrangement, most people believe that the purpose of marriage is to solidify one’s commitment to a partner they love. One study found that 88% of people believed that the best reason to marry was being in love with someone, and 81% believed that marriage is a good thing because it means forming a life-long attachment to someone.

How Many People Are Actually Getting Married?

Marriage rates differ based on age and gender, but at least 90% of men and women aged 50 and over are married or have been married. This means that the vast majority of the population has gotten married at some point in their lives. At least 69% of men and 76% of women between the ages of 15 and 50 were married or had been married.

The timing of first marriages has changed quite a bit since the 1990s. While women used to be younger when entering into their first marriage, women are now, on average, aged 28 when they first get married, while men are, on average, aged 30. Although the ages at which people are getting married are changing, the rates of marriage themselves are remaining relatively stable, with a small decline of around 8% in marriage overall.

How Common Is Divorce?

Divorce rates vary from community to community and differ greatly in different age groups. The divorce rate is higher in older populations, for instance, than in younger generations; more older marriages are failing, while younger marriages are thriving. The statistics on divorce can be difficult to nail down, but most suggest that between 1 in 3 and 40% of first marriages end in divorce, with each subsequent marriage havinga larger likelihood of ending in divorce. For second and third marriages, statistics show the divorce rate being ashigh as 60-80%.

What Factors Encourage Longer-Lasting Marriages?

I'm Worried My Marriage Won't Last

What seems to be the greatest factorin whether a marriage is happy or successful is the presence of positive feelings. One psychiatrist found that neither the number of fights a couple has nor the duration of fighting was a reliable indicatorof a couple's happiness with or commitment to one another. Many couples who fought-- even in seemingly unhealthy ways-- continued to have longstanding, loving relationships, provided that their negative interactions with one another were outweighed by positive interactions by a ratio of 5 to 1. This suggests that long-lasting marriages are more a result of a couple continuing to choose one another than any other cause.

The origin of your relationship can also play a role in whether your marriage lasts. People who have a strong foundation of friendship from the outset are more likely to have a lasting marriage than people who began their union based on infatuation orpassionate lovemaking. It is not that relationships that have sex or passion as a base cannot survive, but passion usually fades over time, and marriages that can evolve into close friendship are more likely to go the distance.

Practicing forgiveness is another key aspect of making sure your marriage lasts, as holding onto grudges and indulging in constant complaints or criticisms of your partner breeds resentment and anger. Resentment and anger are not necessarily responsible for obliterating marriages but certainly, contribute to their downward spiral. Marriages that last involve two people who are willing to forgive one another-- and themselves-- for mistakes they've made, including harsh words they might have spoken in the midst of a fight.

The willingness to work is the final factor in whether or not a marriage will last. Making a marriage work is difficult and requires plenty of attention, effort, and sacrifice. Making your marriage work might mean bringing in a therapist at some point to help you work together toward a healthier future, or it might mean putting aside some of your individual dreams in the pursuit of dreams. People who are willing to put in time and effort are far more likely to maintain their marriage than those who are seeking an easy, straightforward path.

Do Marriages Truly Last?

"Is marriage outdated? Is it still worth a try at this age when marriage doesn't last anymore?" Whether or not marriages last depends on the people involved, their backgrounds, and their levels of commitment. For some, challenges like infidelity are the nail in the coffin, while others consider setbacks such as these bumps in the road toward spending their life with someone. Some people see marriage as an eternal commitment--or at least a life-long one-- while others see it as something that can be terminated if their expectations are not quite met.

Whether marriages last also seems to be dependent on the support systems spouses have in place. People who come from families where divorce is the norm are more likely to get divorced, while people who come from families where divorce is rare are more likely to remain married to their first partner. This is not necessarily an indication of some sort of family flaw or drawback but instead illustrates the likelihood of different types of support. People who have been divorced may be more likely to encourage others to take that step, while people who have remained in their ownmarriage may be more likely to encourage others to stick it out no matter what.

Finally, although there are situations in which marriage is no longer a viable option–for example, when abuse is at play-- many people have found that virtually every challenge found within an essentially healthy marriage can be worked through and overcome with the right support system, dedication, and attitude.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

Online Therapy for Couples

Online therapy can be an effective way for couples, including married couples, to receive counseling.One qualitative study of 15 couples receiving online counselingfound that clients’ impressions of the experience were overwhelmingly positive.Many clients commented on how immersed they felt in the process, and somewhat surprisingly, some couples reported thatfeeling a bit more “distant” from the therapist gave them a greater sense of control and comfort. Overall, couples felt that the online process enhanced the therapeutic alliance, which is the single greatest predictor of therapy success.

The Benefits of Online Therapy

As discussed above, online therapy can be an exciting option for spouses wanting to improve their marriage, especially as it can be difficult to find time in two busy schedules for in-person therapy. This is where BetterHelp comes in.  Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“Geraldine has been a great help from our first session. I thought I was starting therapy to only boost my confidence but quickly found there were several underlying unresolved issues hindering not only my relationship with myself but with others. Geraldine believes in doing the “hard” work (surgery) so you can handle all of life’s stressors and enjoy all the life has to offer.”

“I am so happy BetterHelp matched me with Lisa! I think that’s one of the advantages of the BetterHelp platform. Since there is a greater number of therapists in their network and you aren’t restricted by region, you’re able to be matched to someone that really fits your needs. Anyways, back to Lisa - I’ve been seeing her weekly for about 2 months and she’s been a great listener and communicator. She also lightens the mood when needed. It’s hard to talk about your feelings, but Lisa makes it easier. She’s been super helpful with my past and current family problems. Cannot recommend her enough in this short review.”

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