It was Parents’ Weekend during our daughter’s freshman year at college. The ladies cross-country team had arranged a dinner for the parents. As we dined on ravioli at a local restaurant, it dawned on me that I was sitting in the middle of a statistical anomaly.
Every team member had a parent there, and of 20 young women, only one set of parents was divorced. With the national divorce rate reportedly hovering around 65%, why was the divorce rate only 5% in this group of families?
In doing some research, I found out some interesting facts, one being that the divorce rate is difficult to calculate. It is estimated to be between 40% to 60%, depending on what factors are used. I did discover that as the level of education rises in a marriage, the divorce rate plummets. As income rises, the divorce rate drops. Also, in stable marriages, the educational and income levels of adult children rises.
What I observed at Parents’ Weekend was not an oddity at all but in fact normal for families with college students.
What came first, though, the stable marriage or the educational and financial success?
A doctor friend of mine spoke of a fellow physician who retired at age 55 after his children had graduated from college. When asked at his retirement party how he was financially able to retire at a young age, the doctor smiled and said, “One house. One wife.”
For this doctor, an intact well-working marriage provided financial and emotional stability to family life. What a present for children.
Dr. Robert Shaw, in his book, The Epidemic, has a thought-provoking list, 15 Ways to Ruin Your Child and Your Life.
First on his list is, “Don’t plan ahead. Don’t think early on about arranging a secure home in which to raise a child. Especially, don’t pick a husband or wife with character traits that would make him or her a true partner and supporter as you rear your children.”
Deborah, a friend whose parents divorced when she was ten, still hopes that her parents will reunite. Deborah told me, “Mom and Dad will both be here for Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t it be great if….” For Deborah, 40 years later, the wish for an intact family remains.
Creating a happy marriage is difficult work. Victoria, married over 30 years, told me, “I always cry at weddings because the bride and groom have no idea how much work is ahead of them.”
Victoria is right, but a new couple has no idea of the happiness and joy that will come their way if they will do the work.
Dr. John Gottman in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, tells us not to focus so much on conflict resolution as in developing shared meaning and a sense of purpose into our marriage. The basis of Dr. Gottman’s approach is to “strengthen the friendship that is at the heart of every marriage.”
Take the time every day to strengthen your friendship with your life’s partner. It’s a great gift to each other.