You’re probably wondering why I’m I writing about marriage on a financial blog. What does marriage have to do with finance? A lot actually, especially if you have the unfortunate experience of going through a divorce. There are two commonly cited reasons for divorce; kids and finances. I’m more interested in the financial side of things, as a divorce can have a significant impact on a person’s financial future.
From a statistical point of view, the odds of a long marriage are about as good as flipping a coin. According to a Statistic Canada report, the Canadian divorce rate sits at 40%. In addition to the high divorce rate, the report also found that the average age for divorce for men was 44.5 and 41.9 for women.
The report got me thinking beyond just finance as I continued to wonder why so many marriages end up in divorce. To be completely honest, I was alarmed by those numbers as a newlywed. Following the conclusion of the report, my biggest challenge as a newlywed isn’t the first 10 years of my marriage, rather it will be 20 or 30 plus years I should be more concerned about.
I always assumed the early years would be the most difficult in a marriage or any relationship. I based that assumption due to the possible challenges associated with learning to live with someone full-time or perhaps possible challenges associated with raising a family while balancing a marriage and career. But the report showed my assumptions, with respect to difficulty in the early years, was wrong and married couples are divorcing much later in life, not early in their marriage.
As I continue to think about the issue more, it occurred to me perhaps there was another contributing factor to married couples divorcing later on in their marriage. Perhaps before children or career challenges come into play there is a something newlyweds are not being told about marriage. That missing something, for me, is an unwillingness to be truthful about the challenges and benefits of marriage. We have a weird relationship with marriage and for the most part, we tend to highlight only the positive aspect of marriage. It’s as though we feel if we are too honest about the amount of work required for a successful marriage we might scare off the upcoming generation from wanting to get married.
A successful marriage isn’t a result of an over the top wedding or a super frugal wedding. Rather, a wedding is sufficient because it’s the starting point of your journey. It’s the point you decide to take a journey on a life long pursuit to finding out how your partner operates and how best to support them towards becoming the best person they can be.
But most people view their wedding day as the most critical day and while it is significant it’s not a critical factor to having a successful marriage. We tend to see our wedding day as the finish line and that’s why we often celebrate as though we have accomplished something when in reality we haven’t really yet (other than some legal requirement). Said differently, we tend to stop investing in our relationships after our wedding day is completed and put our relationship in an unconscious auto-pilot. We take for granted that our partner will always love us regardless of what we do because in a weird way they are now stuck with us. This type of thinking creates complacency, which will guarantee a divorce at some point.
The simple truth is marriage is it’s a lot of work. There isn’t a secret formula, it’s just a lot of work. Period. The longer a marriage goes on the greater the chances of complacency with investment isn’t continued. If you do not understand this, it’s only a matter of time before your relationship becomes another statistic. Do not fool yourself into believing a great wedding day will secure you a great marriage or starting a family will secure a long and healthy marriage. Great relationships or marriages are hard work that requires constant investment.
You can not put your marriage on auto-pilot. Ever. You have to continue to invest in your partner and your marriage to ensure it continues to grow and face the challenges ahead. A successful marriage enables you to be a better spouse, mother, father, daughter, son, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, aunt, friend, partner, employee, or business owner. My point is everything starts with your marriage being on built on a solid foundation. And if you fail to realize this, cracks will start to show up in your foundation and over time they will not be fixable unless the entire thing is demolished.
That’s why it’s important we offer newlyweds a balanced review of marriage. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it requires constant investment. Yes, it can become more difficult over time. Yes, it can be challenging at times. But it’s also extremely rewarding when done right. To acknowledge the challenges of something doesn’t mean it isn’t worth pursuing. Rather the acknowledgment of both the positive and negative attribute of something enables you to make an informed decision, while also enabling you to put a plan in place to address the negatives in order to increase your chances of success.
As a newlywed, I will end on what I’ve come to learn about marriage. The wedding day is just your starting point. There is no correlation between an expensive wedding and a long and happy marriage. To have a successful marriage you have to continue to invest in your relationship and your partner. It’s not good enough to love your partner. Instead, you should strive for your partner to love you, and equally as important, for them to like you. We all love our family but we tend to avoid hanging out with certain family members because we don’t like them.
Love can sometimes come easy but liking someone requires a constant persistent effort that can fade if that investment isn’t sustained over time. And lastly, this isn’t an easy journey and your true test will not be the first 10 years of your marriage but rather much later in your life and marriage. To ensure you’re ready for the later challenges of your marriage, continue to invest in your partner and your relationship.
A successful marriage requires constant and frequent investment in the relationship to ensure it’s longevity.