I met a guy, Christopher, whose parents divorced when he was a child. Both of his parents were abusing drugs or alcohol. He met Tara—her parents were also divorced—they fell in love, and married. On their wedding day, they told themselves that they would never have a “split family” like they had growing up.
Fast forward to about five years into their marriage. By now, they had two children. But Christopher was abusing alcohol—just like his father had done. His alcoholism took a toll on their marriage, and they divorced. Christopher and Tara split the family they swore they would keep together.
Stories like theirs can sometimes make us wonder: is there really anything that we can do to avoid divorce? Or is divorce like the weather—out of our control?
The good news is that there are things couples can do to avoid divorce.
According to one study, the best predictor that a couple will have a long-lasting marriage is if the couple has “above-average commitment.”
By “above-average commitment,” they mean the following:
1) “the extent to which spouses see their relationship in terms of ‘we’ versus ‘me’”;
2) “the importance that they attach to their relationship”;
3) “their conviction that a better relationship with someone else does not exist”;
4) “their desire to stay in the relationship ‘no matter what rough times we encounter.’”
As you can see, all of those four things are attitudes that are within a person’s control. And when a couple together shares those attitudes, they have an unbreakable bond.
I’m thinking of my own parents. They got married young—my mom was barely 19, my dad barely 21—and they had five children by the time my mom was 31. At some points, their life was very difficult. When my oldest brother, Daniel, was one year old, he suffered a seizure—and from that day on, never walked or talked again. (They found out later he had a rare genetic disease.) Growing up, he was in and out of the hospital often.
Then, when Daniel was 10, my parents were shunned by their families. We grew up Amish, and when my parents started going to another church, my parents lost the support of their large families. We moved from a big farmhouse to a tiny trailer.
It only got worse.
One year after my parents were shunned, Daniel died. A few months before he died, my brother Matthew was born, and the doctors told my parents that he too had the same rare genetic disease that Daniel had. As it turns out, Matthew was fine—but not before a couple years of lying awake through all-nighters, watching him lay sick and praying that he wouldn’t be stricken by a seizure.
Through all the suffering, my parents never once mentioned divorce. They loved each other. They committed to be with each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. They had an unbreakable bond. And last year, they celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary.
Do you know couples who have been married for a long time? Can you see any “above-average commitment” attitudes displayed in their marriage? Share your story in the comments!