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First Two Years of Marriage are Critical and predict Divorce
by Gloria Liven


According to Ted Huston of the University of Texas, the first two years of a marriage can reveal if the relationship will work out.

Huston became interested in questions about attraction and marriage, and wondered why some couples endure and others do not. He created the Process of Adaptation in Intimate Relationships (PAIR) project in 1979 to study couples. This research may be able to help couples decide if they want to marry-- Huston, himself, has been happily married for 35 years.

Studies in the past have followed couples that were long into marriage; Huston's study, instead, started right at the beginning, and found that the first two years are critical.


Researchers followed 168 newlywed couples for 14 years, conducting interviews and gathering information on each relationship's dynamics. After 14 years, 62 were happily married, 38 were unhappily married, and 46 were divorced.

The researchers discovered "differences between the happily married and unhappily married groups were apparent right after they tied the knot."

It can be normal to be a little depressed after a wedding, but if warning signs begin to pop up in the first year, it's not good.
Problems can arise if couples cannot successfully negotiate how to handle finances, chores, free time, sex, conflict, and differences in point of view.

In fact, a couple's dynamics are important even before marriage; good courtships tend to lead to good marriages.

The first type of divorced couples were the ones that started out with a rocky courtship; The researchers called them "early exiters" or "Country Music Romances".

The rockier a relationship is in the beginning, the quicker it is to end, they found. A relationship high in drama and arguments, such as couples that have broken up previously, are the first to go. Some courtships are high in instability and drama, with a courtship period that lasted an average of 3 years.
Couples nonetheless decide to marry, and most end up divorced 2-6 years later.
Early exiters often see themselves as not as in love as other couples, and often date for a long period of time before tying the knot; They think marriage will improve their relationship, but it doesn't.

The couples that divorce after seven years of marriage, called the "delayed-action divorcers" or "Hollywood Romances" tend to have very short, passionate courtships full of sparks and music. They got married after an average of 18 months. They seem to look at the best in each other and be in love with the idea of love. But in the first two years of marriage, their ideals fade and reality sets in.

The marriages that tend to last were the ones that started out like any other good relationship; slow and steady, unfolding over time, like a good friendship. Courtships lasted for an average of 25 months. These newlyweds were very affectionate, and both were high in positive traits like warmth, empathy, and kindness, and forgiveness. They viewed their spouse positively and their relationship was the most stable over time.

Relationships full of hollywood-like romance or intense drama at the beginning seem doomed to fail. In fact, what distinguished the divorcers from the happy couples was how quickly the relationship had changed during the first two years. Resolving conflict didn't seem the reason couples divorced, either; It was loss of love and positive feelings. Keeping a spark of love in your relationship and having fun with your spouse can keep a marriage together.

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