Societal Programming states that if you get married and never get divorced, you are “successful.” Today, instead of talking about divorce, we’re going to talk about that smaller percentage of people who are “successful” (notice the quotes) by getting monogamously married and never getting divorced.
What exactly do most of these marriages look like? Is being married to the same person for 40 years or longer truly a happy condition these days?
As always, let’s start with the stats and the facts, at least those available to us. (Sources are linked in the asterisks.)
2. This is worse than it sounds, since “not unhappy” doesn’t mean “happy.” It usually means “neutral.” Only 17% of marriages past the three-year mark involve couples who are actually happy. [*] Here’s an interesting quote from the researcher that demonstrates exactly how most modern-day people react to these stats:
Fifty percent of marriages end, and of marriages that stay together, I think a third is happy, a third is happy enough, and a third is unhappy. If I could be in the 17% that’s happy, I’d like to get married. Otherwise I’m really happy living alone and being an uncle.
The problem, as I’ve stated before, is how do you know on your wedding day what category you’ll be in? The answer is: you don’t have any idea, no matter how amazing she is or you are. You just roll the dice with your life, finances, happiness, and future children, and wait to find out whether or not you lose them all in either a divorce or a never-ending, soul-killing marriage.
Does that sound like a smart plan?
But let’s continue.
3. 30% of long-term married people have considered divorce or separation, 25% of married people are no longer in love with their partner, 20% of married people would divorce their partner immediately if financial security was guaranteed, 15% wish they had married someone else.[*] Let’s also not forget the study I’ve referred to before, showing that if married women could do it all over again, a staggering 56% of them wouldn’t marry their husbands again or “aren’t sure” if they would (which is woman language for “I wouldn’t”).[*]
In other words, just because someone never gets divorced doesn’t mean they don’t want to.
Moreover, all of these studies are not longitudinal, meaning they’re simply a snapshot in time, right now, today. What percentage of people in the above studies who are currently satisfied with their marriage will be dissatisfied at some point in the future, like five or ten years from now?
The answer is: most.
It’s the same reason why when people say “the divorce rate is 50%,” they’re quoting something misleadingly low. That only applies to people getting divorced this year. It doesn’t apply to the millions of others who are married and happy now but who will be divorcing down the road, later. This inflates the divorce numbers. A lot.
4. The most common complaints men have regarding their wives in long-term marriages are, in order, her complaining, the fact she doesn’t want to improve herself, concern that the wife is bored with them (the husband), lack of sex, communication problems, and always feeling like the “bad guy” when it comes to parenting children.[*]
Does any of this sound familiar?
The Part You Leave Out
Because I know someone will bring this up in the comments, it’s true that occasionally you see studies like this one where researchers proudly announce that “most” married couples are happy. The first problem is the one I just described. Those are people happy right now. Statically speaking, most of those people will be unhappy later. The second and larger problem is these polls never account for one crucial aspect: the first three years.
Thus, if you did a poll of married people and didn’t pay any attention to how long they’ve been married, the happiness results would skew upwards because of all the temporarily-happy near-newlyweds included in the poll. You’ll notice that many of these polls skew heavily with people in their 20s, often mid to early 20s. Well, yeah, those are newlyweds in the ecstasy of temporary NRE. Of course they’re happy!
These marriage happiness polls can only be valid if you’re only evaluating people who have been married well past three years, when the happy, NRE honeymoon phase is over, and excluding anyone married for three years or less.
But hey, even when surveys don’t do this and include the temporarily happy NREers, you can see demonstrated above how dismal the numbers are. Imagine how much worse they would be if we removed all the younger respondents who had been married for three years or less!
I’ve encountered this dynamic for many years when talking about this. Whenever I talk about long-term monogamy not working and/or not being a path to long-term happiness, generally speaking (and yes they are always unusual exceptions), single guys overwhelmingly agree with me. Guys who have been married a long time also overwhelmingly agree with me. Yet men in newer, under-three-year mono girlfriend relationships or marriages go crazy and call me a bunch of names.
You simply can’t rationally and objectively analyze these concepts if you’re in the middle of a relatively new (“relatively new” meaning under three years) monogamous relationship (or marriage). Wait a few more years, then come back and tell me if I’m still wrong about long-term monogamy. (You won’t. After your divorce, affair, or when the wife shuts off the sex, you’ll instead send me an email about how you “should have listened to me.” I get these emails all the time.)
Longevity or Happiness?
I conducted an experiment on this blog last year regarding the concept of longevity vs. happiness, and how people tend to choose one over the other. You can read all about it here. The point today is that not only is longevity of a relationship and happiness two completely different things, but if we’re talking about something absolutely sexually monogamous and enforced by law (in other words, marriage) then longevity and long-term, consistent happens are mutually exclusive.
Do you want to be long-term consistently happy? Or do you want a consistent, 50+ relationship with the same woman where you’re never allowed to fuck anyone else and must obey at least most of her rules? Choose ONE, because you can’t have both. (And that assumes you never get divorced, and the odds are overwhelming you will, but we’re talking today about people who don’t get divorced.)
I’m going to say something that I now know with 100% conviction. My decision to get divorced almost a decade ago was one of the top three best, long-term happiness-creating decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life.
That’s saying something, because I’ve made a lot of very good and big decisions in my life. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had remained a beta and was in that same marriage to this day. Seriously, I get chills at the thought, and not good ones. And this has nothing to do with the woman I married. She was and is a good person. It has to do with what long-term monogamy does to people in the modern era. Just like having a corporate job for 40+ years, having a long-term monogamous marriage slowly sucks out your soul, freedom, testosterone, and happiness until you’re just a shell of what you once were (and again yes, there are very rare exceptions to every rule; the exceptions prove the rule).
(If you’re curious as to my other two best happiness-creating life decisions, those were to start my own business and to not go to college.)
Of course getting divorced is bad too. Divorce and marriage should be avoided if you truly want to be long-term consistently happy as a man. And for the millionth time, you can have kids under this model. If I had to do it all over again knowing what I now know, I would have simply moved in with that woman, not gotten legally married, not been monogamous (live-in OLTR instead), had my same two kids, and eventually we would have broken up amicably, she would have moved out, I would pay child support (but not alimony), there would have been no hard feelings, and everything would have been fine.
It saddens me to say it, but never getting divorced is rarely a success story in today’s era. In eras past when long-term monogamy served a real purpose, it made sense to do so. Forever monogamous marriage was a pretty good idea for that rural farmer back in 1825. But today, in a free, abundant, high-tech world where men and women have constant, unlimited options for happiness, getting married and never getting divorced is a slow death sentence for most people…when it happens, which is rare.
It’s not successful. It’s the opposite.