The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia recently completed a study on what makes a solid marriage, and their findings align with some old-fashioned guidelines people have believed for decades. The study observed 1,000 young couples over five years and discovered four pre-marriage factors that contributed to good marriage relationships. As reported on the UK’s PsyBlog, these factors are:
- The fewer pre-marriage sexual partners a person has, the more likely they are to have a happy marriage. This is contrary to conventional young-adult wisdom, but study author Galena Rhodes supposed that “more experience may increase one’s awareness of alternative partners … a strong sense of alternatives is believed to make it harder to maintain commitment to, and satisfaction with, what one already has.”
- People who commit to marriage before they live together have better marriages. The study found that couples who see cohabitation as a serious commitment were more likely to be satisfied when they finally do marry.
- Couples who invite more people to their wedding tend to have happier marriages. Large, formal ceremonies were more likely to produce a high-quality marriage relationship than non-formal ceremonies. Researchers speculated the more people who witness a marriage (they recommended 150 people or more), the more seriously the couple took the commitment.
- College-educated couples who had children before marriage tended to have lower-quality marriages. Of those who got married before having a child, 44 percent went on to have high-quality marriages. But only 3 percent of those who had a child before getting married went on to be satified with their marriage relationship.
“We believe that one important obstacle to marital happiness is that many people now slide through major relationship transitions—like having sex, moving in together, getting engaged or having a child—that have potentially life-altering consequences,” wrote study co-author Scott Stanley. “Another way to think about ‘sliding versus deciding’ is in terms of rituals. We tend to ritualize experiences that are important. At times of important transitions, the process of making a decision sets up couples to make stronger commitments with better follow-through as they live them out.”