Waiting at least three years or until you know each other ?very well? decreases your likelihood of divorce by 50%.
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Researchers at Emory University surveyed more than 3,000 currently or previously married people about various aspects of their weddings and marriages in general. The study found lots of interesting information, but what I was most interested in was the correlation between the length of the dating period and how long the marriage lasted.
Specifically, couples who waited three years or more before marrying decreased their likelihood of divorce by 50%.
I?m about to tell you something that only one other person in my life knows, and it?s because he is directly involved: I am getting married in September. I should say remarried because this is take two for the both of us.
The statistics cited earlier do not support the success of second marriages. Since both of us have had previous marriages, we are actually 90% more likely to get divorced than if this was a first marriage for both of us.
?A lot of data shows that second marriages should be more successful than first marriages,? says Tara Parker-Pope, author of For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage. But this statistic is skewed by serial marriers, ?and no one has yet found a way to take the Larry Kings and Elizabeth Taylors out of the equation.?
My partner and I are eloping. We?ve already picked a location and booked an officiant, photographer, videographer, and a hair/make-up person. But we have kept all of these details private because we aren?t technically engaged yet. We?ve looked at rings together, and I have been told a proposal will happen by June. Once that happens, we will then announce it publicly.
But, what will likely give you pause is that we?ve only been dating four months.
Yes. You read that right.
I can HEAR your judgment, your quick intake of breath, the synapses of your brain firing with little ?WTFs?!??
My past self from ten, five, even TWO years ago would be nodding along with you wholeheartedly, leaning over and whispering, ?Well, let?s see how long that one lasts…? Because there?s supposed to be a protocol, a timeline to follow, right?
I met my ex-husband in a 12-step fellowship. I had around 8 months clean, he had 4. We began dating right after I got a year. I?d never had a relationship that even resembled healthy before. I had no idea how to have, set, or keep boundaries, so I found a recovery dating plan much like the one below and followed it perfectly.
Taken from https://foundryclinicalgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Foundry-Recovery-Dating-Plan.pdf
I?m not joking when I say perfectly. I was rigid and inflexible. Frankly, I was so terrified about doing the relationship bit ?the wrong way? that I did not deviate in any way from the plan I?d set up. I assumed following it would guarantee relationship happiness and success.
And, technically, the recovery dating plan I followed was successful, or at least accomplished the goal I thought it should: a romantic relationship that led to marriage.
After we?d been dating a little over a year, we got engaged. Initially, we were going to get married six months later, but then I read research that showed that engagements of less than 12 months are more likely to end in divorce. Because of that, I opted to push our wedding back a year. All in all, we dated for around two and a half years before getting married.
I read that attending couples therapy early could lower divorce rates, so we attended couples therapy, and when we stopped being able to afford that, we attended Recovering Couples Anonymous. I read books, followed popular marital advice. I?d done all of the research, read, and tried all of the things. But I still ended up divorced.
My relationship with my ex-husband was rather passionless, the exact opposite of my previous romantic relationships. In my previous relationships, the intensity of our passion had blinded me to the realities of my partners, so I felt more assured and grounded when I entered into this more?pragmatic relationship.
What I realized much later is that how things operated in our courtship mirrored exactly how things were in our relationship and then marriage. I did all of the work (the reading, the deciding, the enforcing), and my ex-husband just said ?yes? a lot. He told me what he thought I wanted to hear or did jussstttttt enough to make it seem like he was trying, all while being an actively using drug addict and a thief. Here I was thinking all along I had a partner, and really I just had a ?yes? man who?d put on a show whenever he needed to pretend he was on board.
I knew going into my marriage who my ex-husband truly was, but I had no idea how those things would play out, or the ?meaning? of those traits. Maybe, too, I thought he?d change or that, more honestly, I?d make him change.
I learned the hard way that there was no right plan or guideline to ensure a long happy marriage. There could only be a right person, as in someone who is willing to put the work in and meet you halfway.
When I began dating post-divorce, which was eleven years after I?d started my ex-husband, I refused to follow any kind of dating plan. ?FUCK doing that again,? I told several of my friends.
I decided I was going to feel my way through it. Trust my gut. If I did something that didn?t feel good, I?d go back and decide what I needed to change. If it all ended up being a shit-show, I could follow a strict plan if I needed to. But, for now, I was only going to ask me, myself, and I what WE thought we should do.
When I matched with my current partner on Tinder (he?d prefer to remain anonymous, so let?s call him ?Don?), I?d been dating on and off for a couple of months. I?d done some casual dating, but I knew intrinsically I wasn?t wired for the casual thing. I wanted something more serious (read: monogamous), so I?d begun dating with that more in mind.
Right before my first date with Don, I?d had a few not-so-great dates. Even though I had a good feeling about Don just from chatting with him, I went into the date with the expectation that, if it didn?t work out, I was going to take a break from dating for a while. The holidays were coming up, work was about to pick up a lot, and I don?t mind being alone (in fact, I really like being alone). So, while I wasn?t ruling this date out, I was going in, open-minded, but unlikely to be devastated if it didn?t work out.
Since Don had selected a nice restaurant for our first date, I dressed up. Wearing a form-fitting dress, slinky pantyhose, and black high heels and actual make-up when I rarely wear any, I looked gooooood.
I was nervous, but those feelings disappeared when I saw him from across the restaurant. Not only was he attractive, I knew he wasn?t displeased with my looks either because, as soon as he saw me, he smiled widely and then quickly looked down at his phone. He also told me soon after I sat, ?You look better than you do in your pictures.?
?Do I?? I asked.
?Totally,? he said, punctuating it with a vigorous head nod.
Over the course of the date, I paid attention to how I felt. I felt?light. Happy. Everything felt easy and comfortable, and I had no doubt I?d see him again. I liked him. As our date neared its end, I moved my knee to touch his, and I hoped he would kiss me.
We had parked about a block and a half apart, so we made small talk as he walked me to my car first. When we got to my car, I pointed out the two car seats in the backseat, proof I was a mom of toddler twins. He then asked if he could kiss me, the proper gentlemanly thing to do.
?Yes,? I said and then grabbed his jacket and laid one on him.
?Wow,? he said as we stopped. ?You?re a really good kisser.?
I didn?t disagree, but, to be fair, he was great himself.
I then offered to drive him to his truck since that would also mean more kissing, which I really really wanted to keep doing. He accepted, and once I?d driven around the block and parked next to his truck, we commenced kissing again. I felt him place his hand onto my waist beneath my jacket, and then a few seconds later, move it from my waist to my boobs.
I stopped and said, ?Uhh, getting a little gropey there, huh?? I was surprised more than anything. He had asked if he could kiss me, but here he was already moving to, what, second(?) base?
He dropped his head and immediately said something to the tune of, ?I?m so embarrassed.?
I laughed. ?It?s just a little too early for that.? I may not have had any real set boundaries in place, but I knew sex on the first date probably wouldn?t have been the classiest move with a guy I actually liked.
He told me after that he assumed we?d never go out again, that he?d just screwed up royally. But a little polite groping that was just as politely stopped once I?d said something wasn?t going to stem the fact that I really liked Don. He was smart and handsome, successful, ambitious, and positive, and had an interesting job and was a father to a teenage daughter. On paper and in real life, he was all I wanted. Mostly, though, I liked how I felt around him. I liked myself around him.
For our second date, he agreed to pick me up from a Starbuck?s where I?d planned to do some work that afternoon, and then take me to lunch and a movie. As I sat bent over my work, I didn?t see him come in, and he surprised me with a quick peck on the neck. It felt like something a boyfriend would do, and I liked it. I turned to him and kissed him on the mouth. Things again just felt?easy.
We went to lunch and then we got in his truck to go to the movies. In the parking lot, we started kissing again and his lips traveled from my mouth to my neck. My neck is one of my major erogenous zones, and as soon as his lips grazed the skin beneath my ear, it was like he?d just pushed a button that?d activated my vagina.
I pushed him away. ?Don?t touch me!? I said.
?Really?? he asked. I held up my hand and said, ?Yes. Do not touch me right now.?
I contemplated what my next steps should be while my vagina forecasted exactly what it thought: go into the movie like a good little girl? Follow a strict sexual timeline? Or take him to my house, which was just ten minutes away, and fuck the shit out of him?
Option #3 is what I decided.
As I gave him directions to my house and he obliged, I considered what I was doing. Would this ruin my chance of a good thing? No relationships last if you have sex on the second date, right?? Was this essentially a nail in the coffin of our future? But inwardly, I just shrugged. Who knows about timelines anyway? They didn?t work very well before! I thought.
I also knew wholeheartedly that, no matter what happened, I?d be okay. I trusted myself. I trusted myself to be able to handle whatever happened. And if things didn?t pan out with Don, I already had a plan: take a break from dating, enjoy being by myself.
I don?t remember much about the first time Don and I had sex beyond little snippets and my general feelings. I remember expecting that we?d fuck. Distant, self-centered, let?s both get off, shall we? The type of sex that makes it clear that this is not romantic and not going anywhere.
But instead I got?love. Don made love to me. He was attentive and attuned and sweet. He kissed me and looked at me and cared what I liked and didn?t like and told me I was beautiful and said things that made it clear he was in, like when he said, ?We are definitely doing this again.? And it was clear that he meant that not just in a having sex kind of way. I wasn?t just a notch on his belt, and he wasn?t just a notch on mine either.
During I remember feeling confused and?relieved. I was confused because how was this already happening? How were we both liking each other so much just two dates in? I didn?t even know how to handle or respond to the love bit. The last person I?d made love to was my ex-husband, and that relationship had failed miserably. The relief I felt came from realizing I hadn?t made the world?s worst choice in having sex with this guy on our second date; that maybe, in fact, I?d made the best one.
From there on, things quickly progressed. We both have similar pasts that helped us identify at a gut-level with each other, but also very similar life goals, morals, and values. We were able to talk openly and share with one another in a way that just felt, again, easy (maybe I should look up synonyms for that work and use them?). He is supportive and positive and also just?really inspiring.
Then he met my kids earlier than I?d planned for him to for a reason outside of my own making (my house got broken into), and then I met his daughter too, and then joining lives and wedding talk got all mixed in there, and it wasn?t very long before we were staying at each other?s houses nearly every night we could, and now here we are, privately planning an elopement some five months away, when we haven?t even been dating five months yet.
One thing that is reassuring about the studies is that there?s no one-size-fits-all amount of time ? couples who waited until they knew each other ?very well? had the same outcome as those who waited at least three years. I can honestly say I know Don extremely well, even in the short amount of time we?ve dated. I also find myself more aware of what his faults mean in a marriage. I feel very much like I?d be entering into this next marriage with my eyes wide open.
Years ago, I would have banked that my first marriage was divorce-proof because TIME equaled RIGHT. Today, instead, I?m willing to bank on RIGHT equaling RIGHT.
Moving From Grief to the Joy: Getting Married for the Second Time
My history feels sometimes like the smart of a whip on my back. It can shade my present if I let it too much.
Tara Blair Ball is a memoirist and freelance writer. Check out her website here or find her on Twitter: @taraincognito.