“Marriage is hard.”
“Marriage is work.”
We’ve likely all heard these statements a time or two before. Unfortunately, you never really hear how to make all that hard work just a little easier and a lot more fun! Looking at other countries’ marriage and relationship standards, traditions, and norms can provide valuable lessons.
Did you know that around 50% of the world’s marriages are estimated to be arranged marriages? Or that marriage isn’t the norm in Iceland, where approximately 67% of children are born to parents who aren’t wed. Both situations have their advantages and drawbacks, and each offers up insight into the inner workings of successful relationships.
When you put some thought into it, America usually doesn’t do a fantastic job encouraging healthy and happy marriages. Most of us are not surrounded by our families but instead move across the country for our jobs or education. Being away from our support system, including parents and older relatives to whom we can turn for advice, puts us at a disadvantage.
Speaking of jobs, we’re usually so wrapped up in our careers or other aspects of our identity that our relationships are forced to take a backseat. Some elements of our lives can be tough on one partner, especially when it comes to equality and work-life balance, typically subversively straining our marriage even if we can’t see it.
But it isn’t like this everywhere! While there is no such thing as happy marriage land, where everyone is blissful until death do part, other places do seem to be doing something right.
One research study into the lives of French relationships found that marriage is alive and well in France. To keep their relationship happy and healthy, many participants in the study outlined the importance of keeping the other person interested. They cited things like flirting, keeping conversations interesting, and acting as if you were the “other woman/man” with your significant other.
Nevertheless, in France, only 47% of those interviewed say infidelity is unacceptable compared to 84% of Americans. Of those who approved, most said that it is not a moral issue, while 12% believed an affair was actually acceptable. Perhaps more effort into keeping the passion and mystery alive is what’s missing from Americans’ marriages.
In 2018, 93% of married Indians said their relationship resulted from an arranged marriage. Usually, Americans are pretty opposed to this concept, as we are all about the “love match.” In India, a wedding brings together two families instead of just two people.
This means both partners have a great deal of support from their family members and communities. Additionally, there isn’t a lot of serial dating. Both individuals know the desired outcome when they enter into a relationship. The arrangement is often made with serious consideration to each person’s morals, faith, interests, and personality.
Couples in an arranged marriage frequently are much more set up for success than those who choose their life partner. This can lead to fewer arguments and a more substantial commitment to cooperation. While Americans may not need to adopt the tradition of arranged marriages, we could use specific characteristics, like making pragmatic choices about who you marry instead of solely operating on your feelings.
Did you know that China has a “cooling off” law regarding divorce? Couples who want to get divorced must undergo 30 days of consideration before formally filing. Divorce used to be rare in China, but it began to climb steadily in recent years. Similarly, the popularity of a “flash” or “blitz” marriage grew.
Since the cooling-off law was introduced, the divorce rate has declined. In cases where both people are safe in the relationship, this forced reconsideration period may help partners rethink an often emotional and expensive decision – divorce.
However, now China is finding that their marriage rate is also decreasing as more individuals (both men and women) feel the pressure and competition to find a job and become successful without worrying about providing for a partner or a family. Inequality, workplace discrimination, and a challenging economy are barriers to marriage, both in China and America.
Iceland seems to be forgoing marriage altogether, instead preferring consensual union. Women in Icelandic society love living in what is deemed the most feminist country in the world. People are free to love whoever they choose and move on when things are no longer working out. With the lack of religion in Iceland, there really isn’t any moral stigma attached to pregnancy out of wedlock. Additionally, “broken families” resulting from a divorce aren’t prominent either.
While there’s no changing religious views or moral opinions, perhaps there’s something we can learn from Icelanders. They don’t regularly exchange vows because they believe love is all you need. Maybe if we focused more on the romantic and emotional components of a marriage, instead of always treating it like a business transaction or a job, we would find more happiness in our relationships!
It turns out that dating, and for more extended periods of time, tends to be more popular in Italy than in the United States. Most couples date for around five years before marriage, possibly a side effect of their more slow-paced lifestyle. Therefore, they date fewer people before finding “the one.”
While there’s nothing wrong with dating multiple people, as it can help you determine what you want in a partner, there may be something behind dating for years before getting married. As we saw with China’s blitz-marriages, not taking the time to truly get to know someone can lead to unpleasant surprises in the future. Suppose you’re already married by the time you’re learning of your partner’s less than desirable traits. In that case, divorce can often be your only way out of the relationship.
Slowing down, having a genuine interest in the other person, and desiring to learn more about them can go a long way in adequately preparing you for a long-term commitment like marriage.
What About America?
In America, weddings are traditionally a declaration of love between two people and symbolizes a new era of life. However, our habit of moving away from our support systems and doing everything on our own can have a negative impact on how long our marriages last.
Divorce rates are rising in America, as is the number of people cohabitating instead of getting married. But couples should take time to get to know each other, consider the strength of their commitment, and maybe even bring their families on board before jumping into marriage.
Divorces can be emotionally hurtful, expensive, and difficult for everyone involved, especially in the event there is no prenup. Whether that means you should forgo marriage for consensual union or take a different approach to marriage and dating, like the French or Italians, is a decision between your partner and yourself. Thankfully we live in a global society and can stand to learn something from every country and culture when it comes to dating, relationships, and tying the knot.
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