Are you a single Catholic? Meet Your Match Today [close]

Divorce & Annulments

In a previous post, I had challenged the notion of a standardized dating and engagement timeline and reiterated the importance for each couple to properly discern what timeline God is calling them to.

Through further research, I discovered why people might jump to conclusions about imposing a standardized dating timeline. According to Thomas Lee, PhD, from the department of Human and Family Development at Utah State University, one of the predictors for divorce includes your length of acquaintance.

Remember just because you fall under the definition of a short or long courtship, doesn’t mean an ensuing marriage is doomed. I present these findings as additional information to help Catholics be better equipped for dating and marriage discernment.

Ted Huston, PhD, professor of Ecology and Psychology at the University of Texas, studied 168 couples over the course of 13 years. Huston believes the habits formed in courtship plant the seeds for success or failure in marriage. The couples who were studied were divided into three groups: those who courted for less than one year before marriage, one to three years before marriage, and three or more years before marriage. While these findings were characteristic of certain timelines, take note of the particular warning signs of divorce each group presents.

The couples, who married in less than one year from the start of their courtship, were categorized as either passionate and impulsive or pragmatic and on-schedule. (For my discussion on the differences between pragmatic and on-schedule couples check out my previous post).

In the passionate and impulsive group, women tended to idealize their partner, which means they were less likely to voice concerns so as not to jeopardize the possibility of a wedding. The intimacy of marriage, however, replaced those idealized images with realistic ones. Impulsive couples also tended to be event-driven in their courtship, which resulted in little intimacy and true knowledge about one another. These couples only ever put their best foot forward and were usually attracted to external attributes such as looks, earning potential, and material things. Couples from the TV reality series The Bachelor and The Bachelorette fit this category.

Perpetuating disillusionment in these passionate relationships leads to their downfall since they never address any areas of conflict. However, because of the high level of romanticism and affection, these couples often made it past their seventh wedding anniversary before calling it quits. This group also included a high percentage of premarital pregnancies, which is another predictor of divorce.

Those couples in the study who divorced within two to seven years usually waited to get married until after three years or more of dating. They tended to take a more leisurely attitude towards dating and courtship, focusing more on travel, partying, and other events. Perhaps they had been hurt in the past, and wanted to take things slow because of their fear of commitment. This low-maintenance approach often meant that a marriage was the last attempt at showing romance. These relationships tended to be filled with drama, which escalated after marriage. Because of the lack of passion, usually one or both felt ambivalent towards each other at some point. However, because of the longer courtship, these couples were usually aware of problems in their relationship, but they hoped marriage alone would resolve them.

Those couples who married after dating for at least one year or up to three years before marriage succeeded the most with long-term happiness. They tended to approach the relationship with level-headedness. While their passion wasn’t as strong as those in the shorter relationships, it remained sweet and steady with little drama. These couples weren’t disillusioned, rather they had a realistic approach towards the daily expectations of marriage. After two years of marriage, they reported being just as happy as those who claimed to fall in love at first sight, experiencing very little change in their feelings and expressions of love towards each other. They remained just as responsive to each other’s needs after marriage as they did in their courtship.

Regardless of their courtship length, all couples who had divorced in the study had shown ambivalence towards commitment and their relationship while dating. These couples also didn’t address the problems they had in courtship until they were married.

Remember that the length of acquaintance is only ONE predictor of divorce, but further examination proves that the time-line can be just a symptom of other premarital problems, not a cause by itself.

If you have doubts that your relationship is moving too fast or too slow, address those concerns as soon as possible. Remember that marriage is personal, and that God will call couples to their own unique timelines according to His divine plan.

(This post has been read 3,400 times)

3 Comments

  1. Lisa-933589 August 29, 2013

    Such good points to remember Joy! I especially like:

    1) They tended to approach the relationship with level-headedness. While their passion wasn’t as strong as those in the shorter relationships, it remained sweet and steady with little drama. These couples weren’t disillusioned, rather they had a realistic approach towards the daily expectations of marriage. After two years of marriage, they reported being just as happy as those who claimed to fall in love at first sight, experiencing very little change in their feelings and expressions of love towards each other. They remained just as responsive to each other’s needs after marriage as they did in their courtship.

    2) If you have doubts that your relationship is moving too fast or too slow, address those concerns as soon as possible. Remember that marriage is personal, and that God will call couples to their own unique timelines according to His divine plan

    I would add that the level headedness also helps to address any doubts that do come up as it presents another opportunity to deeper communication & action to dispel fears— if the doubter can remain open long enough to communicate concerns clearly and the one being doubted goes into action to dispel fears —and each remain level headed and open hearted obstacles can be over come–I think it may take practice during courtship to prepare for solid married life–conscious, decisive & action oriented,a deliberate choice to go deeper for the beloved–self disclosure and prayer.

  2. Marcus-860000 August 29, 2013

    Premarital pregnancies are definitely a good predictor of divorce. Another is having sexual partners other than the person you marry: http://s3.amazonaws.com/thf_media/2003/pdf/Bookofcharts.pdf

  3. Lynea-297530 August 30, 2013

    Premarital sex is a good predictor of divorce. It’s definitely a predictor of a non-Sacramental marriage.

    Yeah, if the guy (or gal, for that matter) wants to rush to the altar, there may be something he (or she) is trying to hide. Run for the hills, my friend, if that ever happens to you. If they try to say something about your age go try to get you more encouraged (like a man might say to a woman who wants a family), that may very well be manipulation.

    And I have heard of this time and time again (and seen it myself): if one person wants to be front-and-center in your life while expressing you are both in a committed relationship, but acts like, for whatever excuse, you can’t not be in all areas of his private life (e.g.: he makes excuses as to why you can’t meet his closest friends, or you can’t visit his church with him), I’m going to go with — ‘he’s not nearly as committed as he says he is.’

    I know people who have had long, committed marriages, some 60+ years, but they did not lie and hide major things about themselves before they married. My grandparents knew each other only a few weeks before he had to go back on a naval ship for about a year. They planned their wedding via letters, but by then, they already knew each others’ entire lives, friends, etc. All that was left was a trip to Scotland to see my grandma’s parents in person, and to officially ask for her hand.

    They went to Scotland for my grandfather to do just that immediately after his arrival back in New York, and immediately after their return they married — with no surprises.

    They had all the same friends, and there were no secrets between them.

    My grandma was widowed after 64 years of happy marriage.

    May their souls rest in peace.+

Post a comment

To post your comment please login:

-OR-