Time magazine is boasting the bold title “The Science of Marriage,” in a special edition on shelves until April. The cover teases articles that promise to help you keep love alive and make your marriage stand the test of time.
While advice and tips can be helpful, the success of a marriage can’t be boiled down to a to-do list because marriage isn’t a science. Marriage is a mindset.
It’s a mindset that is willful, intentional and deliberate. A mindset that understands marriage, by definition, is a lifelong commitment.
When you choose to enter into marriage you aren’t just promising to honor the vows you made. You are promising to intentionally act on those vows, even when the science tries to tell you maybe you weren’t really a match after all.
One article in Time’s special edition, “The Health Perks of Saying ‘I Do,’” says “Decades of data collection have shown that marriage, for all its challenges, is like a health-insurance policy, especially if the union is a strong one.” The article goes on to cite how happily married people drink less, eat healthier, and have lower rates of mental illness, among other perks.
While these things all may be true, and they’re great statistics, they’re missing the bigger picture. Marriage is not a party-of-one endeavor. When you choose marriage, you’re choosing to be part of a team.
When asked about the secret of love, the Reverend Billy Graham, who was married to his wife for more than 63 years, said it’s about being “happily incompatible."
It’s an unselfish decision you make to take the focus off of yourself and put it on the other person. If two people enter into a marriage with that same selfless attitude, then they’re setting themselves up for success.
A Huffington Post article last August focused on the marriage of Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s hit show, “Fixer Upper.” In it, Chip said, “She has my back. And I have hers — in all things.”
Another article in Time’s special edition, “9 Signs Your Marriage Will Last,” gives you tips to tell if your marriage will last. According to the article, some of the signs you should look for include, “You had warm feet on your wedding day.” This is apparently a good sign if you’re a woman, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. The study found that women were over two times as likely to be divorced after four years of marriage if they had cold feet before their wedding.
Most people should be able to agree that if you have doubts about getting married, you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.
Other tips include “You fight fair,” “You’ve got demographics on your side,” and “You dated for a while (but had your own place).” Not necessarily bad tips.
However, on paper we can have all the tips and tricks that make sense, but in the end there is no scientific rationale behind why two people just happen to click. Who hasn’t looked at someone and wondered what in the world he or she could possibly see in their significant other because it just doesn’t seem to add up.
But human connection isn’t an algorithm, it’s a mystery that defies scientific logic. Once you get past the connection and the butterflies it all comes down to a choice.
That’s exactly what marriage is, an intentional choice. It doesn’t stop at “I do.”
It’s a purposeful decision to choose the other person, over and over again. Every. Single. Day. That means fighting fair, that means doing so whether you have demographics on your side or not, or whether you dated for three years or three months before you got married.
In December, another Huffington Post article again featured the Gaines’s, who’ve been married for 14 years and have four kids with one on the way. In it, Chip summed up the secret to their marriage in six words, “There’s no secret. It’s hard work.”
Despite its popularity, Chip and Joanna have chosen to leave Fixer Upper after this season to focus on their marriage and family. Chip said, “In Jo and I’s life… we will always choose our family. We will always choose our marriage no matter what the opportunity, and the ‘Fixer Upper’ conclusion is a decent example [of that].”
Another article in the magazine, this one brought to you by comedian Samantha Bee and her husband Jason Jones is “10 Ways to Make Your Marriage Divorce-Proof.” One of the tips is to not fight in public. That’s always a good rule of thumb.
However, the example they give is a husband finding out for the first time that his wife purchased a house in another country when she announced it at a public gathering. While that’s problematic to say the least, it probably speaks to much deeper issues in their marriage. Issues that most likely wouldn’t be resolved by her simply saving that conversation for the car ride home.
Other examples include, “Realize that if you can agree on what constitutes a clean room, you can agree on anything,” and “If you’re irritated by your partner, imagine him as a small child.” According to the article, “While your partner is puttering around and looking idle, imagine him at age 5. Awww. Isn’t he adorable? And so smart!”
This apparently is supposed to help you see your partner from a different view. It’s still not entirely clear how imagining your husband as a five year old will keep you out of divorce court.
When asked about the secret of love, the Reverend Billy Graham, who was married to his wife for more than 63 years, said it’s about being “happily incompatible.
As a society we need to shift our mindset from “me” to “we,” and remember there’s no magic formula or quick fix for the perfect marriage. When we recognize that we’re on the same team and we’re traveling this road together, we can make each other better and be happily incompatible, even if the “science” doesn’t add up.