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Is a "for life" possible?


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El Confidencial Digital

Carolina Lupo

Researcher at project AMAR of Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra, Spain.

In December 2020, the high school National Statistics published the latest available data on marriages in Spain: 166,530 in 2019. At the end of this year we will be able to know the statistics of weddings celebrated during 2020. In these months marked by the pandemic, some couples have decided to postpone the event, others have decided to get married in the privacy of their home, and the most have accepted to step into the new adventure of their lives with the photo of smiles behind a mask. They all have one thing in common: nothing and no one will take away their decision to start a new project together or the illusion that it will last "forever". 

However, the most recent figures also alarmingly show that many couples abandon that dream somewhere along the way: the issue of marital breakups grows gradually every year. Specifically, in 2019 there were 95,320.

Numerous experts indicate that marital stability and marital satisfaction are among the most important factors in people's happiness and that this extends to children and family. Therefore, helping people to forge a stable and happy marriage not only benefits them but also their immediate environment and society.

The question arises as to whether getting marriage right is a matter of luck or whether there are ingredients that contribute to success or failure. And if there are, is there anything that can be done to help young people learn from the experience of others? In various parts of the world, programs of study has been conducted to shed light on these questions.

There are some variables that are core topic, but on which it is not possible to intervene, such as family origin, the history of a person... But there are many other factors that affect marital cohabitation and on which it is possible to act: communication skills, the way of dealing with the novelties that arise in the day to day and the ability to resolve conflicts, among others.

In general, programs of study agreement states that there are two main categories of situations that can cause maladjustments.

On the one hand, there are the crisis circumstances of development, which are universal and can be foreseen. They arise in adapting to the different stages that any marriage goes through: the beginning of cohabitation, the birth of children, how the work is organized (outside and inside the home), the process of learning motherhood and fatherhood....

Secondly, there are unforeseeable events. Their unexpected nature demands from each member of the couple an effort, a capacity for sacrifice and a level of maturity to match this new status.

It seems elementary to think that negative circumstances, such as a layoff, a transfer of city, an illness, a death... can end up generating a problem. But it can also be caused by circumstances that are initially positive or pleasant, such as a vacation or the purchase of a new house, which can bring to light tensions or differences that were hidden. The important thing is to approach each change in routine appropriately and take it as an opportunity for improvement.

It is worth mentioning a project developed since 1980 by the Center for programs of study on Marriage and Family at the University of Denver. The team has followed 135 couples for more than three decades and has identified a number of issues associated with marital satisfaction, including the tendency to sacrifice for each other, the ability to communicate and solve problems together, and not having lived together before marriage.

On the divorce side, the conclusions of John Gottman, from the University of Washington, who has conducted a study with couples for 14 years, are revealing. From agreement with him the most relevant variables that can lead to a marital breakup have to do with the way of interacting during conflicts and the history of the relationship itself.

At Institute for Culture and Society we developed the project AMAR, a research to find scientific evidence about the variables, characteristics and circumstances of people who are getting married that affect later married life. We hypothesize that it is possible to learn from the successes and mistakes of other people to improve the relationship and increase the chances of success of that project of life that, sometimes, seems difficult to keep along the way.

More than 2,000 couples have already participated and we are currently looking for volunteer brides and grooms; as long as we can collect a large number of data from all over the world, we will be able to ensure that the conclusions can be very close to reality and, therefore, be of great use to the young couples of tomorrow. Anyone who wishes to join in anonymously and free of charge can do so via the website,

It is obvious that the guarantee of success lies in the hands of the couples, but there is no doubt that it is necessary to continue developing rigorous scientific programs of study , which will provide us with clues to successfully carry out our vital project .