Divorce is a deadly disease that is wiping out family structures at alarming rates across the United States. According to statistics reported by Divorce Magazine in 2002, the median age at first marriage for females is 25.3 and 26.9 for males. The median age at first divorce is 29 for females and 30.5 for males. It was also reported that the median duration of first marriages that end in divorce is 7.8 years for males and 7.9 years for females. Additionally, forty-one percent of first marriages end in divorce according to Divorcerate.org.
If you look closely at these statistics, it appears that couples that marry for the first time in their 20s are likely to be divorced by the time they turn 30 years old. These marriages may end within 8 years. That’s according to the statistics.
In the spirit of my blog, AS NOT SEEN ON TV, I would like to note that successful Black marriages and African Americans in long-term romantic relationships in general are rarely shown on TV and in movies. If the media is taken literally, it would appear that Black people cannot and do not have successful family units.
To counter the statistics and media portrayals, I conducted a search for couples who defied both. While I was open to anyone who fell into the categories I was seeking, all of my respondents were African American. They are all in their 30s; they have exceeded the eight year marriage term by at least 2 years; and they do not fall into the 41% first marriage divorce rate (and never will prayerfully).
Each couple shared 1) how long they had been married 2) how long they dated before they got married 3) how they handle disagreements 4) what keeps them together 5) what they feel is the foundation of a good marriage and 5) advice to couples considering marriage.
Derrick & Kimberly Earls have been married for 17 years and have three lovely girls ages 15, 11, and 5. They dated a year and a half before getting married. However, they have known each other since they were 12 years old.
Derrick says that “love, security, commitment, the value of being raised in a two-parent household, a good church home, and family” keeps him and Kim together.
Disagreements are handled by “recognizing your part in the disagreement, and compromising to end the disagreement.” Time alone to reflect also helps this couple.
“Sacrifice, commitment, honesty, flexibility, and finding a good church home together” are things couples should consider prior to marriage.
Doing all of the above-mentioned is the foundation of a good marriage.
Jerome and Tammie Miller have also been married for 17 years. They dated two years before getting married. They too have three beautiful girls.
“Putting God first in every situation” keeps Tammie and Jerome together.
They handle their disagreements “in private, especially away from our children.” They also take a drive in the car and work things out.
Tammie advises young couples considering marriage to “wait first and then know that you love one another spiritually, NOT just physically. Also, you must keep your relatives and close friends out of your personal matters about your relationship together before and most definitely after you’re married.”
Character and commitment are the foundations of a good marriage. Also, you first you have to grow together in order to know each other.
Married for 13 years, Terry and Tisha Jones dated two years and two months before tying the knot. They have two little boys that keep them busy.
Tisha listed several things that keep them together: “Believe me –
1. Prayer and God himself.
2. Knowing that my husband has been patient in my “inconvenient” stages helps me to be patient when he does things that I don’t like.
4. Love. This would include God’s way of loving, not just the fire romantic phase.”
They have grown in the way they handle disagreements. Tisha shared the following lesson.
“When we were younger we used to throw blame and walk away leaving the other [person] very upset. Now, we can talk through disagreements without raising our voices. Additionally, if someone (meaning my husband) gets defensive even in this process, I deal with what I see. “Honey, it appears that you don’t want to deal with this matter directly. Is it just me?” That sometimes works. Sometimes, it’s just best to deal with things later.”
To couples considering marriage, Tisha wants you to “please know that real love comes from dealing with real issues and conflict. It’s those real life issues that either bring you closer together or drive you further apart. Marriage is also a window inside of yourself. Marriage wakes up uncomfortable feelings that you thought were dead or you didn’t know existed. For example, past hurts from mom and dad typically resurface in a marriage. The depths of things like impatience and unloving comments present themselves during the uncomfortable times of marriage. Be quicker to deal with yourself than with your spouse’s negative behavior (unless, of course, it’s abusive).”
Ultimately, God and His love are the foundations of a good marriage.
Anthony and Kelly Hutchins dated for three years before getting married. They have been married for 10 years, and have three overly active little guys ages 10, 9 and 6.
What keeps Anthony and Kelly together? Here’s what Kelly had to say. “It may sound cliché, but we are very committed to the vows and promises that we made the day we wed. We have maintained through all kinds of adversity including financial hardship and health challenges. We have been made stronger through the tough times, but we sail on the high points as well. We smile, laugh and love a whole lot!”
They handle disagreements by knowing that “it is not important to be right all the time; but being heard by the other person is the key.”
Couples considering marriage should “take into account what your expectations are for the relationship. Talk openly and honestly with your intended about his or her expectations. It is imperative that you have thoughtfully and seriously pondered what it means to be in a marital union with another person. No longer is it about your needs, wants and expectations only. You have to be of the mindset to out-serve, out-love, out-respect the other person. Your spouse comes first before everything! This means your family, your job, your kids…everything! But some people are taken aback at the prospect of giving their all unto another. You must trust and know that you have made the right choice in this person. Because when you are putting them first, and they do the same, everyone gets their needs met eventually. It’s a win-win really.
And I suggest couples perform marital wellness checks frequently. Keep talking to each other and learn each other. You will find that as you get older, some things became more important to you than others. Your needs as a person in the relationship will be different than the day you met. You have to know that change is constant as evolving individuals. Let your partner know what you are experiencing. He may be feeling the same too! Speak on it!”
Kelly feels that the foundation of a good marriage is “being partners and just knowing there’s one other person who has your back, front, and side in all things. Even when you’re wrong, your spouse is there to support you. Not to necessarily uphold your wrong; but they will be there to emotionally support you through the good, bad or indifferent. Friendship is also key. You have to have the ability to laugh together and truly enjoy one another’s company. Love is important, but respect is crucial to having a lasting and joyous union.”
There you have it folks. Four couples in their 30s and married for at least 10 years. If you take heed of what they are doing, you might stay out of divorce court. I would like to point out a few things.
First, they took time to get to know each other prior to getting married. They dated for one and a half years to three years before getting married. Even though Derrick and Kim only dated a year and a half, they had a head start in the getting-to-know-you department.
If you notice, not one couple said that anything about money except Kelly. However, she pointed out that she and Anthony maintained through financial hardship which means they didn’t give up or give out because of finances. Money is the number one reported cause of divorce.
Three things kept all of the couples together: God, commitment to the relationship and each other, and respect. If you have these things, everything else might be a little less challenging.
Also note that they all handled conflict. They did not run away from it, they worked at it together. They also worked through it.
If you take heed of the advice given by the above couples and actually work at your relationships, you may be on the road to a healthy and successful relationship or marriage, and not a statistic.