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Couples together for 20 years or more are happier than newlyweds, study claims

Good things come to those who wait

Olivia Petter
Sunday 22 April 2018 09:13 BST

If your marriage can make it past the seven-year itch, your best years are yet to come, new research suggests.

Those who survive 20 years of married life report feeling happier and more compatible than newlyweds, claims the US study, which was published in the journal Social Networks and the Life Course.

The researchers, from Pennsylvania State and Brigham Young Universities, also found that these long-term couples benefited from spending more time together in shared activities than those who might be relishing in their honeymoon period.

Paul Amato and Spencer James examined six waves of data from the Marital Instability Over the Life Course study, which includes information on 2,034 married people, and identified how marital satisfaction rose and declined on average throughout the course of their marriage.

The average age of women included in the study was 35 while for men it was 37.

They found that marital satisfaction gradually declined during the first 20 years of marriage but then started to stabilise again after this period. The same trend of decline and increase was true for participation in shared activities.

“Although divorce is common these days, about half of all marriages last a lifetime and the long-term outlook for most of these marriages is upbeat, with happiness and interaction remaining high, and discord declining,” the researchers said.

They believe that the findings reflect how couples find “deeper levels of appreciation” after so many years of being together, which subsequently leads to greater marital satisfaction and enjoyment of each other’s company.

The idea that married couples start to resent one another more and more as the years go by is a hackneyed idea perpetuated across popular culture, claims Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation.

“It’s a depressing and misleading stereotype that sitcoms like to portray,” he told The Times, “and until now researchers have generally agreed that marriages start well but thereafter drift into terminal decline. Only it’s a complete myth.”

They say the best things are worth waiting for.

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