Marriage today is not what it was a decade ago -- or even a few years ago. Women are waiting longer to tie the knot, some are on their second marriages and many are at odds with their friends over when to do it -- and more importantly, why to do it.
We sat down with relationship expert Shannon Fox and divorce attorney Celeste Liversidge, authors of "Last One Down the Aisle Wins," to talk about what it means to get hitched in today's judgmental society -- and how we can save ourselves from becoming part of the 50 percent of all marriages that end in divorce.
momlogic: In your book, you talk about the phenomenon of "aisle envy." Why do you think there's still so much pressure to get married?
Shannon Fox: "Aisle envy" is the term we coined to explain the phenomenon afflicting 67 percent of the more than 600 single women we surveyed who admit to being jealous of brides. An additional 54 percent said that they feel pressure from family, peers and their biological clocks to get married soon. Many of these women have shared with us that they are worried that they might never get married and might even consider marrying their less-than-ideal mate just to have a baby! Talk about a recipe for disaster!
First of all, it's completely normal to be envious of the beautiful bride as she floats down the aisle. She's the center of attention, surrounded by her closest family and friends, ready to start a whole new life chapter -- kicked off by two weeks on an exotic beach! We want women to be excited about their future marriages, but also to understand that there is so much you can do in your 20s to ensure that your beautiful married life doesn't come crashing down around you a few years after your big day.
Put aside your daydreams of marriage for a while and embrace your 20s as a time to grow and become the woman you were created to be. If you do, you will be setting yourself up for a happy and long-lasting relationship.
ml: Why do most marriages fail, and why doesn't this discourage women from jumping into marriage?
Celeste Liversidge: The top three causes of divorce in the U.S. are money, sex and kids. Through our research, we were also able to identify seven other causes of divorce and general dissatisfaction in a marriage. Just looking at these areas -- coupled with the statistics about failed marriages -- would probably make most of us skittish about walking down the aisle. But wait: There's hope! Our goal in writing our book was to share with young women that there's so much you can do to increase your odds of having a happy and lasting marriage. That you don't have to go into marriage just sort of hoping that you don't fall into the unlucky 50 percent, but that you can take steps now, during your single years, to ensure a great married life later.
ml: What are the dangers of marrying too young?
SF: The statistics clearly show that getting married too young puts you at greater risk for divorce. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, if you wait until after the age of 25 to get married, your chances of staying married more than double! The old "50 percent of marriages end in divorce" statistic is literally cut in half if you just wait a while longer to take the plunge. But even if you don't divorce, by marrying young you're inviting marital struggles that could be avoided or lessened by allowing yourself to mature and develop in important areas of your life.
Another huge danger in marrying young is that you will make an unwise choice in a spouse. You're likely to marry someone you would never have chosen if you had waited. If you view marriage as a long-term prospect, it only makes sense to give yourself at least the majority of your 20s to get to know yourself better before you choose a partner. Not only will you make a better choice, but we guarantee you'll be a better spouse.
ml: What are a few keys to living happily ever after -- and is there even such a thing?
CL: Yes, we absolutely believe in "happily ever after." People often ask us if we're anti-marriage. Absolutely not! We're very pro-marriage; just anti-bad marriage and anti-divorce. We've seen up close the devastation that divorce brings, but also the happiness and legacy that a good marriage can create. After working with hundreds of women, we're confident in telling our readers that the secret to living happily ever after in a marriage begins well before you ever walk down the aisle. That if a woman will focus on developing herself during her single years in ten important areas, she'll end up making a good choice in a husband and will understand what it takes to be a great wife. Stir in commitment and the ability to laugh at yourself ... voila: "happily ever after!"
ml: In your book, you share the top ten steps to a great married life. Can you briefly outline them for our readers?
CL: Your best bet is to focus on yourself in ten key areas while you're still single. These are: finances, adventure, career, friendship, spirituality, body image, independence, sexuality, emotions and family of origin (making peace with your past family relationships). It may seem like a tall order, but we've broken down these topics, making them manageable and fun ... yes, even the finances chapter!
"Last One Down the Aisle Wins" is available on Amazon.com and is now one of their 100 top bestsellers.