Melissa is 28 years old. She has just gotten engaged and is so excited about her wedding, which will be held in August 2015 because the mansion she wants for the reception is booked until then. She is very happy to marry at around 30, as are many American women. It is mostly the same for men. One of my male friends once told me, I remember, that although he could not, he wanted to get married because he did not want to be labeled a "loser, or gay." He said, "If you don't get married before 30 or 35, people think something is wrong with you." Melissa is also happy to get married and "not be an old maid to her boyfriend," with whom she has been living for two years.
As a bride-to-be, Melissa has started to work enthusiastically towards the reception. She ordered the wedding dress from Italy. Since it is two sizes smaller than her regular size, she has joined a gym to lose weight and get in shape. She is interviewing some wedding planners for her fantastic wedding, which she told me she has been dreaming of since she was three years old.
This might sound extreme to you, but it is not to me. Like Melissa, many young women I know want to get married with a dazzling diamond ring, glamorous wedding party, stunning dress and fantastic honeymoon, without thinking of the complexities of marriage. Then, unfortunately, after a short while we hear that they are getting divorced.
Actually, the latest statistics in the U.S. confirm this picture: According to USA Today, "Projections from the private company Demographic Intelligence of Charlottesville, Va., say the signs are right for a temporary boost in weddings. The company projects a 4 percent increase in the number of weddings since 2009, reaching 2.168 million this year; 2.189 million in 2014. Depending on the economic recovery, the report projects a continuing increase to 2.208 million in 2015."
On the other hand, a new report released in July 2013 by Bowling Green State University's National Center for Marriage & Family Research found that the US marriage rate is at its lowest point in more than a century. According to the report, the US marriage rate in 2011 was 31.1 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women, compared with 92.3 in 1920. Also, the average age of a woman's first marriage is now 27. Besides, while marriage rates are on the decrease, divorce rates are on the rise. Social background, income and education are some factors that studies say can influence a couple's likelihood of divorce.
The divorce rate in Turkey is on the rise, too. Figures from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) show that there was a 2.7 percent increase in the divorce rate in Turkey compared to the previous year. The figures indicate that divorce has climbed in the last 10 years, with an increase of 30 percent.
Why is divorce more popular now than before? The factors are many: lack of communication, financial circumstances, infidelity, education...
Still, many people believe that married people are happier than their single peers. If you want to have a happy marriage I believe the answer is straight and simple: Remember Confucius' golden rule and apply it to your marriage: "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others."
As a person who's been married for 20 years. Here is my humble opinion:
If you want to be happy in your marriage, always be passionate, patient and tolerant. Never underestimate the importance of accepting what your significant other is doing in her or his personal life. Try to see the picture through her or his eyes.
Yes, marriage is team work, but to remain as a compatible team member do not forget that it is essential to remain individuals. Each of you would aim for different personal goals. Be supportive. Yet, your goals should not only be supported, but also understood and appreciated.
Melissa told me joyfully, "Let me share my discovery of the answer to the most-asked question: 'Does a good marriage really make people happier?' I say don't bother, and instead ask yourself, 'How does a happy person make a good marriage?'"
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This article was previously published in Today's Zaman