The fairy tale romance always starts with love at first sight and ends with being swept off your feet by Prince Charming as you walk out of the church looking fabulous in miles of white silk and lace.
The brief, exciting period between meeting your beloved and that first kiss is the stuff of legend. Everything after “I do” is summed up in one line: “And they lived happily ever after.”
We all know nobody gets the fairy tale happy ending. Marriage is hard work, and always a mixed blessing. Some marriages are happier than others, though. Is it love that makes the difference?
Research from the journal Social Science Research shows that marriages based on practical concerns like financial stability and shared values trump those based on intimacy and love. At least in the longevity department. There’s a catch, though: people who marry their “soulmate” are happier in their marriages. At least until everything falls apart.
The research looked at what they called “soulmate” versus “institutional” viewpoints on marriage, and found that those who viewed marriage as an institution got more of what they wanted from it than the happily-ever-after-crowd.
What made the difference wasn’t the couples expectations about each other or their married life. It was the community around them. As the researchers put it:
…couples are most likely to enjoy a long-term marriage that comes close to approximating the soulmate model when they build their marriage on a firm institutional foundation that encompasses, among other things, a normative commitment to marital permanency, friends and family who support their marriage, and a religious community that lends transcendent power to their wedding vows.
In other words, a strong community supports a strong marriage. It may even count for more than the quality of your love for your spouse.
What do you think? Were you wildly in love when you got married, or thinking practically about the future? How have your feelings changed over time?
Photo: Jonathan Beard