The Huffington Post reports that a new study by a British firm called Slater & Gordon shows married couples are happiest in their third year of marriage.
Now, before I get into the study itself, I feel that it is necessary to disclose what sort of firm Slater & Gordon is. It is a law firm. This made me wonder if, perhaps, this law firm might have a thriving divorce division, one that might possibly benefit from a study that concludes you might as well get divorced after your third year of marriage because it’s all downhill from there.
So, intrepid journalist that I am, I went to their website and, sure enough, they do handle a divorce or two. Or, more likely, several hundred. And, should you ever want to get divorced in England, you’ll be reassured to know that their…
…team of solicitors are (sic*) sensitive to your needs during this difficult time, and work with you to resolve your dispute with compassion and efficiency.
I don’t know if British lawyers are allowed to advertise, but I can just see the commercial now, which I’ve taken the liberty of writing with the help of a website of English idioms:
“Hallo! Are you in your third year of marriage? Brilliant! But while things may be fine and dandy now, it’s not all beer and skittles from here on in, at least not according to our very own research. So why wait until you’re at the end of your tether, and a spouse is up the spout? Act now before your blissful marriage becomes a sticky wicket! It’s as plain as a pikestaff that you should act in a tick and call the law firm of Slater & Gordon. Our compassionate solicitors will make a good fist of your prophylactic divorce and you’ll be quids in with a settlement. Call Slater & Gordon now on freephone 0808 175 8000.”**
(An aside: I think we should call American lawyers “solicitors,” too, especially the ones who advertise on TV with phone numbers like 1-800-B-E-D-S-O-R-E-S. You have to hand it to the Brits. At least they call a spade a spade. And a trunk a boot.)
(Another aside: I’ve coined the term “prophylactic divorce,” meaning a split-up for no apparent current reason but, rather, in anticipation of a marriage’s downfall. I want full credit for it should it be used elsewhere, for instance, in Slater and Gordon adverts.)
Where was I? Oh right. I haven’t even said anything about the actual study. Why, you may ask, do the researchers think the third year of marriage is happiest? Here’s their theory:
Researchers polled 2,000 people and determined that a couple’s first year of marriage was typically filled with post-wedding happiness, and the second year of marriage was dedicated to getting to know one another. The third year was found to be the happiest time in a couple’s marriage, which the researchers attribute to becoming comfortable within the relationship and starting to plan a family.
Left unsaid, of course, is the implication that, if the third year of marriage is so happy in part because the couple is starting to plan a family, it stands to reason that the couple is less happy after the third year because they actually have a family.
Now, I’m going to tread carefully here, because we have a daughter who may one day choose a senior care facility for us, but it is true that many studies have shown marital happiness suffers when you have children, much in the same way your breathing suffers when you have emphysema. This dovetails nicely with another study mentioned in The HuffPost article that shows couples married over 40 years are happier than newlyweds. Forty years allows plenty of time for the kids to grow up and move out. And move back in again. And eventually move out for good, so they can drop their kids off with you when they go on vacation.
However, an article in Time suggests that the research isn’t all that conclusive:
Some studies…find that parents are happier and more satisfied than their childless peers, some studies find no difference, and some studies find the reverse…whether or not children go hand in hand with happiness depends on many factors, including our age, marital status, income and social support, as well as whether our children live with us and have difficult temperaments.
Wait…we don’t have to live with our kids? Nobody told us that! I know there were a few times when my wife might have taken advantage of that option. “Your dad and I are going to live somewhere else while you’re going through this difficult phase that includes all of your teenaged years,” she might have told our daughter. “See you at graduation.”
In any case, I’d like to state for the record that Barb and I just celebrated our 30th anniversary and we’re as happy as any young couple, except when we have to bend to pick something up from the floor. Plus, we’re only 10 years away from the 40-year benchmark when we’ll be even happier than newlyweds, which will perfectly coincide with other research that I’ve previously written about that says 69 is one of the two happiest ages in a person’s life.
Oh, man, are we going to be ecstatic then. We might just keel over with happiness!
See you soon.
*For those of us who write English better than the, um, English (or at least English lawyers), it should be “our team of solicitors is.”
**I probably didn’t use all the British idioms correctly, but, then, the British probably don’t, either. The phone number in my hypothetical commercial is the actual number of the law firm of Slater & Gordon, in case you’re interested. They have weird phone numbers in England.