With just a couple of basic questions, you can get a huge amount of perspective on your marriage. It’s an interesting way of evaluating the current state of your relationship, and if you compare your responses to your spouse’s, you might have a giant moment of realization…
First let’s get the questions out of the way, and then we’ll talk about the implications of your answers.
1. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “much worse” and 5 being “much better” – what do you think your level of happiness would be if you and your spouse split up?
2. Using the same scale, what do you think your spouse’s level of happiness would be if the two of you split up?
These may seem like strange questions coming from us – since we’re trying to keep your marriage together – but the responses to these questions yield some mighty powerful results about the current state of a marriage.
The questions come from a University of Virginia study from almost 20 years ago, which surveyed some 3,597 couples with these questions, and then followed up six years later. They looked at responses from both members of a marriage, and in their follow up, looked at who got divorced… and the results might not be what you expect!
Of course the couples who both thought they’d be happier apart were likely to divorce, and the couples who both responded that they would be worse off were likely to stay together…
But here’s the surprise:
The highest divorce rates came not from the couples who thought they’d be happier apart, but from the couples who assessed their partners inaccurately! The further off they were, the more likely the couple was to be divorced in the follow up study.
This serves as a HUGE reminder about communication, and how important it is to be on the same page as your spouse. The projected levels of happiness weren’t even the defining factor for these failed relationships – the most important factor was the accuracy of knowing how your spouse felt.
So, even though it might be a hard topic to approach, ask yourself these questions – and ask your spouse. If the responses surprise you, or even if you’re just a little off in your projections, it’s time to reevaluate how you’re communicating. You need to find out why your assumptions are incorrect.
This all boils down to effective and honest communication. If you’re keeping each other updated about how you feel (both good and bad), you can maintain an accurate mental picture of where your spouse is at in the relationship, and determine if there are areas that need work.
Even without these survey questions, the principle of the matter is important. Do you know how your spouse really feels? Do they know how you feel? If you don’t make the effort to find out, you could be making assumptions that are going to hurt the marriage in the long run.
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com
This reminds me of a question a counselor asked me when my 2nd wife and I were splitting. He asked me what my plans were and I replied that I would lose at least 100 pounds and be happier. I lost 125 pounds and was happy for the most part. The only bad thing was she moved with no forwarding address and I haven't seen my children in 30 years. I have since married the love of my life and have 2 girls. We see your advice and what makes a marriage successfully and very fortunately we have found by trial and error what you teach. Keep up the good work.
Hi Harvey - I'm happy to hear you were able to find love, and we hope you can reconnect with your children in the future. Best wishes to you both!
I have been married for 26 years and want to know when is enough. I have been unhappy for as long as I can remember, and know what I need to do, but just can't seem to do it. For many years I stayed because of the kids (twin boys). When I would walk in the house after work they would run up and give me a hug. It didn't matter how crappy the day was, that made everything right in the world. So, I needed that as much as the kids needed me there.
Hi Mr Blue - It's not uncommon to fall into a rut of disconnect. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/marriage-counseling-years-disappointment/