The signs a couple will last can run the gamut. For example, in 2014 two professors at Emory University found that the the cheaper the wedding, the more happy the marriage. Other studies have linked higher divorce rates to living in a red state, having a daughter, and even the length of someone's commute. Granted, some of these things sound a little absurd. But these predictions do leave one wondering a bit. While the success of a marriage is dependent on much more than the length of your commute or where you live, what factors play a role in whether or not a couple will last?
"Couples who are getting married out of joy will be fine," Wedding Celebrant and licensed Wedding Officiant, Christopher Shelley of Illuminating Ceremonies and author of the forthcoming book, Best. Ceremony. Ever., tells Bustle. "Couples marrying under a cloud of fear, doubt, and concern for outside opinions face a windy, rainy, rocky, uphill-both-ways battle."
Having officiated more than his fair share of weddings in New York, Ohio, Kentucky, and "pretty much anywhere people will pay him to go," Shelley knows more than a few things about what factors contribute to making a couple last.
1. The Couple Is Able To Laugh Together And See The Lighter Side Of Life
What's the saying? The couple that laughs together, stays together? Maybe that's not the exact saying, but if you can't laugh with your partner and see the lighter side of things, you're going to have a hard time getting through life together. There's a reason people laugh so they don't cry: because life isn't easy.
"Life is hard, but when people have a broad enough life vision to put their issues in perspective, and laugh about them — they’ve got the secret for a happy marriage," says Shelley. "When couples have to force themselves to be serious and ask serious questions, I am very happy for them, because they know the best way to go through life: not taking things too seriously."
2. Each Partner Has An Equal Voice In The Relationship
Not only should a healthy relationship be one that's an equal partnership, but there should be an equality in voice, too.
"When each half of the couple can speak up and express their thoughts without constantly deferring to the other, I know they’ll be fine," says Shelley. "If they are terrified they will offend each other, chances are they have some growing up to do before they get married. How can I believe their ‘I do’ if they don’t have a voice?"
3. Both Partners Are Equally Involved In The Wedding Process
Each partner having an equal voice in the relationship should most definitely extend to planning the wedding, too. The wedding day is about two people saying "I do" and signing up for the long haul. You can't expect your relationship to stand the test of time if one partner takes the reins and makes all of the decisions, while the other takes a back seat, either willing or because they were forced to by their partner.
"When the couple are both involved in the wedding-planning process, it feels as if they are heading in the same direction," says Shelley. "Weddings are hugely important life transitions, and couples should go through the entire hazing ritual together, side-by-side, hand-in-hand, one leg each tied together like at a county fair. When one seems to be doing all the decision-making, I can only suppose that they hope the other will catch up later. It doesn’t work like that. Marriage is more like a car pool than a drag race."
4. The Couple Shares A Passion
Shelley was the officiant at my friends' Jen and Daniel's wedding. I've known Jen for years and she's not just a close friend, but a unique soul. Daniel was the first person I'd ever met who was Jen's exact match; they're two colorful puzzle pieces in a sea of grey puzzle pieces who were fortunate enough to find each other. They not only see the world the same way, but they share a deep passion for so many things. Sharing a passion, not matter what that passion is for, is paramount for a lasting marriage.
"Couples who share a passion are surfing the same great wave," says Shelley. "Whether they’re both writers or art enthusiasts or stamp collectors or dancers or just the kind of people who think about what generous things they can do for others, it proves that they have a fire within them, that they can freely put their whole spirit into something other than themselves, which is what you have to do in a marriage."
5. They're OK With Breaking Traditions That Don't Make Sense To Them
Some wedding traditions just don't make sense to couples, aren't realistic, or aren't cost-effective. As Shelly says, it's the couple that ditches these so they can enjoy the wedding that is built to last.
Shelly points to the "rule" that the couple should not see each other on the wedding day before the ceremony, as an example. "Couples who disregard this are going to be just fine because they are grounded in reality", Shelly says. "The reality is, the wedding costs thousands of dollars, and they should enjoy every minute of it together."
6. The Couple Really Enjoys Their Wedding
As someone who's been married, I can attest to the fact that while trying to relax before the wedding is near-impossible, once everything gets going, you can breathe a sigh of relief and have fun — because it's supposed to be fun for everyone.
"When I see couples relaxed, laughing, and enjoying every minute of their wedding day, I know they’re going to have a great marriage because this shows that their priorities are in good order," says Shelley. "They realize that the wedding day is but once in their lives, and therefore they should appreciate as many details about it as they can."
While there may not be any guarantees in life, if you know how to laugh, communicate, and share what's truly important in life, then you're on your way to, hopefully, happily ever after.