Although the Gates have been unforthcoming about the reasons behind their divorce, they did say, “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives.”
As individuals, we change, develop, and evolve at different rates and in different directions. Keeping a marriage together under such circumstances can, as the Gates have discovered, be an insurmountable challenge.
Such significant changes are difficult to accommodate in the strongest of relationships, especially when those seismic shifts also lead to a reevaluation of our “life choices and emotional needs.”
So, what is the secret to a successful marriage?
Does Marriage Make You Happier Or Healthier?
A Pew Research Center study conducted in 2019 found that married adults are, in general, more satisfied with their relationships than unmarried adults cohabiting.
There’s also evidence that being married is good for your mental health, reducing instances of depression and anxiety and even extending your life expectancy. Married couples are more faithful, enjoy more financial satisfaction, and are healthier than their unmarried counterparts.
So, where did Bill and Melinda and so many others go wrong, and what does it take to keep a marriage alive?
According to the experts, the recipe for a happy marriage contains just six ingredients:
Sex – having sex with your partner once a week has a multitude of emotional and health benefits. One study found that increasing your sexual activity from once a month to once a week can “cause happiness levels to jump by as much if you made an extra$50,000 a year,” although that probably wouldn’t be the case for the Gates!
Magic – finding the magic balance between positive and negative interactions can help your marriage to survive. If you have a ratio of five positive interactions to every negative one, you’ll have a stable and happy marriage.
Happiness – be responsible for your happiness, rather than relying on your partner to make you happy. “Happiness lies within the individual, and expecting a spouse to change that forever is unrealistic and unfair.”
Celebration – take pride in each other’s accomplishments and celebrate the positive things in each other’s lives. It’s simple enough to do and will ensure you and your partner “have higher levels of commitment, intimacy, trust, and relationship satisfaction.”
Standards – a second-rate marriage isn’t going to make anyone happy so, stick to your goals, envisage a relationship full of romance and passion, and you’ll end up getting it.
Family – don’t make your partner the center of your world at the expense of other relationships. Of course, your marriage should be your primary relationship, but it shouldn’t be the only one you’ve got. Putting fewer emotional demands on your partner and relying on friends and family to fill that niche will strengthen your relationship and help your marriage survive.
As Melinda Gates notes in her 2019 book, The Moment of Lift, one of the greatest tests of a marriage is “not about how you come to an agreement but about what you do when you can’t agree.” I’m fortunate enough to have married my best friend, but that hasn’t prevented us from changing, developing in different directions, or maturing into different versions of ourselves. We survived, though, and will be celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary in August. Along the way, we haven’t always been best buddies, but we’ve been close enough to squabble over our differences and respect each other’s evolution.
Marriage is good for you when the going is good, but when things get challenging, the grass often looks greener on the other side of the divorce court.
What to Do When You Are Not Sure Whether To Stay Married Or Get Divorce
Sometimes, the decision to end a marriage is clear-cut. When physical or emotional abuse has entered the relationship, for instance, there’s little chance of recovery.
Other signs that your marriage is beyond repair include:
- You’ve lost all respect for your partner
- All your interactions with one another end in a fight
- You want different things in life (i.e. one of you wants children while the other doesn’t).
If you and your partner still share the same core values, however, your marriage could still have a fighting chance.
Similarly, if you still enjoy spending time together and respect one another, there’s every chance you can repair the rift and build a happy marriage.