Does more time together lead to divorce? - 1/03
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Mon Jan 6 17:46:10 EST 2003
subject: Does more time together lead to divorce? - 1/03
from: Smart Marriages®
You can find dozens of additional articles like this one by Willard Harley
on the www.marriagebuilders.com web site. Dr Harley will again teach his
two-day Certified Marriage Builder training institute at Smart Marriages,
Reno and will also teach a workshop "His Needs/Her Needs for Parents" on how
to keep your marriage strong through the parenting years. - diane
Does more time together lead to divorce?
Willard F. Harley, Jr.
"Spending more time together might be bad for your marriage, a surprising
new study finds."
That¹s how Chicago Sun-Times health reporter Jim Ritter began his December
He goes on to say, "the more time husbands say they spend with their wives,
the more likely it is that their marriages will break up."
In an interview with sociologist Constance Gager, who led the study, Ritter
reports her saying, "I thought if you spent time together, it was an
indication you were in communication with each other and on the same page. I
find it very depressing."
But a closer look at the research makes the results look much less
Gager¹s study analyzed data from a National Survey of Families and
Households that was conducted in 1987. In that survey, researchers asked
2,035 couples the following question: "During the past month, how often have
you and your husband/wife spent time alone with each other, talking, or
sharing an activity?" Five to seven years later, when 1,742 of the couples
were re-interviewed researchers found that 15 percent of them were divorced.
When Gager and her co-author Laura Sanchez analyzed the data from both
interviews they concluded that the men who had said they spent the most time
with their wives were those most likely to be divorced.
So does this really mean that spending more time together is bad for your
Not when you take a closer look at the results.
True. The research revealed that men who said they spent more time with
their wives were more likely to get divorced. But the research also revealed
that women who reported spending more time with their husbands were less
likely to get divorced.
How can that be? Logically, it would seem that the same thing would happen
to husbands and wives who reported spending the most time together. They
would both be more likely to divorce, or both be more likely to stay
married. Yet this research showed that the men were more likely to divorce
while the women were less likely to divorce. Something¹s terribly wrong
with this study.
Let¹s take a look at what could have gone wrong.
The first problem is the question of what couples in the study were doing
with their time together. They were asked how often they were alone talking
or sharing an activity. It¹s the "sharing an activity" part that may have
been confusing to couples. Some may have thought it meant doing housework
together, or watching their children. In fact, Gager speculated that
"husbands might resent having to spend time with their wives on such
activities as cooking dinner or talking about the kids, when they would
rather be doing something else."
A better question for these couples would have been, "How much time have you
and your spouse spent giving each other undivided attention during the last
month?" I¹ve found that couples stay married if they give each other
undivided attention for affection, conversation, sexual fulfillment, and
recreational companionship. And they need to give each other quite a bit of
ita minimum of fifteen hours a week. Anything less does not produce the
same positive effect.
And that brings up a second problem. It¹s likely that there is a non-linear
relationship between the measure used of time spent together and divorce.
For example, little or no time might lead to a more stable marriage, because
spouses are leading completely independent lives. More time might create a
moderate risk for divorce, because it would not be nearly enough time for a
good marriage, yet it would cramp the creation of independent lifestylesthe
worst of both worlds. But a high degree of time together would yield the
most stable marriages, because they have enough time to make their marriages
In any event, the Gager study is no cause for alarmor depression. Most of
us who work in the trenches, helping couples change their marriages from
horrible to terrific, know that time together is a crucial factor in saving
marriages. To encourage couples to spend less time, as the study suggests,
is a formula for disaster. At the very least, Gager should have given Jim
Ritter the factsshe doesn¹t know exactly why it turned out the way it did.
She should have emphasized the fact that all other studies point in the
opposite direction, and her confusing results warranted further
investigation. But she most certainly should not have come to the
conclusion that more time together in marriage leads to divorcebecause it
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