In the New York Times’ Valentine’s Day opinion piece “The All-or-Nothing Marriage,” author, psychology professor and psychological researcher Eli J. Finkel presents a fascinating insight into the state of today’s marriages. Yes, on the whole, marriages today are weaker than the marriages of our parents and grandparents, he says. But at either end of that average are the extremes – the extremely weak, and the extremely strong relationships. Finkel argues that “the best marriages today are much stronger, in terms of both satisfaction and personal well-being, than the marriages of yore.”

Statistics show gaps between good marriages and bad!

Using several studies over the last decade, Finkel says that not only does marital quality predict personal well-being (Christine Proulx), the gap between good marriages and mediocre marriages has widened over time. Based on his accumulated data, he claims that today’s couples have extremely high expectations of marriage, which can either lead to unprecedented levels of marital quality, or even worse disappointment. Couples are either happier than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, or significantly less satisfied.

The main ingredient in successful marriages!

While I don’t agree with his premise that today’s marriages are “All-or-Nothing” propositions, I do agree with his larger premise that the most successful marriages are those in which both partners consciously and constantly work to improve and maintain their relationships. As Finkel says “Those individuals who can invest enough time and energy in their partnership are seeing unprecedented benefits.”

Statistics show that relative to Americans in 1975, spouses in 2003 spent much less time alone with each other – to the tune of nearly 10 less hours per week (and that’s for childless couples). Couples with kids saw even less of each other. Today’s couples invest more time into work and children, and less time into their marriages. But when you consider that healthy, happy marriages have been proven to increase lifespan, improve health, and drastically improve psychological well-being, we might want to re-prioritize.