Covenant Marriage: How Is It Different from Garden Variety Marriage?
The rate of divorce is no longer increasing in the United States (except among those who are 65 and older) but the rate is still high enough to maintain a sense of panic among some observers. Many solutions have been proposed for strengthening marriage. In one of them, couples commit to a more demanding form of marriage called “covenant marriage.”
Covenant marriages are available in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Arizona. Couples who sign onto covenant marriages must:
- Take part in premarital counseling sessions;
- Present a “Declaration of Intent” to the relevant official, in which the couples “offer proof that said counseling was, in fact, received; affirm that marriage is for life; attest that each partner has disclosed everything that could adversely affect the decision to marry; and aver that they will make all efforts to preserve the marriage – including marital counseling – in the event of a breach in the relationship.”
- Understand that a “divorce is then granted only for infidelity, physical or sexual abuse of a spouse or child, a felony life or death penalty conviction, or abandonment of at least 1 year.” Sometimes there are other requirements as well (such as a 2-year separation period).
If you read my previous post, you already know how the study was conducted. A total of 707 couples from Louisiana – 307 of whom were in covenant marriages – were surveyed within a few months of the wedding, then again about 21 months later and then about six years after the first contact. So the couples were followed for a total of about seven years, and the husbands and wives answered questions separately. (These were all hetero marriages.) Each time, the participants were asked how satisfied they were with their marriage overall, as well as with regard to love, physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, conflict resolution, fairness, quality of communication, and finances.
So were couples in covenant marriages more satisfied with their marriages at the outset than couples in garden variety marriages? No, they were not. There were no differences in overall satisfaction.
In my last post, I noted that on the average, the 707 marriages became less satisfying over time, and that for wives, marriages become unsatisfying sooner than they do for husbands. That was true for covenant marriages too. There were some hints that for men in covenant marriages, participating in premarital counseling may have been helpful, but “any such benefit for husbands is miniscule at best.”
The analyses of changes in satisfaction over time included only those couples who stayed together the whole time. Even so, the importance of the type of marriage (covenant vs. ordinary) for marital satisfaction was “far outweighed” by factor such as doubts about whether the partner really was the right person and the other risk factors I described in my last post.
DeMaris, A., Sanchez, L. A., & Krivickas, K. (2012). Developmental patterns in marital satisfaction: Another look at covenant marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 989-1004.
Wedding photo available from Shutterstock
DePaulo, B. (2012). Covenant Marriage: How Is It Different from Garden Variety Marriage?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 7, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/single-at-heart/2012/10/covenant-marriage-how-is-it-different-from-garden-variety-marriage/