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Lasting marriages require planning and commitment

By Linda Breazeale
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Financial problems and infidelity often get blamed for divorces, but lack of preparation before and minimal commitment after the wedding may be at the heart of most failed marriages.

Karen Benson is an area child and family development agent with Mississippi State University's Extension Service in Neshoba County. She said it is common for couples to live together without marrying, and young couples marrying today are at a high risk for divorce.

Benson cited a recent survey of Mississippi couples where 92 percent believed marriage is a lifetime commitment with divorce only acceptable in extreme circumstances.

“Even though we believe in marriage, we obviously don't have the skills to keep marriages healthy and couples together until ‘death do us part,'” she said. “Skills needed include commitment, conflict resolution, problem solving, communication, affection, kindness and respect.”

Benson said the survey also revealed a desire for more premarital education.

“Couples, especially young couples, need help assessing their reasons for getting married in the first place,” she said. “Further, premarital education can help couples learn valuable relationship skills that will prepare them to have a lasting, successful relationship.”

Benson said couples in long-term relationships fall in and out of love over the course of a lifetime.

 “When the romance fades, that's when the real relationship begins,” she said.

Tabitha Staier, Extension family education and policy specialist, said efforts are under way to provide more support for couples, including premarital education and marriage seminars and activities.

“We're focusing on the week before Valentine's Day, but we hope to help couples in long-lasting programs. It is clear that the need is great in Mississippi,” Staier said.

Staier attributed the state's poor ranking in overall child well-being, as reported recently by KIDS COUNT, to the breakdown of the traditional two-parent household.

“Children are much more likely to live in poverty, experience abuse or have behavioral and emotional problems if their parents never married or are divorced,” Staier said. “They also are more likely to have problems in school or with drug abuse.”

Staier said adults tend to have more favorable outcomes if they are married.

“Research has shown that married adults are physically and emotionally healthier and more productive at work than never married, divorced or widowed adults,” she said.

In addition to Healthy Marriage Week, Feb. 7-14, the Extension Service has developed a Web site,, that will provide information for singles and couples on such things as dating, premarital education and how to strengthen marriages. The site also has parenting, stepfamily and grandparenting resources. The site includes dates and locations for marriage enrichment programs, information sheets on various topics and links to other helpful sites.

For more information on healthy marriages, contact the local county Extension office.


Released: Jan. 24, 2008
Contact: Dr. Tabitha Staier (662) 325-3080 or Karen Benson (601) 656-4011