Don’t let the naysayers wilt the Valentine’s Day flowers: Most young men and women in long-term relationships say they are very satisfied — and very much in love — with each other.
In a world dominated by news of hookups and breakups, these results offer a pleasant surprise, said sociologists Elizabeth Wildsmith and Jennifer Manlove, who recently published their findings in a brief for Child Trends, a nonpartisan research center.
Young couples gave high marks to their relationships regardless of whether they were married, cohabiting or dating, the researchers said. “That’s very encouraging,” Ms. Wildsmith said.
The data come from a unique source — roughly 1,500 heterosexual couples, ages 18 to 26, who were part of the “Romantic Pairs” subgroup in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (ADD Health), which has followed the same massive group of youths since high school.
To be included in the “Romantic Pairs” sample in 2001 and 2002, participants had to have been in their relationships for three months or longer and have a partner who was also willing to answer questions about their relationship satisfaction, commitment, permanence and love.
This unprecedented sample size and participation — getting answers from both people in a relationship — underscored the importance of the main finding, which was that “the vast majority of young men and young women feel very positively about their relationships,” said the ChildTrends brief, published in December.
For instance, asked whether they “love their partner a lot,” young married couples felt strongly about their partners, with 94 percent of husbands and 96 percent of wives saying yes. Among cohabiting and dating couples, love was also very strong, with 82 percent to 91 percent of partners answering in the affirmative.
In addition, more than 80 percent of husbands and wives said they were “very satisfied” with their unions. Couples in cohabiting and dating relationships were also positive, with 70 percent to 75 percent saying they were very happy with each other.
The U.S. divorce rate, which peaked in the mid-1970s, has been trending down since then. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System, the country’s divorce and annulment rate for 2011 was 3.6 for every 1,000 people, down from 4.0 in 2000.
Such levels of bliss may confound people who think love, American-style, has become so chaotic and insensitive that not even Cupid’s arrow can fix it.
But it’s not a shock to two wives who regularly blog about love, life and marriage.
“Yes, you can find your soulmate, and yes, you can be successful within the institution and the construct of a committed relationship and a marriage,” said Christen BeBee, an Ohio educator who started her blog, YoungMarriedAndHappy.com, after her 2010 marriage to Brock BeBee.
She often uses capital letters to say “AND happy,” because “that’s the most important part.”
“The whole purpose of MarriageConfessions.com is to celebrate marriage,” said Katie Brown, who has written her blog since her 2008 marriage, when she and husband, Chris, were both 22.