INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Valentine's Day is upon us and some Hoosiers will be popping the question Tuesday. But are couples truly prepared for a lifetime commitment?
While the divorce rate in the U.S. is going down, the American Psychological Association reports 40% to 50% of married couples divorce. And the divorce rate for second and third marriages is even higher.
Odds are you probably know someone splitting up right now.
"We are in a very self-interested society," said marriage counselor Carol Juergensen Sheets. She's helped thousands of couples and thinks divorce comes down to not really knowing who you're marrying.
"We don’t talk about how to have healthy relationships. We don’t talk about how to do parenting ahead of time. And so no, they go into it blind," she said.
So what are the top reasons for divorce?
"Research indicates it’s about sex, money or division of duties," explained Juergensen Sheets. "But my experience is most often it’s about differing values."
Those values can range from how a couple feels about religion, money or raising children.
“What spiritual faith are you? Do you have a spiritual faith? Money. Do we save for retirement when we really want to buy the big house right now? Kids. Most often times if you have different values you do not agree on parenting children in the same way.”
When those values don't match up, the door to divorce opens up. Divorce attorney Sarah Baker is usually on the other side.
"People come in and they’re emotional and they’re angry," she said.
Baker works at Cohen Garelick & Glazier where she focuses on family law and divorce proceedings. In her years of experience, Baker has seen it all. She believes marriage has become more disposable and divorce more accessible for people. Women can take care of themselves and men don't fear losing their children.
However, selfishness and money issues top her list of reasons couples divorce.
"I think there are a lot of people who don’t even know their own financial situation," said Baker. "Many times these people come in thinking there is all this money there and in reality it’s simply not there."
Social media is also creating another kind of hurdle for couples already on the rocks. Baker said she is noticing people are choosing divorce, because they think the grass is greener on the other side.
"People see their friends and their family posting pictures of how wonderful their marriage is, how great their kids are, you know taking these lavish vacations," she explained. "Take all of that with a grain of salt."
No marriage is truly perfect. Just ask Dave and Anne Moore. The Indianapolis couple has been married for 30 years and it hasn't always been easy.
But three decades and three kids later, their marriage is thriving. For the Moore's, getting on the same page about the big stuff before their wedding day made all the difference.
"I think we had less conflict and issues, because we'd already addressed it ahead of time," said Anne.
"The key is to just get the stuff on the table. Get them talking," explained Dave.
Not every couple makes it, Anne admitted. Several couples called off their wedding because they discovered they didn't agree on important topics.
Juergensen Sheets said people don't invest time into learning how to effectively communicate with their partner.
If communication is important, so is compromise.
"Couples come to me and they haven’t learned how to do that. And they want their partner to coincide with what they need and that doesn’t typically happen," said Juergensen Sheets.
Finally, you need commitment to make a marriage work.
Dave and Anne said there are always going to be doubts and frustrations in marriage. But when they got married, they threw the word ‘divorce' out of their vocabulary and tried to turn their selfishness into selflessness.
"We do go into marriages where I am thinking only about what my needs are and about how I want Dave to meet my needs and then I want to control his behavior. And he continues to not do what I want and he doesn’t please me and then I become unfulfilled," explained Anne. "Then I start thinking, 'Well gee, what is this all about?' And then a person with that mindset is ready to give up and we’re all capable of having that mindset and of giving up."
She continued, "I will take the things that maybe I’m frustrated with and wrestle those through with God and ask Him to show, OK, what’s the best way to approach my husband? How I can I love him better? How can I stop looking at what’s wrong with him, look at what I’m doing that causing some issues in the marriage?"
Dave echoed her thoughts, summing them up by simply saying, "Marriage is not so much marrying the right person as becoming the right person."
The couple suggests you invest in your relationship by seeking counseling, attending marriage workshops, or reading books about marriage together.