These are troubling times for marriage. According to the Pew Research Center, little more than one half of all families are headed by a married couple. In 1960, it was nearly three-fourths. The decline is attributed to changes in public attitudes over the past half century that have led to increases in divorce, co-habitation, and age-at-marriage.

The state of our unions has prompted comments from a number of sources. One is business titan and television celebrity, Donald Trump. Several years after his second divorce, Mr. Trump had this to say: 

“If you have to work at a marriage, it’s not going to work. It has to be sort of a natural thing. But my ex-wife would say, ‘You have to work at this, you have to do this, you have to do that’. And I’m saying to myself, ‘Man, I work all day long, well into the evening. I don’t want to come home and work at a marriage. A marriage has to be very easy.”

Marriage has to be very easy? Anyone want to tell The Apprentice boss, “You’re fired!”?

Trump went on reminiscing about his parents’ 64-year marriage: “My father would come home, have dinner, and take it easy. It was the most natural marriage I’ve ever seen.”

I wonder, as his mother was making that dinner, cleaning the dishes, and getting her type-A child ready for bed, whether she was having it equally easy. I’m reminded of the woman who told family and friends on her 40-year wedding anniversary: “Believe it or not, in all these years Norman and I have had only one fight . . . one that has lasted forty years!”

Not so natural

Trump’s parents deserve praise that young Donald was unaware of the thousands of compromises they made that created the “natural” marriage he so fondly remembers. But compromise is not natural and rarely easy because it requires something foreign to our human nature: sacrifice. While the longing for love is natural and universal, so is the aversion to the work it requires.

Dr. Neil Clark Warren, Christian founder of the online dating service eHarmony, points out that deep, lasting love happens gradually and requires conscious decisions, made over and over again, for a lifetime.” If healthy marriages were natural, as Trump insists, they wouldn’t require constant decision-making; they would be instinctual, bypassing our conscious thought processes altogether.

Dr. Warren recognizes that hard work (yes, work, Mr. Trump) goes into making a great marriage, but believes it is “far less” important than partner selection. As Warren sees it, “broad-based compatibility” between partners is the biggest factor in determining the quality and longevity of a marriage. I’m not so sure... Continue reading here.   Continue reading here.