My background is in Psychology; I have studied it, taught it, done counseling, and done social work. From what I have seen, it is obvious to me that there are a few things that mess up romantic relationships. A big one is blind infatuation.
Blind infatuation is Hollywood love! We all want it, and hopefully we all get it at some point, but it must be acknowledged and set aside when making lifelong decisions. I know I sound a little callous here, but I had a professor once who said that infatuation lasts four years. When you look at the divorce rate, I think he’s right. People fall in love, get married, have a child, and then real life hits them square in the face. They have to look away from each other’s beautiful, perfect eyes, and look at the real world.
Suddenly they see the differences between their world views, and they may have a hard time negotiating those differences.
The divorce rates in the US and Canada spiked in the 1980s, and have been in a slow decline ever since. However, marriage rates are also in a slow decline. That means more people are waiting.
Perhaps the change has to do with societal expectations. People are now expected to get some higher education and start a career before settling down. As a college degree becomes necessary for employment, people are older, on average, before they get married.
The moral of this story is to wait. Date as long as you can before getting engaged, because this is the only way you will really get to know your partner. Go through some big life changes and experiences with them before marrying them. Oh, and listen to your friends. They see the real person, even if you can’t yet.
The textbooks say there are two kinds of love in marriage: romantic (also called passionate) and companionate love. What would be perfect would be to start out with passionate, butterflies-in-the-stomach, can’t-live-without-you romantic love, and then have it settle into long-lasting companionate love. Think of your grandparents holding hands, and you have a picture of companionate love. This is the goal, whether we realize it or not. Here’s an article on the two types of love that explains it well: Passionate or Companionate Love: Which One Weighs More?