Statistical analysis in scientific matters depends on careful observation and good math. If Carl Sagan tells us there are “billions and billions” of stars, we can pretty well rely on his conclusion. However, in sociological matters, marriages for example, statistical analysis is more akin to religion. It is sometimes based on faith and fear rather than fact.
For example, one can readily find studies that compare and contrast the rate of “successful” marriages in different cultures. The standard measure of a successful marriage in these analyses is whether they end with the death of one spouse or whether they end in divorce. Of course, the researchers must factor in a margin of error for those married couples who bypass divorce via homicide such as might occur when the in-laws overstay their welcome.
An interesting statistic that is sometimes cited by those who report on arranged marriages verses marriages that result by chance is that arranged marriages tend to be less likely to result in divorce. Of course, the researchers must first set up criteria for what they define as an arranged marriage. The old shotgun wedding comes to mind as do marriages that result in cultures where young people are at the economic and social mercy of their immediate and extended families.
It is the definition of a successful marriage that may need to be addressed. Perhaps it is the “pursuit of happiness” as Thomas Jefferson might have advised, not simple longevity, which should be the defining element.
As judge, I have married many people. Some have planned and executed marvelous weddings involving numerous people and careful attention to detail. Some couples simply drop by the Posey County Clerk’s office to get their license then walk upstairs and ask me to sign it. I have not kept statistics on all these marriages but I often come into contact with couples from both types of weddings. Many of both kinds remain married and appear to me to be successful, i.e., happy.
This weekend I will have the honor of marrying one of our seven grandchildren. Her wedding will be of the more personal and intimate kind. I wish for Paxton and Collin, her young Marine Corps fiancé, the happiness that is to be found not in the trappings of the wedding but in the commitment of those exchanging vows.
Because grandparents believe it is their duty to impart wisdom, I will offer the newlyweds the advice I once received from my Mother via one of her favorite poems. Perhaps it will help when Paxton and Collin encounter life’s inevitable yang and yin.
Introduction to Philosophy
By Bonaro Overstate
Young spruces stood upright, every twig
Stiff with refusal to be bent by snow.
Young hemlocks sloped their boughs beneath the load,
Letting it softly go.
Each solved, no doubt, to its own satisfaction
The problem posed by uninvited weight.
I’d not take sides with either. I have tried
Both ways of handling fate.