We’ve all heard the oft-repeated statistic that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, but what about the couples that stay together? It’s not looking too good, according to author Dana Adam Shapiro. In an interview with Buzzfeed.com, he breaks it down: “I think 17% of marriages are happy. Fifty percent of marriages end, and of marriages that stay together, I think a third are happy, a third are happy enough, and a third are unhappy.”
For his newly published book, You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married), Shapiro talked to men and women all over the country about the ends of their marriages—and he learned plenty about love in the process. Shapiro tells Buzzfeed he’s more optimistic about marriage after having finished the book than when he began writing it. “I came out with a more realistic expectation of what marriage should be — not a lowering of expectations, but a more grounded view of what love is and the work it takes to make something last.”
So what does it take?
Shapiro calls it the golden triangle of relationship advice: Accelerating the Inevitable (revealing your true self to your partner), Discussing the Dirty (sexual exploration), and Engaging the Elephants (talking about, not ignoring, your issues). But reader beware: this isn’t exactly a feel-good book. In fact, Shapiro even says he’s hearing from people who are breaking up because of the book. When Buzzfeed asked if that makes him feel weird, he says no.
“That assumes breaking up is bad, but getting to no is just as good as getting to yes.” Shapiro hopes the book You Can Be Right offers clarity. “I was hoping it would spark conversations for married people and give them the tools to fix a marriage that was worth fixing, and I was hoping it would give people in really bad marriages the courage to leave.” According to Shapiro, happily ever after is overrated. “I do think we over-prioritize eternity when it comes to love. I don’t think a marriage that ends in divorce is a failure. It could be good, loving, you raise kids together, and maybe 20 years down the line it’s not working, and that’s okay.”