Are Only 17% of Marriages Happy?

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, 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.”



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Tamara Mendelson
Tamara Mendelson6 years ago

It really takes trying and a specific kind of commitment that many aren't willing t go for.

Thomas P.
Thomas P6 years ago

It sounds cliche, but I think almost any relationship (husband/wife, lover/lover, profess'l/client, etc.) that fails does so because of a lack of communication. Many aren't willing to invest enough in the other person to really know the other person, and that isn't measured in months or years, but in the depth of communication between the two. I have known couples who've been together for years that don't know very much about the other, largely because they don't like each other very much (different from loving each other). You have to communicate with the other person, and if you don't like the other person, that is almost impossible to do.

Berny p.
berny p6 years ago

We have been married for 45 years....and NO it is not easy you have to be tolerant and to try to understand the other person and as we are from different european back ground they have been and still are some cultural difference...

we are now retired and still have some misunderstanding but one thing you learn quickly...the thrush us not always the best policy....little white lie make for an harmonious marriage!

All the best to newly married is worth fighting for

Sohail A.
Sohail A6 years ago

Ego and tolerance two things , that can make or break a marriage

after 23 years of marriage , my wife could not tolerate me , so she left , ..and now its my Ego .which does not allows me to even look back at her.... though often I feel guilty , because we had three daughters , and I know , ...its not good for our daughters..

Samir Nassir
Past Member 6 years ago

I think that this issue is not accurate. Can not be confined in this way .thanks .

Arthur Riding
Arthur Riding6 years ago

It is a sorry fact that so many marriages are unhappy. However, in my view there is no way that is a foregone conclusion. By far the main issue I think is that too many people these days have too big an ego, they think they are the be all and end all of everything. Although this applies more to men, and I am a man, the reality is that both men and women can suffer from excessive ego and refuse to accept that other people, even people very close to them, might have a different opinion which is just as valid as their own opinion. So marriage becomes a power game and sooner or later the weaker partner wants out and/or the stronger partner decides s/he can have more 'fun' with someone else. In my view the only way to a successful marriage is when both partners treat each other with full respect at all times and both compromise in order to achieve what is best for the marriage as a whole. To achieve that it is only possible if one lets go of a significant part of one's ego. Marriage is a partnership not a master-servant relationship.
The other essential is No Secrets from each other, ever. Nothing destroys a marriage as quickly as having secrets. Trust is all so even if you do something 'bad' admit it and share it with your partner straight away, usually that will reinforce trust and help towards a successful long term marriage. I have been married over 20 years but it was only when I properly learnt those two lessons did ours become a very happy marriage.

No B.
Nancy B6 years ago

think this is true

Summerannie Moon
Summerannie M6 years ago

17% I really believe this percentage is 100% correct. No one tries any more and people come and go out of relationships/friendships etc in a sneeze!

Summerannie Moon
Summerannie M6 years ago

I have always wanted to be married and have kids so i have spent many years checking out marriages of the old and young and in between. Over many years, i have consciously gone out of my way, privately, to find the most successful marriage in my eyes and quietly observe them when socializing or being in their company solely. I have delighted in this but gosh its not been a voyeur thing ...ha no ...but in all the marriages or commitments i have met with or without children and can only see 3 marriages that come anywhere to where someone would go to them and interview them about their marriage. Most are boring. abysmal, and lots live in different parts of their house and do their own thing all the time but not necessarily as a couple. What a put off. I see it all the time. i see how those parents speak to their children, their children speak to them and how they speak to each other. Seriously how WOULD it work? They dont all necessarily end up divorced but im sure if i pressed the point they would tell me that their marriage is so so. how utterly sad!

Rosie Jolliffe
Rosie Lopez6 years ago