"I have studied what people imagine would happen to them if their marriage were to end," says Nock.
"If you don't think horrible things will happen, you are a different kind of spouse than if you think they will.
Well, the chances are you have more sex, and, according to Nock, it is still the case that marital sex is better than extramarital sex.
"Most research suggests," Nock says, "that couples figure out how to please each other better than strangers do." It also turns out there is a reason we put stock in anniversaries.
And if you are, you are probably doing it out of choice, not necessity.
As a recent Washington Post story pointed out, "As marriage with children becomes the exception rather than the norm, social scientists say it is also becoming the self-selected province of the college-educated and the affluent." Marriage in America is becoming more like a luxury car ―― in other words a BMW, not a Harvester. Census data, the overall divorce rate has declined as couples get married later in life, often after living together.
This doesn't necessarily mean modern marriages are happy marriages. But the divorce rate for first marriages is still about 47%.
The concept of "a happy marriage" was no more relevant than the idea of "a pretty tractor." "That has changed over time as marriage has become more independent," says Steven Nock, a professor of sociology who studies marriage at the University of Virginia and author of Marriage in Men's Lives.
"Couples don't need each other for quite as many things as they once did.