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Most in poll would wed the same person again

Even though marriage is at an all-time low in America, take heart.

Those folks who have taken the plunge overwhelmingly say they would marry the same person again and plan to mark this Valentine's Day as a personal celebration of romance, according to a survey of 1,014 adults conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University."I am inspired by this," said marriage psychologist John Gray, author of the best-seller "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," after reviewing the findings.

"This is a real sign of the times. Romance is becoming more and more important in our culture. Women are saying they want faithfulness in their marriage and men are willing to provide that faithfulness in order to stay married."

But not all is wedded bliss. Nearly a third of the married people say they have seriously considered divorce. Women are more likely than men to say that they have contemplated calling it quits with their spouses.

The poll also found that both single and married Americans are concerned that our sense of romance may be on the decline, a result that causes Gray to chuckle. His career now is based upon offering practical suggestions in obtaining and sustaining lasting romantic relationships.

"The American public doesn't realize that romance has never been a part of marriage in history," Gray said. "People today are more romantic in their marriages, by leaps and bounds, than ever. Look at all the romantic accouterments. More and more people will go to romantic restaurants, hotels, movies and read romantic novels."

Part of the pessimism is based upon the reality of marriage statistics. Only 60 percent of all U.S. adults in 1996 were married, down from 62 percent in 1990 and 66 percent in 1980.

"People are waiting longer to get married," said Terry Lugaila, statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau. "Instead, they are continuing their education, or are waiting longer for `the right one' to marry, or they feel they are just getting started in their jobs and careers, or they are in an unmarried couple situation for a while."

The number of Americans who live with someone of the opposite sex to whom they are not married has risen from only 523,000 in 1970 to more than 3.7 million today.

The survey found that, among single people, only about half say they want to marry. A quarter say they want to remain single, and the rest are uncertain or say they consider themselves too old to wed.

The sexes generally offer similar comments about marriage and romance. Eighty-one percent said they plan to celebrate St. Valentines Day with presents of candy, flowers or romantic dinners. Ninety percent of the married men and 88 percent of the married women say they would wed their spouse again.

But only 38 percent said they believe "people are as romantic as ever," while 49 percent suspect that "romance is on the decline in America." Thirteen percent were uncertain.

The only question over which the sexes divided significantly was on whether married people have ever considered divorce. Only 22 percent of the men and 35 percent of the women said they have seriously contemplated ending their marriages.

"There is a clear gender difference here. Men pride themselves in being problem solvers, so to admit to considering divorce would make a man seem to have failed. Men have a great concern about how they appear in terms of competence," Gray said. "Women talk about relationships all the time. They tend to be more self-effacing. So they have no problem admitting to the world that they have problems in their personal lives."

The telephone survey, conducted Jan. 7-20, was sponsored by Scripps Howard News Service and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. The survey has a margin of error of about 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.