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Sticking together

Do these villages hold the secret to a happy marriage?

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There has never been a divorce in the Swiss villages of Niederwald and nearby Bister. swissinfo.ch went there to find out how they manage it. (Julie Hunt, swissinfo.ch)

The quaint village of Niederwald in canton Valais features an opulent 17th century church and the locals say religion and social responsibility play a key role in keeping couples together. But 20 km away in the village of Bister, the mayor says religion is not a major factor, but traditional values do influence behaviour. Also there is very little temptation, as there are only 31 residents.

Around 40,000 people get married every year in Switzerland, despite the financial disadvantages of tying the knot. Unlike unmarried cohabitees, the incomes of married couples are added together, often pushing them into a higher tax category. Married couples also receive lower pensions when they retire than singles. The Christian Democrat party has introduced an initiative to stop the penalisation of marriage. The nation will vote on the issue at the end of February.

When you consider the financial and other strains on a modern marriage, it seems even more remarkable that when people in Bister and Niederwald say ‘I do’, they really mean it.

swissinfo.ch will follow up this report with a look at where divorce is the highest in Switzerland, and the possible reasons why. Stay tuned.