When we are facing marital strife, how much are we influenced by the idea that “divorce is common” when making decisions about the future? And if we have the idea that half of all marriages end in divorce, does it make us more inclined to just give up and move on to someone new?
Influential blogger and author Tara Parker-Pope (New York Times “Well” blog) for one reckons it does. She says she might have made different decisions when her own marriage faltered if she’d realised divorce isn’t nearly as common as we’ve been led to believe.
For Better Or Worse
As she outlines in her book For Better, The Science of a Good Marriage, (Penguin Group New York, 2010) statistics show in her demographic – college graduates who married in the 1980s – “two out of three couples just like us managed to stay together and work it out. But at the time, I believed that marriage was essentially a coin toss, that half of all marriages failed, and that I was just among the unlucky 50 per cent heading to the divorce court.”
As Parker-Pope says, there’s no way of going back and seeing if things could have been different, but inflating divorce stats “has the potential to increase everybody’s risk of getting divorced.”
Age and Education Make A Difference
So just for the record, changing marriage patterns – for example couples are waiting longer to marry, and are marrying after they have completed college – are having a positive impact on marriage stability. That’s maybe because older couples have a clearer idea of their goals and preferences, or that weaker relationships end before they make the altar.
Today, the experts say, marriage is less about economic and domestic duties and more about shared interests and mutual happiness.
Couples who married in the 70s are heading for a 50 per cent divorce rate. These couples typically married younger and have gone through huge social change in terms of division of parenting and income-earning roles, and new divorce laws.
Hope for Brides of the 80s
But couples who married in the 80s and 90s are showing significantly lower divorce rates, – below 20 per cent – particularly amongst those with college education.
Marrying before the age of 25 and dropping out of college may still predict a divorce rate of 51 per cent, but for those who are older and college educated, divorce rates after 20 years of marriage are only 19 per cent.
While having a successful marriage is still a “high-maintenance undertaking” says Parker-Pope, couples are forming the wrong expectations if they believe the “50 per cent of marriages end in divorce” statistic.
How About You?
Have you been through a divorce which in retrospect you regret? Were you influenced by a general feeling of “everyone’s getting a divorce, I’m just unlucky?” If you knew for your peer group the rates were much lower, would it affect your actions? We’d love to h ear your views.