Have you heard about how 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce? Or that this frighteningly high divorce rate is still climbing? Watch news programs and relationship shows, and you’ll hear “facts” like this trotted out again and again.
But here’s the thing: they’re not true.
When pundits wave those 50 percent numbers in your face to prove a point, they’re actually using statistics that are decades old and have little bearing on the actual numbers of today. In fact, The New York Times recently did a story on how divorce rates have been falling steadily since the ‘90s. According to the article, if this trend continues, 63 percent of those who got married in the 2000s will never divorce – a number that would make a great argument for marriage in America being stronger than it has been in decades.
Why Are More of Today’s Marriages Lasting Longer?
There are various reasons why more of the marriages over the last 20 years have lasted longer. But before you can understand those, you have to know what made marriages tick generations ago, and how various kinds of upheaval led to more and more divorces.
First off, when people talk about half of all marriages ending in divorce and rising divorce numbers, what they’re really talking about is a phenomenon that occurred in the 70s and early 80s. Before that time, marriages looked a lot different. They were about:
- Economic security
- A male breadwinner
- A stay-at-home housewife
- Largely separate lives
This changed in the 1970s due to technological advances that automated many “homemaker” duties as well as social upheaval related to the feminist movement, reproductive rights, and more women going to work. Many of those who got married right before, or even during, this time of upheaval chose partners who seemed like a good fit but didn’t quite work with the new way of the world.
Perhaps a man chose a wife because he wanted someone home taking care of the kids, but when given the opportunity, she decided she wanted to work. Or a woman married someone she expected to be the sole breadwinner, only to discover that his previously high-paying job no longer existed and she couldn’t get the life she wanted. Due to these and many, many other reasons, people started divorcing in record numbers.
But as the ‘80s came to a close and people had lived with this shift in gender roles for a while, their marriage and relationship expectations caught up with societal changes. When people chose a life partner, they weren’t doing so for the reasons of a few decades ago, but rather:
- Shared passions
- Shared breadwinning duties
- Shared housekeeping duties
- Shared parenting duties
It may seem silly to put love on this list – surely if you asked people in the ‘50s and ‘60s why they were getting married, most would have said love – but there’s a big difference when both people can survive financially on their own without the other. Far more often today, when people get together, it’s because they truly want to get together.
Beyond the rise of these “love” marriages and an increased willingness to share most of the important adult responsibilities to some degree, people today are marrying later (age 27 for men, and age 26 for women), and many are “testing” long term relationships by living together first – something that just wasn’t accepted a generation or two ago. A lot of marriages that might have ended in divorce 30 or so years ago now end much more simply when a couple breaks up—though this is not breakups are not equally difficult for couples who are not married. For people in any kind of relationship, breakups can be very tough for all those involved, and often include similar financial and legal difficulties to those associated with divorce. Relationship counseling can also be hugely beneficial to couples in any kind of committed relationship—marriage or otherwise—by providing techniques for overcoming emotional and communication barriers.
What Does This Mean for You?
If there’s one thing that I hope readers take from this post, it’s that you don’t have to be afraid of marriage. It’s not this horrible institution that drives apart more than half of the people who decide to take the plunge. In fact, more and more people who get married are doing a much better job today of staying together.
Still, it’s completely understandable to be worried about walking down the aisle. Marriage is a huge commitment, it takes a lot of work to make it successful, and it’s not something to enter into lightly. You can increase your chances of sticking together for the long-term before you say “I do” by sitting down with a couples therapist and talking about what you really want and expect out of your relationship.
Partners in romantic relationships of all kinds report that they find therapy to be useful and enlightening. You’ll walk away armed with the communication tools you need to succeed for decades to come. Houston marriage counseling has helped to guide countless couples just like you through these kinds of conversation so that both of you can have a voice and avoid problems in the future.
If you are considering seeking relationship guidance for you and your partner, a wonderful place to begin is the Imago Couple’s Workshop. In just one weekend, participants receive benefits of six months of couples counseling with a highly qualified specialist. By participating in our workshop, you’ll be better equipped to decide whether relationship therapy is right for you before investing time and money in counseling. Our Couple’s Workshop can be a very safe and gentle, yet powerful experience for couples—click here to learn more.