Are marriages becoming stronger everywhere?
From an article by the Marriage Foundation
Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation recently attended a meeting in Vienna of organisers of National Marriage Weeks in their own countries. Individuals and couples from 16 countries came together and Harry presented some of his research as follows:
The Marriage Foundation's research shows that UK divorce rates have now fallen to 35 per cent, the lowest levels in fifty years. A couple who get married today therefore has a 65 per cent chance of staying together for life, the same as for those who got married in 1969.
As social pressure to marry reduces, so those who do marry are more committed and hence divorce rates fall. This is likely to happen throughout the world.
The hard data say that this is happening almost entirely because fewer wives are filing for divorce during the first decade of married life. After the first decade of marriage, there has been almost no change in divorce rates, regardless of whether couples got married in 1970, 1980, 1990 or 2000. The huge social changes of the last fifty years have had no almost effect on marriage stability once couples survive their first decade together.
However during that first decade of married life, there has also been almost no change in the rate at which husbands file for divorce. Everything seems to depend on whether wives pull the plug or not in those early years.
Social changes - such as the increase in age at which couples get married, or changes to work and domestic patterns - ought to affect the marriage as a whole. Yet they haven't.
The most plausible explanation for the gender effect is down to the social acceptance of cohabiting and social pressure to marry which has especially impacted men's commitment. During the 1970s and 1980s, cohabiting became increasingly common yet marriage remained the norm. So less committed men who had drifted into living together - 'sliders' - were then pushed into marriage ... from which their wives then filed for divorce. The reverse has been happening since the 1990s. As social pressure to marry dissipates, those men who do marry - 'deciders' - are more committed and their wives less likely to file for divorce.
If this explanation is right then we should see this phenomenon of falling divorce rates rolling out across the developed world.
There are all sorts of consequences for those who care about stability:
It's this last point that provides the biggest challenge and biggest hope. Marriages are getting stronger as more couples are more intentional and clear about their commitment to one another. How do we encourage couples who don't marry - but who want the same reliable love - to do the same thing?
There's not much point trying to boost marriages after ten years. You can certainly help couples on an individual level but don't expect much change on a societal level.
If newlyweds are now doing as well as their predecessors back in the 1960s, then marriage preparation courses can still help with better relationships but are less likely to prevent divorce than they used to.
Overall rates of family breakdown will come down. We are already seeing this in the UK because 90 per cent of couples with children who remain together are married.
However the growing stability of marriages conceals the relative fragility of couples who don't marry. Far from narrowing, the gap in stability between those who marry and those who don't is widening.
Read the full article here
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