But does this mean that the institution of marriage hasn’t become completely obsolete yet? Since I believe in marriage, I see the declining divorce rate as positive and believe it’s a good sign that many couples are dating for longer periods and waiting until they get older to marry.
For instance, Marisa and Jack met in college at the age of 22 but waited until they had both settled into a job before they got engaged and married in their late 20’s.
Marisa put it like this: “Jack’s parents were divorced when he was seven and my parents never divorced but were unhappy and stayed together for us kids. In our case, we dated for four years before we got engaged and took it slow. When we finally decided to take the plunge, we knew it was because we truly love and respect each other, not because we were lonely or in a rush to marry for the wrong reasons.”
One of the most commonly quoted statistics about marriage is that half of all marriages end in divorce. For the past several decades, the divorce rate has hovered around that rate, but it’s become more popular recently to challenge this statistic.
Do you ever wonder why there is so much curiosity about the divorce rate? Admittedly, my perspective is a bit skewed since divorce runs in my family and I coach and counsel many people experiencing the pain and suffering that goes along with divorce. But from my view, one of the main reasons why people tend to be so interested in the divorce rate is because they fear divorce and question the stability of marriage. It makes sense that many individuals fear commitment because they endured their parents’ dysfunctional marriage and/or divorce.
After all, we’ve all grown up in a culture of divorce, since it reached a peak in 1970. We all know someone who has seen their parents’ marriage end badly, and many have experienced more than one divorce in their lifetime.
Many researchers have asserted in recent years that the divorce rate is leveling off and even dropping. One common reason cited is that fewer people are tying the knot in the first place. The second reason is that college-educated individuals, who marry when they are older and have decent incomes, enjoy much lower divorce rates than the general public. Researchers believe that the age at which many Americans marry for the first time has been rising for decades, and getting married later reduces an individual’s risk of divorce.In her groundbreaking book For Better, marriage researcher Tara Parker-Pope advises young adults to delay marriage until they are at least 25, when they probably have a clear sense of their goals and interests. She also speculates that couples today have higher — some might say unrealistic—expectations for marriage. However, Parker-Pope’s conclusions about the state of marriage in the 21st century are optimistic. She writes, “The good news from the study of marriage is that today, far more people are succeeding at marriage than failing.”
My overall impression after studying divorce rates is that there is reason to be hopeful about the institution of marriage. The optimistic version of interpreting divorce rates is that marriage is a changing institution, and that the vast majority of people still want to get married. I believe that most young adults still want life-long love and want to give their children a stable family life.
So should we fear marriage because we might be doomed to get a divorce? While my search for the answer is ongoing, I believe that those seeking marriage, especially individuals raised in divorced families, would do well to develop a healthy respect for the value of commitment. They are wise to delay marriage until their late 20’s and to adopt a mindset that marriage can be rewarding but requires effort and commitment. Overall, young adults are still interested in tying the knot, and the declining divorce rate appears to be a good sign. While marriage doesn’t appear to be dead, it’s certainly evolving and hopefully that’s good news for everyone!
Follow Terry here: Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.
Terry’s forthcoming book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020.