While the conversation is often “the divorce rates in the U.S. is 50% and growing,” a number of studies indicate that the divorce rate may never have reached the 50% level (although in some states, the rate is half the national average while in other, it’s more than double the national average).
So what’s the divorce rate in America right now? While the divorce rate in America is somewhere between 40 – 50%, it has been dropping steadily since its high during the late 1970s and 80s.
While divorce is certainly avoidable, it has become quite common.
This leaves one asking, “Why are divorce rates in the U.S. so high?”
The answers to this question vary.
The simplest answers are that divorce is more possible now and the intense social stigma surrounding it no longer exists.
However, this was not always the case.
Women now have the opportunity to work and the legal rights to own property and financial assets.
Prior to the Women’s Property Acts of 1848, women were legal non-entities. All wealth was owned and controlled by males, including children. Ownership has allowed women to walk away from abusive and unsatisfying marriages with resources.
Once this change took place the divorce rate began its upward climb.
In the 1970s, divorce laws began to change.
This change was another factor in the acceptance of divorce. Certain states began passing “no-fault” divorce laws. California was the first, signed into law by Ronald Reagan, the then governor of the state.
In “at fault” divorces, the individual filing for divorce needed to prove beyond any doubt that his or her spouse was an adulterer, abusive, or impotent or infertile. Proving any of these took a considerable amount of time, money, and resources that only the wealthy possessed.
Combined with religious communities frowning at people who “failed” at marriage, divorced families experienced considerable shame.
After “no-fault” divorce was instituted, the divorce rate jumped in the United States.
Those are a few of the legal and financial changes that have allowed married couples to divorce.
But they don’t explain why couples gradually lose love and attraction for each other over time. Such answers are more complex and varied.
American Hollywood and media romanticize love and marriage.
Marriage and relationships are portrayed full of love, joy, and fantasy, so much so that single people can’t help but have unrealistic expectations of romance and fun.
But it leaves the married feeling unsatisfied, yearning for an experience that was never and will never be the core experience in a marriage.
Unrealistic expectations are a formula for resentment, disappointment, and the dissolution of marriage. Thus, it can be easy to assume why the divorce rate is so high in America.
Marriage is an institution. It’s a legal, economic union between spouses, not a promise of ultimate fulfillment (which is often the primary way it’s portrayed in movies and sitcoms).
While marriage can be a fulfilling central relationship, like many phenomena in life, the relationship between spouses shift and change over time. Strong inter and intrapersonal skills are necessary to navigate the changes gracefully and successfully, skills the majority of individuals were never encouraged to cultivate.
This lack of skills is a primary reason marriages fail now that individuals are no longer forced to stay together out of financial necessity or societal stigma.
When children are involved the obligations of marriage do not end with divorce.
It is worthwhile for couples contemplating marriage, already married, in the midst of divorce, or post-divorce to give considerable thought and time to research what makes for rewarding, long-lasting committed relationships. These rewarding unions have yet to become the norm.
Marriages of the past were not any more successful than those of today.
Back then, people simply did not have the option to divorce.
Today, individuals are looking to marriage for love, security, and acceptance, a high-quality emotional bond that allows them to enjoy a lasting union for themselves and their children.
Research indicates that well-educated individuals who are financially secure approach marriage with the added goal of personal growth. As a result, both spouses can evolve into better and more authentic versions of themselves.
Eli J. Finkel, professor of social psychology at Northwestern University, claims that marriages that deliver these goods are possible, with an investment of time and emotional energy.
Successful marriages occur when both spouses accept and understand each other as well as develop the skills necessary to support each other’s growth.
At a time when divorce is easier and more acceptable to pursue, it can still be avoided by cultivating a relationship that’s mutually supportive.
A relationship that supports personal and emotional growth is the best insurance for a long-lasting, rewarding, and fulfilling marriage.
If you are in a position to marry, are in the midst of a divorce, or recovering from divorce, we invite you to reach out to us at Journey Beyond Divorce.
We support you in making your first marriage your only, your current divorce your last, or your next committed relationship a success. Click here to connect!