To no one's surprise, the divorce rates have been rising steadily since the 1970s. According to Historical Divorce Rate Statistics, from 1867-1900 the divorce rate was 3%-7%. From 1901-1930 the rates were 8%-16%. From 1931-1967 the rates made a slow increase from 16%-26%. According to a 2011 report by The United States Census Bureau, divorce rates rose progressively during the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
• 1970: 33%
• 1975: 48%
• 1980: 52%
• 1985: 50%
The rate of 50% has held fairly stable for the last 40 years. So why have divorces increased so significantly over time? Why do half of marriages end in divorce? Accordingly to attorneys.com, prior to 1970, divorce was fairly uncommon and difficult to get. "Fault was usually required-one of the spouses must have committed a crime or sin that justified the divorce. There needed to be adultery, abandonment, cruelty, intoxication or some other reason that made it necessary to end the marriage." While the concept of "no-fault divorce" started in the 1950s, it was almost universal by the 1970s. Attorneys.com also point out that couples used to be required to have a formal separation, but that is most often not the case anymore.
The amount of time that couples needed to be separated and not cohabiting has grown shorter and shorter as the years have gone along as well. So, perhaps the idea that couples would take the time to think about their marriage, their issues, and work on them, has gone out the window. I think most of us have seen "quickie divorces" advertised. So not only has divorce become more frequent, it has become more swift, and convenient. Decisions can sometimes be made in haste due to the process being so fast and so easy. Couples can even do the majority of their divorce online these days, unless children are involved, and the couples can waive their right to go to court. So we have divorces that are more affordable, speedier, and you do not even have to face each other as you end the lifelong commitment you made.
What are some of the reasons that attitudes towards divorce are changing? Some of the more global reasons are that we often have two income households. The "traditional family" where the mother stayed home and took care of the home and the children is not as common anymore. Many women stayed in marriages because they simply believed they could not support themselves otherwise. Society's attitudes towards divorce, and even infidelity have changed tremendously over the last 40 years. We have the real, but sometimes misunderstood statistics that show that individuals are more likely to divorce if they lived together before marriage, if they are on their second marriage, and if they come from a family where their parents divorced. While many of us would think that living together and getting to know each other would decrease our risk of divorce, that rate holds true. We might also think that children of divorce might try to avoid the same fate, but this statistic holds true as well.
Probably one of the reasons that is seen in therapy, is the ease with which a couple decides to divorce. It seems that years ago, the reason had to be long term and profound to divorce. That couples tried to work things out no matter what, or at least gave it all they had. More often I see marriages that are very short lived, that the marriage is threatened and used as a tool when the couple fights, and that they decide to divorce over what many would view as minor issues. While therapy has become more accepted, so has divorce. Newlyweds will already be in therapy, and/or already be talking divorce. If there are significant issues with the relationship, work on them before you make what should be a serious commitment. These are the cases where people get so excited about the wedding, but do not consider the life they will have after this one day is over.
Consider what your lifetime together will look like. Contemplate what issues you need to work on. Be willing to do whatever you can to try and salvage this relationship with the person you fell in love with. You loved them for a reason, you agreed to marry them for a reason, and you committed to them for a reason. Make a point of remembering what those reasons are, and that they are worth working for. Do not take your commitment lightly, do not take the person you loved for granted. If there are options and possibilities to repair things between the two of you, explore them. Be one of the success stories where people actually saved a failing marriage because they were strong enough to give it all they had. Do not treat marriage like it is disposable, and do not be a negative statistic.