The Divorce Rate in the United States is Declining

Divorce Rate in the United States is Declining

Facts matter. Especially when you run an internet-based business and deal with a subject so steeped in emotion. The reason I bring this up is a New York Times article that came out this week with a reiteration of facts that will probably change nobody’s feelings about marriage.

That oft-cited statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce, repeated endlessly by divorcees and people who don’t want to get married? It’s false.

My job is not to help people get married, but to get HAPPILY married.

“Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce.”

This doesn’t guarantee that all marriages will be long-lasting, nor does it guarantee that the lasting marriages will be happy. My job is not to help people get married, but to get HAPPILY married.

Yet I’m always very surprised to discover that people WANT the 50% divorce rate to be true. Maybe it’s more validating if you look around and see that your marriage isn’t the only one that’s busted up.

When my wife got divorced (as did her two best girlfriends) in their early 30’s, they had a saying: “Everyone cheats, nobody’s happy.” It was a little black humor that gave them solidarity. But in fact, only one of their relationships involved infidelity, and now, all three women are happily remarried.

I certainly never intended to be a pro-marriage crusader; in fact, I’m not. But I am very driven by distinguishing the signal from the noise. And it’s hard to help people in relationships if they’re going under the false assumption that most marriages are doomed to fail.

So here are the facts, once and for all:

Marriages have gotten more stable as people are marrying later.

Living together before marriage means more ill-fated relationships end in breakups instead of divorce.

Better-educated Americans have found a new marriage model in which both spouses work and they build a strong economic foundation for their marriage.

If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce.”

If you’re college-educated and over the age of 30 when you get married, you have a 80% chance of success.

Get an education, have some life experience, have some relationship experience, make some money, date for at least two years, move in together to be sure you can handle it, and THEN get married, and you will give yourself the optimal chance of a long-lasting happy marriage.

And that’s not my opinion.

P.S. The existence of a high-school dropout who married at the age of 20 when she got accidentally pregnant and is still happily married thirty years later does not negate these facts.

 

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Sunflower

    In total agreement! Family and relationships I believe are the core to a happy life. We’re human beings and it’s what all people ultimately crave. Whether they admit it or not. The feeling of contentment and security can’t be achieved from any other aspect of life. Friends and money come and go, but having someone dear in your life who you can go to and count on in times of trouble and need is comforting. Especially as you grow older.

  2. 2
    Amy

    This is really good news. I attended an event last year on relationships and learned that here in Los Angeles, the divorce rate is actually 75%! I hope that number is on the decline as well.

    1. 2.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Whoever told you that, Amy, was (subconsciously) lying to you because that is what they want to believe. Just last night I spoke to a woman who said dating was so hard in NYC because there are FOUR TIMES more women than men in NYC. She heard it from the Millionaire Matchmaker – whose job is to scare women into working with her. I told her that this was absolutely not true. Quick Google search reveals 53% women/47% men. Way different, don’t you think? People who tell you outlandish statistics are generally doing so to get you to believe what they believe. Similarly, I’ve heard women say that 70% of men cheat. You can Google and find a Fox News report that says that because it’s sensational. But I don’t think it reflects reality as much as this, for example: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/03/22/how-common-is-cheating-infidelity-really/

  3. 3
    Stacy

    Oh, I totally want to get remarried one day. Marriage is freaking awesome (with the right person). However, it is hell (literally) if you choose or accept the wrong person.

    Interestingly enough, I think in light of these positive statistics (yayy)?, I believe dating has gotten worse and I wish they had statistics about that. Expectations are different. I go out with men who want to jump my bones after a date and a half. I lie to you not but had a date with a guy from an online site and next thing you know, I am being sent penis pictures. And trust me, I give out NO vibe that I am into this.smh However, I march on like a true soldier.lol Okay, so I was on match for only a month and took a break. But, I think I will venture back out after the holidays. After all, what is the alternative? Sheesh.

    So, while certainly not a major priority, it comes in maybe 5th or 6th – plus, I am a single/divorced mother so yeah. But Evan is right, misery tends to like company and sometimes we give a lot of power to statistics that simply make us feel better in our misery.

  4. 4
    mgm531

    “About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary”

    So then is 15 years considered a reasonable amount duration for a marriage to be considered a long term success? What happens if a divorce happens after that period of time? Would it still then be considered to have been a successful long term marriage?

  5. 5
    JenB

    I’m curious if the stats are for all marriages or for first time marriages vs second marriages. I’ve heard a few times that 2nd and 3rd marriages fail more than first marriages (but I don’t know if that is actually true). I also wonder if the stats are being thrown if people separate but don’t ever legally divorce, I know many people that are no longer with the person they married but are still legally married due many reasons, one being the cost to officially divorce, myself included. I am legally separated, but unless I want to get remarried (or my ex does) it doesn’t make sense to give the government a few hundred dollars just to get a piece of paper (and I get to stay on his medical plan this way too).

    1. 5.1
      Adrian

      JenB, this is a subject that I hope Evan writes about one day. I have met many women who are separated and yet still want to date me. They see noting wrong with it, in their eyes, yes they are married, but it’s only on paper not in their hearts.

      So is marriage only valid if you want it to be? If that is the case why even get the paper signed if you are already living together and sleeping together, living as husband and wife, what will a piece of paper change?

      The reason I struggle with this so much is because I morally always saw marriage as something sacred, but yet it seems that if I where to try to start a relationship with a married women (which I never would) who wanted to stay married than it would be wrong and called an affair by others, but if I didn’t want to start a relationship with a woman because even though she is legally separated she is still a married woman, then I’m seen as prudish and old fashioned.

      So what’s the difference? What is the importance of marriage if society says it’s okay to date one type of married woman and wrong to date another type of married women? I’m curious to the opinions of others on this subject

      1. 5.1.1
        ScottH

        Dating a separated person is a high risk endeavor. Not saying they never work out but the chances are not in your favor. Especially considering that the separated person doesn’t even understand their own emotional situation until they’ve been on their own for a while.
        As far as the value of a piece of paper stating that you are legally married beyond the legal perks and entanglements associated with it, well, that doesn’t assure mutual commitment and without that, nothing works.
        Marriage is tricky, has many nuances, is almost never black and white, and is a lifelong vocation. To think otherwise is to fool yourself.
        I’m speaking from personal experience.

    2. 5.2
      Blondie_rn

      good question, I wondered the same thing….

  6. 6
    PetieQ

    I love the IDEA of marriage and what it SHOULD be, which I believe is just what the vows say it is: “For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do you part.” I don’t believe in the asterisks so many seem to put after those statements, such as *or until I meet someone I like better, *or until my wife/husband gets fat, *or until I get bored. As a divorced woman (NOT my idea!), I would be embarrassed to go before God, friends, and family a second (or third, or fourth) time and essentially say, “But this time I really DO mean forever and ever!”

    Subsequent marriages cheapen what marriage is supposed to be all about—to be with this one person for the rest of your life. You want to get divorced? Fine. But I don’t think the partner who filed for divorce should legally be allowed to get married again. I wonder how that would change the divorce statistics!

    1. 6.1
      Stacy

      PetieQ,

      I know not ONE person in my circle who took divorce lightly nor do I know one person in my circle who did not divorce for extremely valid reasons (infidelity, abuse, addiction). So, while I understand your ‘if I get bored’ point, I hardly think that is the norm. It is hell to go through a divorce. It is certainly not a walk in the park. I do agree with you though that marriage at times is taken more lightly than it should be. But, I walked in on my husband in bed with another woman while I was 6 months pregnant. Now, you tell me that I do not have the right to file for divorce and remarry. Also, how could you know that I take marriage lightly simply because it did not work out the first time? I think that’s a pretty big assumption to make. In other words, it is hardly that ‘simple’ and most things in life never are.

      1. 6.1.1
        PetieQ

        @Stacy

        I’m sorry for what happened to you, but it doesn’t change the fact that back when you got married it was supposed to be “for better or for worse until death do you part.” Short of a life-threatening situation (abuse), I think people need to stick it out.

        My ex divorced me because he said he got bored, so it can happen that way, and I know of at least five other couples in my life who divorced within a couple of years for what I think were silly reasons. Look at Hollywood as a prime example of how ridiculous marriage has gotten. I firmly believe if my ex knew he couldn’t get married again, he’d have tried harder to work it out. I think if people go into marriage from the beginning knowing this is the only chance you have so get it right, they might think more about the person they’re marrying, and your ex-husband might not have married you knowing he wasn’t cut out for marriage.

        1. Jay

          PetieQ – there are obviously social pressures towards getting married. Some religious communities forbid pre-marital sex and young women pressure their boyfriends into marriage because the women don’t want to promiscuously date around and prefer “first love marriage.” Your ex-husband may have gotten married because he felt pressure from you or from his parents, when he wanted to live a more exciting and promiscuous bachelor life, or he just wanted regular sex from you.

        2. Stacy

          PetieQ,

          You forgot the part about LOVING, CHERISHING, and the AGREEMENT to be faithful for the rest of your life.  Infidelity breaks those vows. No, no, no.  You should not stay with someone who continually disrespects you, exposes your to diseases, turns to addiction that could harm you or your children etc. 

          We are human and people CHANGE. My ex husband appeared to be a faithful man for the years we dated prior.  Everything is not that black and white and he did not want the divorce. If he could have stayed married while being unfaithful, he would have done it for the rest of his life.  So, I thank God for the option of divorce because it takes into consideration that people aren’t always consistent with what they promise to do.      

        3. jay

          Stacy, I agree with you.  Divorce is necessary when spouses do not share the same goals.  Marriage was govt attempt to enforce monogamy, but that is really impossible to do. Before birth control, it was easier for women to be monogamous because pregnancies could result in cheating. But before divorce became popular, men often cheated but remained married.  I don’t know stats on how many married cheaters there were before 1950, but I would say half the married husbands cheated (if cheating equals divorce rates, then half the men who get divorces also cheat).  There is certainly many husbands who would cheat if it was socially acceptable, and there are also husbands who have strong sexual urges.  We live in sexually liberal times, and many people recognize that lifelong monogamy may not be possible if spouses want to sexually experiment.  I suppose that is why swinging became popular.  But men who marry young, may want to cheat because they haven’t sowed their wild oats and want more sexual experiences.  Its easy for society and religions to expect monogamy, but sexual liberation means more women and men want to have more sex, not less.

      2. 6.1.2
        PetieQ

        Wow, Jay, quite the presumptuous person, aren’t you! For your information, I didn’t want to get married (at least not at that point–I didn’t think we were ready). HE did. HE asked me. Believe me, there was absolutely no pressure on my part–LOL! And to assume I didn’t give him regular sex? Who the h#ll are you? 

        1. Jay

          PetieQ – I know you are hurt and you feel that marriage is a “sacred entity” that should only happen once.  Unfortunately, in real life, marriage is really nothing more than a legal piece of paper.  People get married and divorced all the time. American society is becoming more like Europe, where people just don’t get married, but can have 10 year monogamous relationships. Marriage is really a forced government intrusion that some people don’t want intruding on their personal legal and financial situation, while many American women want the legal and financial protections that government marriage provides.  Maybe you married too young, or maybe he didn’t believe in pre-marital sex.  As Evan says, its probably best to marry at age 35 when he’s sowed his wild oats and knows there is nothing else better out there, and knows what he wants and commits to what he wants.  That being said, we also live in a sexually liberal society and Men no longer feel forced to have just one sexual partner, even if they are married.

  7. 7
    BOB

    None of this is to mention that there is a lot less marriage now than in the past, esp at the lower income levels.

    This also doesn’t touch on the fact that the majority of divorces are still initiated by women.

    And what about the fertility rate? Does anyone associate marriage with reproduction anymore?

    My thinking is that as increasingly more women have become financially independent if not outrightly financially successful, there is simply less marriage so there is less divorce.

    I’m sure someone will retort “and that’s OK,” but why is it OK?

    Is it better that we are increasingly becoming a society of unmarried and never-married people?

    Is this progress?

    1. 7.1
      Joe

      That’s a good point. Assuming there’s less marriage, does that mean that those who do get married are simply more serious about the institution, and therefore more likely to make it work?

    2. 7.2
      Nicole R

      I’ll tell you why its ok BOB, because it means that those women are being able to choose how they want to live – to get married or not. I would consider more freedom to choose our own lives as progress and I think many others would agree. If the people that don’t want to be married aren’t being pressured in to it and that improves the quality of marriages for those that want to do it, isn’t that a good thing? I’d rather have more happily married people in society, not just more marriages. The statistics that Evan is talking about indicate this is what is happening. Why does the institution of marriage need to be defended anyway? Its not a person, it doesn’t have feelings.

      1. 7.2.1
        JoeK

        “because it means that those women are being able to choose how they want to live – to get married or not.”

        But do you know that this is what’s happening? Are there any stats to support this idea that women aren’t marrying because they don’t want to, or is it because men aren’t asking because they don’t want to get fleeced in a divorce, or are fewer couples marrying because of a shift in values about marriage so they’re just cohabitating?

        Without stats/studies, it’s really hard to say what the cause is.

        Though I’d say it’s a little of all those reasons, and perhaps others I can’t think of. Though I seriously doubt there’s a significant number of women who *don’t* want to get married (Evan has posted stats on this before, women *not* wanting to get married is a very small number (wish I had a link)). Though it would be interesting to see stats on who wants to get married (men and women) split out by age ranges. Then see stats on marrying ages, and divorce stats with them. That would be informative.

        1. Amy

          One thing to consider in American society is maybe it’s not that all women necessary want to be married. Some want to have a wedding or some want to not be alone or some want the societal recognition that comes from being part of a married couple. I have no statistics to back this theory up. But think about how many more women file for divorce than men and how often men say women get married and almost immediately they are miserable and trying to change their husband. Look at the reasons why people get married. Men get married for reasons other than love too and it’s not even proven that getting married for love is necessarily the right reason. Maybe we should just rethink our notions about marriage rather than try to force fit people into a traditional institution that they may have outgrown (for lack of a better word).

  8. 8
    Jay

    There are also more Singles in America than at anytime. So its not that less people are getting divorced, its that less people are choosing to get married in the first place. Men, especially rich men in NYC, are living promiscuous bachelor lives with lots of pre-marital sex. So, marriage is great but it usually is the woman who wants to get married instead of the man. For the men who do choose to get married now, it is “the man’s choice to get and to stay married.” Whereas, 50 years ago, men might have been pressured to get married because of religion and no pre-marital sex. Nowadays, no one cares about religion and women accept pre-marital sex as the new normal, and expect men to “sleep around and sow their wild oats.” Now, instead of having a mid-life crisis to sleep with more women, men are “sleep around in their 20’s and 30’s” and then being monogamous in their 40’s and 50’s. While before, men were in a monogamous marriage in their 20’s and 30’s, and then started cheating and divorce. The choice to marry and stay married is still up to the husband. Women don’t want to divorce unless they are cheated on or abused, or financially independent.

    1. 8.1
      Sass

      That certainly explains why 75 percent of divorces are filed by women.

  9. 9
    Elizabeth

    To back up what a few have said about marriage declining overall:

    http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/09/24/record-share-of-americans-have-never-married/

    According to the survey, “In addition, shifting public attitudes, hard economic times and changing demographic patterns may all be contributing to the rising share of never-married adults…

    The new Pew Research survey findings suggest that never-married women place a high premium on finding a spouse with a steady job. However, the changes in the labor market have contributed to a shrinking pool of available employed young men.

    Among never-married adults ages 25 to 34, the number of employed men per 100 women dropped from 139 in 1960 to 91 in 2012, despite the fact that men in this age group outnumber young women in absolute numbers. In other words, if all never-married young women in 2012 wanted to find a young employed man who had also never been married, 9% of them would fail, simply because there are not enough men in the target group. Five decades ago, never-married young women had a much larger pool of potential spouses from which to choose.”

    So as women have climbed the ladder in the workforce, men have climbed down.
    Is this due to cause-and-effect? Could it be women who are outperforming in the professional world are doing so at the expense of marital happiness? Possibly. Since 78% of women in the survey also stated that finding a man with a steady job was very important, in fact, more important than anything else asked, signs point to frustrated working women with no indication that things will change for the better of both sexes anytime soon. Being that fertility is also at a record low and we can’t sustain our “replacement rate” things will just get worse for men with immigrant labor coming in to fill the gap at “competitive” (what some would refer to as exploitive) wages pricing out native workers, both in the low-end job sector and high-tech industry. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/may/28/us-birthrate-plummets-to-record-low/?page=all

    Another viewpoint to counter Evan’s analysis is that of cohabitation. Evan states the following as fact, “Living together before marriage means more ill-fated break ups end instead of divorce.” From a CDC study on first marriages…”If entry into any type of union, marriage or cohabitation is taken into account then the timing of a first union occurs at roughly the same point in the life course as marriage did in the past.” http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr049.pdf. Could we say due to the ever- changing moral landscape what now would be classified as cohabitation would have been automatically a marriage in the past and the “ill-fated break-up” would have never happened in the first place? Say what you will about pre-60’s, old-fashioned America but there were more marriages per capita back then as well as lower divorce rates.

    Is this progress? In the sense that women can choose the outcome of their lives without the financial assistance of a man, I would say yes. Is this progress for the traditional family and/or for the nation as a whole? Only time can answer that.

    1. 9.1
      Jay

      Elizabeth – true, look at Europe where marriage rates plummet and procreation rates plummet. America is becoming more like Europe as women have careers and have less babies. Its for the better, but traditional-minded women, and marriage-minded women might find this new feminist-future difficult to accept. The couple that stays married over 20 years will likely become rarer, and marriage before age 35 will become rarer. This is great news for feminist women, but not so good news for traditional women.

    2. 9.3
      Tom10

      @ Elizabeth #9
      “The new Pew Research survey findings suggest that never-married women place a high premium on finding a spouse with a steady job. However, the changes in the labor market have contributed to a shrinking pool of available employed young men.”

      So if there is a shrinking pool of available employed young men, might it be an idea for women to remove the high premium they place finding a spouse with a steady job and consider dating unemployed young men? Now there are plenty of men to choose from.

      “Being that fertility is also at a record low and we can’t sustain our “replacement rate” things will just get worse for men with immigrant labor coming in to fill the gap at “competitive” (what some would refer to as exploitive) wages pricing out native workers”

      Worse for men? Depends. For unemployed men maybe, but better for men with successful careers. So guys just need to put their head down and work hard. Problem solved.

      “Is this progress? In the sense that women can choose the outcome of their lives without the financial assistance of a man, I would say yes.”

      I would say yes too.

      “Is this progress for the traditional family and/or for the nation as a whole? Only time can answer that.”

      As Jay said it depends on the individual’s political/philosophical outlook to life I guess. I would say yes, on balance, it is progress.

  10. 10
    Simone

    I am so happy not to be married. I only see one or two marriages that I admire. The rest just seem like being single but different. Not better, and sometimes really much worse. It’s harder to get out of a bad situation–the financial stuff, kids, the social stigma, all of it. Ugh.

  11. 11
    Alena

    I am so happy I am not married. It´s wonderful to have responsibilty only for myself. When I was in a committed relationship my decision-taking would always go like “is this good for me and him”, now I just have to think for myself. Nobody takes me, my mind, body and soul for granted any more. I don´t have to hang out with people I dislike (his family and friends) and talk about uninteresting things (his job or hobbies) and pretend he was the greatest man on earth (when will men realise that they are not so great after all even if their mothers made them believe so) just not hurt his ego and to have regular sex without him nagging around and act like a hurt dog.

    1. 11.1
      SM

      sorry to hear your so jaded about relationships . It doesn’t sound like your ex was very good for you . And it sound’s like you have issues that wouldn’t hurt to be worked through ( professional ). there are good and bad things about being in a LTR  that’s for sure, but if the good out weights  the bad a lot of times you can look over the small things. no matter your choice’s in life it’s always to some extent  a leap of faith.

  12. 12
    JaneFromStateFarm

    I just heard a dismal statistic…100% of marriages end in either death or divorce. I’m staying single! LOL

  13. 13
    Sabine

    I think people in general are more willing to wait for the right one AND being single does not have the stigma it used to. There is being choosy (looking and finding a good match) and being picky ( where you “list” is unrealistic).  Living together also allows you to see what your getting into as some habits are deal breakers. The right guy is out there for me. I’m just not going to marry for a ring and a title 🙂

  14. 14
    SM

    i wonder what the future holds when the hookup generation starts marring @ divorcing . jumping from one bed to the next , with web sites like tinder @ and my favorite Bang your friend .com ( and this is just the beginning and were where these web sites when i grow-up i had to do it the old fashion way ) 
      I heard it’s like an addiction for some that use these sites getting the  adoration  of likes and winks and how many they can get. it’s same guise used on the dating web sites how many looks and likes you can get it’s like a high, no wonder some people are on these web sites for years for crist sake some are still on them after there married or a LTR – hit a rough patch in the marriage- rel  get back on the computer get emotional needs met woo-la  or get your next partner while your still with the first one.        

  15. 15
    Barbra

    This article on divorce decline in NewYork is informative and we are glad to note that the marriage institution has stood the test of time. While there is no guarantee that all marriages will be long-lasting nor there are no confirmations that the marriages will be happy. Nevertheless couples coming together to live as husband and wife will do their level best to see to it that the difference in background and culture is not a tag of war.

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