Have you been divorced?
Maybe not. Do you know someone who’s been divorced? Probably.
In this day and age, Americans speak about their divorce as casually over lunch as if it was the weather. And yet centuries ago, this topic was incredibly unacceptable, almost taboo. Something has changed in our culture that allowed the dissolution of marriage to become a common occurrence. In my opinion, a big component of marriages and relationships falling apart so often is the “bigger, better” culture we live in. We see it emphasized constantly in society that we shouldn’t settle, we deserve the best, and there’s always another option out there. When this is drilled into our heads, it’s no wonder that the common inclination is to give up when the situation gets tough. And with technology so prominently surrounding us, the other options are easy and convenient, glaring in our faces.
So, what are your chances of divorce?
Although the exact statistics are widely debated in the social science field, it’s clearly observed that many marriages end in divorce. So what affects your chances? As Olga Khazan notes in “The Divorce-Proof Marriage,” some factors include income level, time spent dating, wedding size, and religious behavior. She says, “dating for a while before tying the knot might indicate a level of planning that suggests the couple is in it for the long haul. Similarly, a well-attended ceremony might be a proxy for a large family that pressures and/or supports the couple and helps them stay together.” The author of “Divorce Rates High in Conservative Areas” would tend to agree with Khazan. This article explains how couples in the Conservative Protestant community have an abundance of marital struggles. In these environments, people tend to get married younger, have more kids, and less education. Additionally, they feel they cannot get help from their community because the culture shames any marital struggle. Thus, couples wait until the last straw and then see divorce as the only option.
But wait, shouldn’t religion actually help marriages?
Sometimes, yes. In fact, Shannon Davis and Joshua Tuttle found that religious participation reduces the likelihood of infidelity in their source, “Religion, infidelity, and divorce: Reexamining the effect of religious behavior on divorce among long-married couples.” Clearly there are some beneficial effects of mutual religiosity. Wilcox and Wolfinger would agree with this assessment, as their study, “Living and loving ‘decent’: Religion and relationship quality among urban parents,” claims this factor increases supportive and nonviolent relationship behaviors. Specifically, religion tends to encourage patience and affection within marriages. Because of these contradictory studies, it’s seemingly inconclusive within the field. Some religious environments will cultivate a healthy marriage, while other communities only cause damage.
What about age? Don’t people get divorced because they’re young and immature?
Again, the answer is sometimes. Getting married in your teenage years does present an exponentially high risk for divorce. For example, Lauren Fox talks about this issue in “The Science of Cohabitation: A Step Toward Marriage, Not a Rebellion.” She argues that it’s not necessarily living together before marriage that influences divorce rates, but rather the age of the individuals involved. If you get married at 18, your risk level is about 60%. According to Fox, once you reach the age of 23, this risk significantly decreases. She claims that this carries you out of the “danger zone.”
On the other hand, Sam Roberts might disagree with her. While many young marriages do end in divorce, we are also seeing a recent surge of divorce in the older population. Roberts speaks about this in “Divorce After 50 Grows More Common.” Apparently, the length of your marriage no longer guarantees the likelihood of divorce. In our advanced society, other factors seem to play a bigger role in marital dissolution. In part, women have become more independent and financially stable, which allows them to break apart from an unhappy relationship. As Olga Khazan notes in “Why Divorce Spikes in March and August,” lots of unhappy couples will attempt some kind of last-ditch effort vacation in order to save their marriage, and when it only exacerbates the problem, they finally give up. Thus, we see that age can lead to divorce, but it’s probably not the only obstacle.
This all sounds very depressing. Are all marriages destined to end in divorce?
No. Definitely not.
But in order to change a negative outcome, you must first examine all possible facets. Because of these pessimistic, discouraging studies, we can actually learn how to reduce the divorce rates in society. Barbara Bradley Hagerty discusses one constructive study during a podcast interview, “Boomers Face A ‘Divorce Revolution,’ But Some Can Learn From Happy Couples.” In this study, they wanted to examine the actual chemical reactions in the brains of different married couples. When exposed to stress, they found that unhappy spouses truly had adverse chemical reactions. She explains that “when relationships are functioning well, your spouse takes a problem away. If the relationship is not functioning well, the spouse adds an additional problem.” However, they also discovered that weeks of emotional therapy allowed these couples to adjust and achieve the results of the initial happily married samples. In other words, there is still hope for those who are willing to put in the effort.
Every marriage is guaranteed to encounter its fair share of stumbling blocks, but not every marriage will handle them. One common factor in marital dissolution is the mindset of the individual. If you see an escape route, you lower your level of commitment from the very beginning. Basically, society regards marriage as an obvious next step for a relationship, where it’s okay if it doesn’t work out in the end. When you expect to fail, the self-fulfilling prophecy will usually prevail.
I think Barbara Bradley Hagerty would be very interested to read the article, “What’s So Crazy About An Arranged Marriage?,” by Maura Kelly. In this, she notes the flawed mentality in American culture and touches on what we can learn from the success of arranged marriages around the world. Namely, these partners tend to focus on the positive, instead of complaining like so many Americans do. Their mindset is determined, almost unwavering. Because they don’t marry for the purpose of “true love,” they have both realistic expectations and the drive to succeed. I believe that mass media has drowned us with the idea of “soulmates” and finding “the one.” With these unrealistic notions, many people end their marriage because it doesn’t live up to their fantasy. Instead of believing that fate brings people together, it’s important to recognize that work and commitment are the only secrets to marital happiness.
The Secrets of a Good Marriage
By Ellie Kelsch
Growing up I’ve learnt about love,
I’ve been surrounded by it everyday.
I’m so glad you’ve both found it,
And it’s why we’re here today.
They say there’s secrets to a good marriage,
That there are rules to obey,
But the most important rules of love,
Are what you two do everyday.
It’s the ‘hey babes’ in the morning,
It’s how she makes his tea,
It’s the way he smiles at her,
Such a sweet thing to see.
It’s never being too old to hold hands,
Or to watch movies on the couch,
It’s accepting all the flaws,
Even when the other’s a grouch.
It’s telling him he’s not going grey,
It’s the ‘You look fine in those jeans’
It’s ignoring the mid-life crisis,
and all her little ‘scenes’.
It’s facing the world as one,
And it’s more than love at first sight,
It’s together being a family,
Each and every day and night.
It’s the way he looks into her eyes,
It’s the way that she looks too,
It’s why they stand before us,
and it’s why they said ‘I do’.
And now I stand here today,
On this important moment in life,
With two people very in love,
Now husband and wife.
Growing up, I’ve learnt about love,
and seeing it today proves it true,
You’ve both taught me so much,
And I’d be lucky to be half as happy as you.