Tag Archives: marriage rates

Census: Divorce rates fall; long-lasting marriages rise

It may seem that divorce is all around us, and I think that influences the number of people who consider marrying or staying married. The reality is the U.S. Census Bureau just reported that the divorce rate has dropped and the number of long-lasting marriages has risen. Most Americans marry once and remain married.

With headlines questioning whether marriage has lost its relevance, and with spotlights on the high-profile marriages that fail, it’s not surprising that we as Americans have an inaccurate picture of reality. Here are some of the recently reported census facts:

  • Seventy-seven percent of couples who have been married since 1990 reached their 10-year anniversaries.
  • Fifty-five percent of all married couples have been married for at least 15 years.
  • Thirty-five percent of all married couples have celebrated their 25th anniversaries.
  • Six percent of married couples have been married more than 50 years.

Census data also tells us people are waiting longer to get married and that fewer people are choosing to marry. So it would make sense that people who do marry are more certain of their decision. “Couples that get married in their mid-twenties or later than that are more likely to avoid divorce court,” said Bradford Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. He added that marriage is coming more stable, while divorce is becoming less common in the U.S.

Unfortunately, certain segments of the population are seeing increases in divorce and in childbearing. These include Americans without a college degree who are less affluent, working class or poor. Wilcox calls it the marriage divide and says 41 percent of kids today are born outside of marriage, are likely to be exposed to a “carousel of romantic partners and to suffer as a consequence.”

As a country, we still have significant improvements to make. This recent divorce decline comes after decades of increases in divorce rates. Those who are financially struggling have more difficulties staying married. In addition, certain races face higher divorce rates. The Associated Press reports the percent of first marriages that end in divorce are as follows: Black women: 49 percent; white women: 41 percent; Hispanic women: 34 percent; and Asian women: 22 percent.

See: ABC News story on the Census Report

In addition, rather than simply reduce the divorce rate, we hope to improve marital quality. That’s the goal of this and many other blogs and marriage professionals. Please share with me (either via email or by commenting) what topics you would like to see that relate most to improving your own marital quality.

Related Links:
Do we have too much of a fix-it mentality toward marriage? I think so. Read “What’s wrong and how do I fix it?” I’ve agreed with Corey’s philosophy in past posts, that what we focus on gets larger. So focusing on a small problem on your marriage can potentially grow into a serious one. Corey spells out very clearly the better strategy to focus on where you want to go and on how you can be a better spouse.

What causes divorce? I tend to agree with Paul that many times it’s death of a marriage by 1,000 cuts rather than one specific item.

Men who seek to improve marital quality may enjoy these two men-only Christian marriage blogs:
Better Husbands and Fathers –shares a list of date ideas for you and your wife.

I like the post “Be there for her” at the web site Romantic Act of the Day.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Choose Exciting over Pleasant Activities to Boost Marriage

Exciting activities improve marital satisfaction much more than pleasant activities. A new study by the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory of New York State University showed that a group of couples who spent two hours each week engaging in a new, exciting activity gave a dramatic boost to their marital satisfaction. A second group who engaged in highly pleasant, but only moderately exciting, activities, showed no significant change in their perceived marriage quality.

I found the results interesting, because I would have expected at least some reported improvement in both groups. However, I’m not surprised the first group with their novel experiences created stronger results. This is because previous research has focused on the hormone oxytocin that is released when a couple falls in love, has sex, or shares novel, exciting experiences together. This hormone helps a couple bond and feel all lovey-dovey. In addition, if you are learning about or experiencing something new together, you are united in your goal of accomplishment. It can be exhilarating to enjoy a new experience or learn something challenging together.

As many married couples find it difficult to keep their passion alive, the study is a great reminder to focus at least some of our attention on how to keep things exciting. It can be a bit daunting, however, for those of us who don’t spend much time climbing mountains or exploring underwater caves. So, it’s important to find something you both would find enjoyable, new and exciting.

The study authors had couples make a list of things they would like to do that are exciting. This is a perfect starting point for you. Make a list, and rate each activity 1-10 for pleasantness and excitement. Find something that you both find moderately pleasant but high on the excitement scale.

You might consider:
• Travel to a new, exciting destination
• Learning a new language together
• An outdoor activity, such as zip lining, biking in a challenging terrain, training together for a mini marathon.
• Taking a cooking or dancing class
• Getting a couples massage
• Talking about, and experimenting with new techniques in the bedroom (or buying an enticing, sexy new garment)
• Going to a rock concert or venue you wouldn’t normally attend
• Surprise each other occasionally with a gift or a date night
• Go on a marriage retreat or a weekend getaway
• Brainstorm ideas that fit your interests and area of the world—scuba diving, hiking in the mountains, skiing, camping—but only activities that are NEW for you, not what you find yourself doing over and over again.
• Learning a new skill together—photography, pottery making (remember that scene in Ghost?!), a musical instrument, race car driving, flying an airplane

Married life doesn’t have to be dull. What makes affairs exciting is the notion of getting to know someone attractive and new, going to new places, trying new activities, and having new sexual experiences. Have an affair with your own spouse, and experience these exhilarating feelings in the safety of your own marriage. Maybe you do your hair differently, or put at attractive outfit together. Then, go do something really fun together, and enjoy the boost in your marriage. There’s no excuse for saying married life is boring.

What’s the most exciting thing you have done lately as a couple?

Interesting Links:

Bikinis or briefs? Read a new study that proves bad underwear can ruin your day. Really. So, choose your panties carefully, and it may improve your life and make you feel sexier and more confident. Your hubby may also appreciate this.

Divorce’s Impact on Teens. More than half of American teens (55%) do NOT live with their married mother and father. Using United States Census Bureau data from 2008, a study revealed that 62 percent of Asian-American teens live in two-parent households, compared to 54 percent of whites, 41 percent of multiracial background, 40 percent of Hispanics, 24 percent of American Indians or Alaskan Natives, and 17 percent of African-Americans.

Walk through effects of Divorce. A new program in Britain—the country with the highest divorce rates in Europe—suggests that couples on the brink of divorce confront the realities how divorce would impact their family before taking the next step. It’s based on an educational program in Norway that has been effective at keeping families together.

Do you believe in soul mates? This marital therapist at Psychology Today does not, and says the idea alone contributes to relationship failures. She says too many people leave their marriage then they decide they have finally met their “true” soul mate, who ends up not being so ideal in the end.

Photo credit: © Maxim Petrichuk/PhotoXpress.com

Divorce Rates Hit Lowest Rate Since Early ’70s

The divorce rate in the U.S. is now at its lowest point since the early 1970s, according to data recently released by the National Center for Health Statistics.  Infidelity rates, marriage and birth rates are also declining.

According to a New York Times analysis, there were approximately 3.4 divorces per 1,000 people in 2009, falling from 3.6 in 2007 and 3.5 in 2008.  Marriages and birth rates also declined. Some say Americans are holding off on these major life changes due to a dismal economy. In 2007, 7.3 marriages per 1,000 people were reported. In 2008, rates fell to 7.1, and in 2009 to 6.8. Read the full report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Americans continue to have the misperception that half of marriages fail. It may even make us feel like the odds of marital success are so high that we can’t be held responsible if we fail. If you’re living in poverty, a teenager, a high school dropout, a person with a lower-than-average IQ (yes, low IQ is a risk factor for divorce), a person on your third or fourth marriage, yes, your odds of marital success are low, and premarital education and skills training are essential. However, the success rate for first-time married college-educated adults (among other groups) is excellent. Prepare and believe in the success of your union, and you will be more likely to succeed.

The problem is that increasingly, young couples don’t feel equipped to enter into marriage, often because of their economic or job situation. Education and income level have a direct impact on family life and marital strength. An interesting article by Andrew Cherlin and Bradford Wilcox called “The Generation that Can’t Move On Up” states:

These working-class couples still value marriage highly. But they don’t think they have what it takes to make a marriage work. Across all social classes, in fact, Americans now believe that a couple isn’t ready to marry until they can count on a steady income. That’s an increasingly high bar for the younger working class. As a result, cohabitation is emerging as the relationship of choice for young adults who have some earnings but not enough steady work to reach the marriage bar.

The problem is that cohabiting relationships don’t go the distance. In fact, children who are born to cohabiting parents are more than twice as likely as children born to married parents to see their parents break up by age five. These break-ups are especially troubling because they are often followed by a relationship-go-round, where children are exposed to a bewildering array of parents’ partners and stepparents entering and exiting their home in succession.

Research points to education playing heavily into the solution of more stable families. While 40 percent of infants today are born to unwed mothers, 90 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth. College-educated adults don’t learn the key to marital success while studying at a university. Instead, they are more prepared for the job market, and they can often avoid the extreme financial stresses of those without an education…stresses that can cause a marriage to quickly unravel.

Whatever reason the pundits ascribe to the falling divorce rate, I’ll call it good news. As for bridging the economic and educational gap in America, I’m afraid we have a significant distance to go.

Current Divorce and Marriage Rates

Someone asked me recently whether the often cited divorce rate of 50 percent was correct for Americans. The answer: Not really. That figure is a result of averaging a lot of facts together. In addition, the divorce rate has fallen some in recent years.

If you are interested, here are details on divorce rates. The higlights:

  • 41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce
  • 60% of second marriages in the U.S. end in divorce
  • 73% of third marriages in the U.S. end in divorce

There are also disparities in the age of the married couple. Those who married between ages 20 to 24 have the highest divorce rates.

Couples with children have lower divorce rates than those without. It has been reported that sociologists believe childlessness to be a common cause of divorce. The absence of children leads to loneliness and weariness and even in the United States, at least 66 percent of all divorced couples are childless. I researched this fact after interviewing a couple who was infertile for 14 years of marriage and later went on to adopt and have two biological children. While infertility did put a strain on their marriage, in the end it brought them closer together as they learned to focus on what they had, rather than on they didn’t have.

To learn more about why people divorce, read the best divorce predictors. Also, read the reasons Americans give for their divorces.

Interestingly, the vast majority of Americans still think marriage is worth the risk; 81% of men and 86% of women marry by the age of 40.

The Marriage “Haves” and “Have Nots”

I’ve posted a guest post today at The Marry Blogger about the societal divide of marriage in the United States. Here’s the intro:

College educated married couples are about half as likely to divorce as their less educated peers. Americans have seen divorce rates drop by about 30 percent since the early 1980s, but Americans without college degrees saw their divorce rates rise 6 percent.

This has created a social class divide in our society where the marriage “haves” (along with their children) receive the proven benefits of marriage, while the “have nots” fall further behind, economically, emotionally and socially, according to The Evolution of Divorce from National Affairs magazine’s fall 2009 issue.

To read the entire article, to go The Marry Blogger.

Marriage 101: Is It Teachable?

When I was a 24-year-old bride, I thought my husband should know when I was upset, should apologize when he was wrong and should agree with me when I pointed out why I was right. Ah, young love. The stuff of storybook romances.

The fact is many of us have unrealistic expectations of marriage at the outset. Diane Sollee, who coined the phrase “marriage education” says while people are given instructions on how to court, get engaged and get married, how to have a great honeymoon and get through pregnancy, people are not often educated about what to expect in a normal, good marriage. She founded the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education in 1995, because she believed there was a fundamental understanding in society of the importance of a complete, biological, intact family.

One common misconception is that there are compatible and incompatible couples. When the industry moved from studying failing marriages to studying successful marriages in the 1980s, they learned there is no compatible couple. “All couples disagree the same amount. Couples have to manage money, children, sex, others and time, and they will disagree about those,” said Sollee in an Examiner.com article. Experts now teach how to effectively manage (not “resolve) conflict, which is found in every marriage.

Sollee’s organization provides an educational web site to provide information helpful to maintaining long, happy marriages. It’s part of the Utah Marriage Initiative launched to help make marriages stronger. Educational articles help fill in the blanks when family role models or personal experience aren’t perfect, or for people who want their marriages to be better than average.

Does is surprise you that Utah has a state-wide initiative? It shouldn’t. Our nation is working at the Federal level to promote two-parent families and discourage out-of-wedlock births, and the government and is measuring states’ performances and linking welfare funds to those objectives. In 1999, Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating launched the nation’s largest marriage initiative to cut that state’s high divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates. It appears their motivation was at least partly financial, as it followed a 1998 report that showed the state’s economy was suffering as a result of high family breakdown and increasing poverty levels. Utah was spending $276 million per year on unwed childbirth and family fragmentation prior to its initiative.

Religious, professional and political groups are all mobilizing toward the same goal of preventing family breakdown as detailed in this article. Their motivations may be moral, financial, political or seeking to improve the welfare of our nation’s families. All of them have to return to the basics, because the two questions to which many in our society don’t know the answers (especially those who grew up in fragmented families), are “Why should we value marriage?” and, “How can we create a long-term, happy marriage?”

Probably the most compelling answer to the first question for couples who plan to have children is the overwhelming evidence that children do better in all respects when they are raised in an intact family. Research also shows society as a whole benefits when divorce rates and out-of-wedlock rates decline. Marriage and family experts are trying to educate the public to help them answer the second question, but the overall conclusion is that couples can learn how to have more fulfilling, happier marriages if they work at it and have realistic expectations.

Thankfully, I’ve learned from quite a few mistakes during the last nearly 15 years of marriage. Do you think you can learn to be a better spouse, or is marriage unteachable? What can we teach the next generation to help build stronger families?

Be Optimistic about Relationships

Sometimes the bad news about marriage can seem overwhelming. Dr. Russ Guss writes about optimism in relationships in his Moment-to-Moment Optimism blog. He finds there is plenty of good news, for example some facts he shares:

*The 10-year marriage failure rate of college and non-college graduates is down to 16% for first time marriages in the 1990s.

*Men and women born in the 1930s and married in the 1950s have the highest marriage without divorce rate of any generation: 96%.

*The majority of couples who experience infidelity in marriage remain married.

*Individuals who marry after age 25 have better odds of making their marriage succeed.

*Weaker relationships appear to be ending before marriage. (Selecting a life mate is a huge decision. I’m hoping people are giving it a little more serious consideration.)

*Couples are choosing to overcome tough problems and make their marriage work through “hard work.”

*Society cares little whether the man or woman makes more money.

*In the early stages of a romantic relationship, our brains “turn off the button” that searches for perceived personality flaws and focuses on fun and pleasure. (This may be helpful when it comes to falling in love, but keep in mind that your brain is naturally inclined to be more negative with your long-time spouse than with the new cutie in the next cubicle. Your perceptions can override reality. Instead of looking elsewhere, if you continually put positive energy in your marriage, you will improve your chances for success.)