Why are divorce rates high? Because divorce is an option.

CBC News has an interesting piece about a recently released study by the Vanier Institute of the Family. The study found that, according to 2006 Canadian census data, 40% of first marriages end in divorce. Or, if you like, 60% of first marriages were doing alright (as of 2006).

My immediate reaction is that I would like to know a little more information about that statistic – like how many of those first marriages were still in the “honeymoon phase” at the time the study was done, and could therefore have crumbled by now. I’d also like to know what the divorce rate is for second and third marriages…

But what is really interesting to me is the top eight reasons why people got married and the top five reasons given for divorce.

Let’s start with the reasons people say they got married:

  1. Feeling that marriage signifies commitment
  2. Moral values
  3. Belief that children should have married parents
  4. It is the natural thing to do
  5. Financial security
  6. Religious beliefs
  7. Pressure from family
  8. Pressure from friends

Notice anything missing from this list?  Where is the “I fell in love and wanted to make sure that we would always be together” answer?  What about, “we get along so well and I just can’t imagine living without him/her“?  Maybe these answers were nine and ten on the list? Am I the only one who finds it disheartening that every reason listed for marriage is an external force acting as pressure on the couple? Where are the answers from people who wanted to get married?

Now lets look at the reasons people say they got divorced:

  1. Different values and interests
  2. Abuse — physical and emotional
  3. Alcohol and drugs
  4. Infidelity
  5. Career-related conflict

Well, you can’t really disagree with any of these.  I doubt that most people would expect someone they loved to stay in a relationship involving #2, 3, or 4.  #1 isn’t a great thing to have in a relationship either, though I would question the reason those people got married in the first place.  As for #5, well, it’s debatable – but I would say that if a person cares more about their carrier than their spouse, they probably should be divorced.

But what is really striking about these answers is that they are timeless. We seem to make a big deal about how divorce is more common now than it was 20, 30, 50, 100 years ago.  Yet the most common reasons given for divorce today would certainly have been just as common 100 years ago.

The only difference is that 100, 50, 30 and even 20 years ago divorce was far less acceptable.  There certainly is still a stigma regarding divorce today – but it is nothing compared to previous generations. Today, if you have a reason to get divorced, you can make it happen and you can move on with your life. You can even get remarried if you like.

Now, consider this in tandem with the fact that the top eight reasons for marriage involved external pressure…

It’s pretty clear why the divorce rate is so high – people are getting married even though they don’t want to. And once they realize that they made a mistake, they fix it.

I think that the real story here has nothing to do with divorce: it is that society has forgotten that pressuring people to get married is only effective if you don’t give them a way out.

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One Response to “Why are divorce rates high? Because divorce is an option.”

  1. Hi, Thanks for commenting on my blog!

    I found this post really interesting because I just got married last year and I hear a lot of people saying marriage definitely isn’t for them.

    People are much too quick to get married – especially people who get married straight out of high school or while they are still in college. I’m so much different than I was back then and it was only a few years ago so I can definitely see how I’d be divorced if I’d gotten married then.

    I also agree that a lot of people get married due to external pressures. For example, many women are raised to think about that one day when they get to be a bride and have a huge wedding. It seems like they don’t think about love at all, so I can imagine the disappointment they must feel when the wedding is over and they finally realize what’s just happened.

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