After six months of a bit of a hiatus, I am now reading Chapter 2 of Pamela Paul’s book The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. In Chapter 2, Paul provides an historical overview of marriage and divorce in the United States, going back as early as 1870.
According to Paul, in the 1970s, a fundamental shift in public opinion about divorce took place in the United States. New favourable divorce laws emerged and divorce became more publically accepted as a means of getting people out of unhappy marriages. Paul explains a truism emerged that “People should not stay married if they are not happy”.
Divorce rates surged during the 1970s. In 1979, there were 23 divorces per 1,000 married couples. According to Paul, of the couples married in 1970, 25% were already divorced by 1977. According to the Census Bureau, by 1975 half of all divorces took place within seven years of marriage.
Paul compares these statistics with those at the time of writing her book. She explains:
“Marriages are ending in divorce even earlier; the average marriage that ends in divorce lasts 6.3 years, and most marriages end within two to five years, with the chance of divorce highest during the third year.”
Later Paul elucidates: “One of the lessons the divorce epidemic taught was that marriage is disposable”.
This statement, in particular, resonates with me. I feel one of the reasons why the divorce rate is so high and there are so many starter marriages, is because in North America we live in an era where everything seems to be disposable and something bigger and/or better is always comes along.
Cell phones and tablets are a prime example. Apple and other manufactures like Samsung and Blackberry are constantly coming out with new and improved products. How many people do you know that have upgraded to the latest iPhone or iPad each time it is launched, despite the fact that the version of the cell phone/tablet they had was perfectly good and functional and may have been less than one year old.
Don’t like your job anymore? Just quit and find another. House too small or not modern enough? Sell it and upgrade.
In my view, the same philosophy of disposing of something you don’t like or want any more, has transcended into the realm of marriage. It’s even easier in some States in the United States, then in Canada, to get a divorce. In Canada, the primary ground for divorce is one years’ separation. In some States in the U.S. you can get a divorce after being separated for only a few months.
I certainly do not advocate staying in an unhappy, abusive or destructive marriage. But sometimes I wonder if couples don’t put in the effort that their grandparents and parents put in, to try and make their marriages work, because marriages have become so disposable.
Care to share your thoughts?