The divorce rate is retreating substantially from the highs of 1991. The ‘seven year itch’ seems to be a feature of the past. Couples married in 2005 are 24% more likely still to be together after seven years than their 1991 predecessors. The divorce rate over the first three years of marriage is down 48% on the 1991 high*.
Historically two thirds of divorce petitions were brought by women who were calling time on their marriages owing to infidelity or their husband’s unreasonable behaviour. Women used to be more aggrieved about bearing the main burden for child-care and the chores, whilst increasingly working themselves. Nowadays, their husbands are pulling their weight in the home and with the children and there is less resentment at the unfairness of the division of labour destroying marriages.
The figures are also greatly affected by the modern social acceptance of co-habitation – marriages that might previously have ended in an early divorce, are simply not taking place. Most couples live together before they marry and if it doesn’t work out then they split up without divorcing. The implications statistically for those who marry are good – but the figures obscure the vast problems of couples in co-habitations that split up – the effects on their families of relationship break-down is just as destructive and de-stabilising as divorce, both for the individuals concerned and for society.
*according to ONS statistics