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Divorce rates have halved for new brides. Why?

Date: September 15, 2012

New research from The Marriage Foundation (see here for the full report) shows that the divorce rate for wife-granted divorces has more than halved since 1993. The reason? Less pressure from family and society to get married makes men who decide to tie the knot more dedicated to their relationship.

The report, written by Harry Benson, Communications director at the Marriage Foundation, is the first ever analysis of divorce rates both by gender – whether the divorce is granted to the husband or to the wife – and years of marriage.

Amongst couples in their first decade of marriage, husband granted divorce rates increased by 1 per cent between 1993 and 2010 while wife-granted divorce rates have fallen by 27 per cent.  When this analysis is applied to just the first three years of marriage the drop in divorces granted to women is a startling 51 per cent.

Sir Paul Coleridge, the high court judge who launched the Marriage Foundation this year, said: “This dramatic fall in divorce rates is good news and should give people confidence in the strengths and benefits of this wonderful institution. It is the instability of cohabitation that is our greatest concern.”

Because the report looks at the rate of divorce – the average number of divorces per thousand existing marriages – this is not merely an artefact of fewer marriages.

The relative stability in the number of men applying for divorce, compared to the dramatic decline in the number of women, especially in the first three years of marriage implies that men are improving at keeping their wives happy, at least at the beginning of their marriages.

Mr Benson says: “Husbands are doing better during the early years of marriage.”

However, increasing numbers of children born outside marriage, up from 12 per cent in 1980 to 47 per cent today, is associated with a rise in overall levels of family breakdown.

Studies have shown that unmarried couples who live together have less relationship stability, even when they are compared to married couples of the same income and background.

The increasing numbers of couples having children outside wedlock corresponds to a surge in lone parents from one million in 1980 to two million today. As The Marriage Foundation Report argues, “Amongst new parents, where family breakdown is most concentrated, marital status has been found to be the largest unique factor in predicting stability.”


Joint pets are better than children as indicators of relationship success

Children can be unplanned, but getting a joint pet is a deliberate act. This tells us something about different types of relationships.

According to relationship theory, the world is divided into “sliders” and “deciders” – while “sliders” make important transitions between stages in their relationship almost by accident, “deciders” discuss and consider each step before making the next one.

Fascinatingly, whether a woman is a “slider” or a “decider” does not seem to make the difference to the success or failure of a marriage.  For a man, being a “decider” has a positive effect. Men who marry “decide” rather than “slide” through major relationship transitions, making them more committed to their relationship.

Since getting a pet is something a couple has to “decide” on and cannot “slide” into, couples with joint pets have more stable relationships statistically.

The report cites a US study which looked at whether the couples measured were still together a year later. The results were surprising, as The Marriage Foundation report explains.

“The best predictors were having a pet together, taking out a joint phone contract or club membership together, and buying a home together.”

The findings demonstrated an unusual link between pets and relationship success, “As dedication is more dependent on whether men “decide” rather than “slide”, a higher proportion of male “deciders” should therefore produce a fall in the number of wife-instigated divorces.”

Mr Benson says: Many people overestimate the likelihood of divorce and are put off marriage. But sliding into couple relationships with all the constraints they can bring is the greatest risk, not just for the couple but also for any children.”

Notes to editors:

For Harry Benson, Marriage Foundation Director of Communications, please phone 07515 699187 (press and media only)

For media inquiries please contact Daisy Jones at Media Intelligence Partners Ltd on 0203 008 6063

The Marriage Foundation was founded by Sir Paul Coleridge, a High Court Judge, moved by his personal experience in 40 years as a barrister and judge specialising in family law. The Foundation seeks to improve public understanding of marriage and reduce the numbers of people drawn into the family justice system – some 500,000 children and adults each year.