For years, couples have been bombarded with the statistic that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. But new research has found that’s no longer true.
The data, which comes courtesy of University of Maryland Professor Philip N. Cohen, found that the divorce rate dropped 18 percent from 2008 to 2016. When Cohen broke his findings down by age, he found that the trend has been driven by younger women, despite divorce rates among older women higher than in the past.
Also worth noting: The marriage rate has fallen recently as well, according to data from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research.
Cohen theorizes that marriage is becoming more selective and stable even as attitudes toward divorce are more accepting. “The U.S. is progressing toward a system in which marriage is rarer, and more stable, than it was in the past, representing an increasingly central component of the structure of social inequality,” he wrote in his analysis.
“I’m heartened to see this,” licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, author of Should I Stay or Should I Go?, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Divorce is really painful and difficult for people.”
There could be a few reasons why so many younger people are staying married. “There are two groups of people that are likely to get married: Those who still hold deeply held traditional values (and those are not likely to get divorced anyhow), and those who have taken the time to choose a partner and maybe done more of a due diligence,” Durvasula says.
Having had some time to establish both career and financial stability before getting married can definitely help — especially for women. “Women are often less supported if they choose a partner when they’re still coming up in their career,” Durvasula says. “But if a woman meets someone when she’s more established, her partner already knows what her schedule is.”
The news isn’t surprising, licensed family therapist David Klow, owner of Skylight Counseling Center in Chicago and author of You Are Not Crazy: Letters From Your Therapist, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “What we are seeing at my practice in Chicago is that younger people are being more selective about their partners,” he says. “They know that it is one of the most important life decisions that they will make.”
People who don’t want to get married also aren’t feeling the societal pressure as much as they might have in the past, Durvasula says. “As a result, they’re open to alternative relational structures like cohabiting, and they’re having the whole 9 yards — buying a home together, having kids — without getting married,” she says. Those people may have been more likely to get divorced in the past, and taking them out of the marriage equation could help lower the divorce rate as well, she says.
“Permission to have the freedom to choose who we want to love might be allowing millennials to make more wise decisions in their love lives,” Klow says.
And finally, age and experience do seem to influence staying power in a relationship. “Millennials may have slightly more realistic expectations of relationships,” Durvasula says. “They’ve dated a lot, gotten a lot of fun out of the way, and may be less likely to wonder if they missed out. There may simply be less potential for life regret.”
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