The State of Marriage: How Men and Women Differ

Esther Crain
·Writer
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Four out of every 10 weddings are remarriages for either the bride or groom—with one sex retying the knot at half the rate as the other. (Photo: iStock/Christine Glade)

Wedding season is here—and with it some recent shifts in the state of marriage today. Americans are waiting longer than ever before to get hitched, with the average age an all-time high of 27 for women and 29 for men. Same-sex couples are legally allowed to marry in 37 states (and that might expand to the entire nation, depending on what the Supreme Court decides).

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And on the remarriage front, fewer divorced people are taking that plunge. Rates of retying the knot have dropped by 40 percent, according to a new brief by the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF). In 1990, 50 out of every 1,000 previously married men and women put a ring on it again. By 2013, only 28 percent did.

The biggest surprise in remarriage rates has to do with gender. Guys are getting remarried at twice the rate as women are. In 1995, 54 percent of women who were divorced before age 45 walked down the aisle again within five years. By 2005, that number was down to 38 percent, reports the CCF.

The decline in remarriage for women doesn’t necessarily mean that fewer re-marriageable men are out there. Instead, experts say it signals a shift in women’s independence, showing that they no longer need a husband to create a happy life.

Financial independence is a big part of the trend. “Traditionally when divorce happened, a man’s life improved and a woman’s got worse because she didn’t have the same income opportunities,” Wendy Walsh, a Los Angeles–based psychologist, tells Yahoo Parenting. “But more than ever before, women have careers and are economically independent, and they don’t need remarriage from a financial standpoint.”

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Greater financial opportunities aren’t the only things keeping women from getting hitched again. “After a divorce, men lose their emotional support system; guys don’t talk to each other about their feelings, they talk to their wives,” says Walsh, which explains why they tend to marry again.

“But when a woman exits a marriage, she has friends she can lean on and get support from,” she says. No surprise, then, that research shows that after a split, men tend to get depressed and anxious, while women thrive. 

The fact that many divorced women are mothers of small kids also plays a role in plunging remarriage rates. “If you’re a divorced mom, taking care of your kids might be your top priority, not getting married again,” Rachel Sussman, psychotherapist and author of The Breakup Bible, tells Yahoo Parenting.

That’s not to say that previously married women put love and dating on hold. “I suspect that many of the women who aren’t getting remarried are in long-term relationships with a partner, it’s just not as important to them to make it official,” says Sussman.

Though divorce is traumatic and not something anyone wants to go through, says Sussman, there’s less of a stigma these days for women to be divorced and single. Many women who’ve been bruised by the process don’t feel as if they have to give wedded bliss a try again. “You can still have a complete and fulfilling life, which may not have been possible years ago,” she adds.

There’s one more factor to consider: sex. “People don’t like it when I say this, but men generally want more sex than women do,” says Walsh. “And if you’re not an alpha male, one way for a guy to get regular sex is to get married.”

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