It would seem that ‘those whom God has joined’ are no longer waiting until death to be parted as divorce figures start to increase.
Is this linked to the end of the recession as we start to see our personal finances stabilise, or the end of so many highly publicised celebrity fairytale marriages that many people thought they could emulate but now follow into disintegration?
It was when a relative stranger started to divulge, amongst other things, the reasons her husband was divorcing her; they included not having his evening meal on the table in time and not enough sex; that aside from feeling somewhat uncomfortable (I had known the woman in question for less than 10 minutes and I now had the full low down on her private life), it occurred to me the process of divorce has perhaps become just a bit too easy.
As with so many ‘social’ issues, have we gone too far down the wrong path that means we (and I refer to us adults) are no longer prepared to ‘carry the can’ and face the consequences of our actions?
So I wondered has the process of divorce become an easy ‘off the shelf’ remedy to purchase in the same way you would buy Paracetamol to get rid of a similar pain in the neck?
And whilst this highlights another of our modern day shortcomings i.e. we want everything and we want it now, I couldn’t help but feel this level of ‘help’ was verging on subliminal advertising and it would perhaps persuade you on a subconscious level that you can resolve all your problems with very little effort by simply eliminating them.
But, I thought, surely it isn’t that simple and if it is, how did it reach the point where you can dip in and out of married life as the mood takes you?
As with so many of our nation’s habits, much of the law relating to marriage goes back to Henry VIII and whilst he was able to behead the wives of which he grew tired, with his new ‘Church of England’ and newfangled views on married life, he started the ball rolling.
However, it was not until 1858 that divorce became possible via a legal process, albeit weighted entirely in the man’s favour, up to which time each divorce had to be agreed by an Act of Parliament.
It took the enormously radical changes in the role women played during the Second World War and their resultant financial independence, before the next noticeable increase in the divorce rate. However it still remained difficult and expensive, especially for women, to secure a divorce.
It was the Divorce Reform Act 1969 that made the difference and from that point the rate increased significantly during the 1970’s.
The Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 put a stop to anyone filing a petition within the first year of marriage, after all that’s when you expect to discover your spouse’s most darkest secrets. So other than realising you don’t want to spend the rest of your life stepping on toe nail clippings each time you go into the bathroom or watching the build up of used tea bags on the kitchen sideboard, just when is it more likely that a marriage will break down and why?
In 1970, 22% of marriages ended in divorce by the 15th wedding anniversary and by 1995 this had increased to 33%. The meridian duration of marriage during 2010 was 11.4 years with 66% of decrees being granted to the wife.
The average age of people making their vows now stands at 36.2 years for men and 33.6 for women and there were 241,100 marriages in 2010 but that same year saw a significant increase of divorce cases in England and Wales with 119,589 divorces, an increase of 4.9% on 2009.
Of those divorced couples, 20% of the men and 19% of the women had come from previous marriages that had also ended in divorce, so percentage wise, it would seem previous marital status does not have that much effect.
So other than deciding you cannot possibly overlook your spouse’s personal habits, what are the other causes for parting company?
The accountancy firm Grant Thornton claims the extra marital affair has taken second place and that rather than infidelity, it is ‘growing apart’ that is now the main reason sited in divorce petitions:
- 27% falling out of love;
- 25% extra marital affair;
- 17% unreasonable behaviour;
- 10% midlife crisis.
Age also has a bearing, up to 40 years of age it is predominantly women who file for divorce then after 40 it is mostly the men who instigate proceedings with the number of divorces in 2010 highest in the 40-44 age group.
This is probably the most telling statistic as by this time the majority of marriages are over the initial ‘honeymoon period’ of wedded bliss and the children have arrived and it is the impact of this that may have the biggest bearing on the demise of the happy couple’s nuptials.
In 2010 there were 104,364 children under the age of 16 who were affected by divorce with 21% being under 5 and 64% under 11. Suggesting it is the difficulties of parenthood that lead ultimately to the marriage breakdown.
Given that one of the main purposes of marriage was procreation (there are still many religions and cultures that hold this view) it would seem the purpose of marriage itself has changed which may explain why people’s expectations are not being met, or is it that we no longer know just what our expectations are, now we have far greater opportunities and freedom of choice?
So it would seem the whole ‘purpose’ of marriage has altered, that the traditionally held beliefs can no longer be applied and it is due to this continued perception of what married life should be about that people enter into the contract without reading the small print that has appeared over the years.
So what would my advice be? Take no one’s advice but your own and just make sure you know what you want out of life before you share someone else’s.