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Some Surprising (and not so surprising) Facts about the State of Marriage Today

Just last week many people were surprised with a New York Times report showing the commonly held myth that the divorce rate is about 50 percent in America is actually just that—a myth.

In today’s world, the divorce rates certainly aren’t climbing and they don’t even appear to be holding steady. According to the Times’ research and data, the rate of divorce reached a peak in the 1970s and 80s, and since that time it’s actually been on the decline.

With that being said, some groups are more prone to divorce than others—for example, people who are part of a lower socio-economic status may be more likely to divorce than their wealthier counterparts.

On the other hand, people who got married in the 2000s are actually showing more staying power when it comes to sticking it out with the person they marry.

Some of the reasons for this declining rate include the increased likelihood of couples to live together before getting married, and also a trend toward getting married later in life. Waiting until you’re older to get married often leads to more favorable outcomes in terms of actually staying married because you’re more stable financially and more stable in terms of life in general. Many of the trends that are actually believed to be leading to lower divorce rates are common practice amongst Millennials, which means we may see the divorce rate continue to decline in the coming years and decades.

That was the surprising information to come out in recent weeks….now for the less surprising research regarding divorce—the top reasons couples decide to call it quits on their marriage. The statistics were gathered by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and while it’s not new information – it was published way back in 2003, it’s come up as a topic of conversation because it was highlighted in a New York Magazine piece.

The number one reason couples divorce? Infidelity. In the research 21.8 percent of divorce cases were the result of a spouse who was unfaithful.

At a close second was the old standby—incompatibility.

At number three was drinking or drug use, number four was attributed to growing apart and number five was dubbed personality problems.

Other common reasons on the list included abuse, lack of communication, loss of love, financial problems and interference from family.

We have to wonder if this list wouldn’t be somewhat changed if data were collected from couples going through divorce today. For example, incompatibility might not be such a big reason for divorce, because as with what we discussed in the first set of data, more couples are living together first and waiting longer to get married. We might also have to wonder if employment and financial problems could play a larger role in divorces today, because of the current economic climate.

There are some interesting tie-ins between the research regarding the declining divorce rates we’re seeing with contemporary marriages, and the reasons for divorce when rates were still relatively high.

What do you think about these two sets of data regarding divorce?