Marriage in America Today


Marriage in America Today

The number of people getting married is declining. Experts say the marriage rate today is lower than it was in 1880, another time when extreme differences in income affected the social landscape. Though marriage is touted in America and many societies as helping to preserve the social order, the atmosphere with which we operate is far from conducive in promoting it. In the original Gilded Age as Mark Twain called it, a new class of industrialists slashed wages and with it the prospects of workers of marrying age, mostly male factory workers. Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin at John Hopkins University wrote that one difference today is many are choosing to cohabitate and have children without a marriage license filed away in the family home. That would never do in the 19th century. But today it’s quite common.

One problem is the gatekeepers to pop culture, the TV and movie writers, musical artists and others have failed to keep up and give us an image we can hang onto for this new state of affairs in how long-term love should be.  Zoë Heller at the New York Review of Books says films today and other cultural milieu are filled with simplistic plots and clichés about love, without delving into the complicated minutia of modern relationships and how best to navigate them. They don’t reflect what people are actually experiencing, nor do they give a strategy for which to encounter the prickly paradigm of modern love. Supporters of traditional values decry the end of marriage as it once was. But couples staying together longer show greater stability, know each other better and perhaps can best negotiate differences. The expense of a wedding, weakening norms and lack of financial benefit may result in a further decline in marriage, experts believe. On the upshot for advocates, statistics show that those who are getting married stay together longer. Also, the divorce rate has dropped dramatically. In fact, since the 1980’s, divorce has been in deep decline. 70% of those who married in the 1990s celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary today. That’s 5% higher than those who married in the 70’s and 80’s. Those who tied the knot in the new millennium have an even lower divorce rate.

According to economist Justin Wolfer at the University of Michigan, two-thirds of married couples today stay together. For those cases where divorce does occur, two-thirds of the time it’s the wife who wants it. The reason is women’s expectations for marriage have vastly changed. Gender roles in America saw a dramatic paradigm shift over the past two decades due to the Feminist movement. This in turn affected how both sexes interact with one another. Today, marriage isn’t only about raising a family or having financial support. It’s about love and partnership. People also want someone who will help lead them into personal growth. They want to grow and better themselves and they look to their partner to help them complete their metamorphosis. A lot of times, when we feel as though we are in a stale relationship and the well has gone dry, we feel it’s time to move on. The baby boomer generation remains the one with the highest rate of divorce. People are living older nowadays, and so when the children have moved out and they still have decades of life left, they want to make the most of it. That sometimes means leaving someone they no longer connect with in order to enjoy those years with someone they do. For more on this topic read, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today by Andrew J. Cherlin.

U.S. Divorce Rate not 50%


U.S. Divorce Rate not 50%

Staunch believers in marriage cringe when they hear it. Others let it seep into their psyche only to give them anxiety. Hopefully, no one has second-guessed their wedding plans or even obstructed their own happiness, resting their anxieties on a misquoted statistic. That’s right, the often quoted 50% divorce rate for first marriages is a fallacy, as is the 60% for second marriages. There are stats closer to the truth. They paint a complex picture of marriage in America today. The 50% divorce rate was a misquoted stat from the 1970’s that has endured perniciously ever since, popping up in the media hither and thither and making would-be brides and grooms bite their fingernails (if they weren’t doing so already). Per 1,000 people in the U.S., the divorce rate hit its high mark around 1980 at 40%. It’s been declining ever since. Throughout the 2,000’s it’s been dropping steadily. Today the divorce rate for first time marriages is about 30%. But things get more complex when you look closer. All the research on divorce focuses on women. So there are actually two divorce rates. The first is for women who are college educated and get married sometime past their 25th birthday. For this subgroup the divorce rate is about 20%. For those who marry before age 25 and do not earn a higher degree, the rate is far higher; 40%. Those women who marry by age 18 however have the highest divorce rate, 48%. This last group are mostly poor, minority women.

Unfortunately, the oft misquoted 50% divorce rate has infected our outlook on marriage. After all, who wouldn’t be more confident walking down the aisle with a 70% chance of success, rather than a 50% likelihood of failure? When women began flooding colleges and the work sphere en masse beginning around the late 1970’s the marital landscape changed. This was when the divorce rate diverged into two distinct patterns, one route for college educated women, the other for those who never earned a degree. But the picture becomes even more intricate. Women with a degree who marry younger have poorer marital outcomes than those who marry after age 25. They also accumulate less wealth. The older a woman and her partner are when they get married and the wealthier they are, the more likely they are to stick together. But earning a college degree is the most significant factor as to whether the couple will stay married or split up. So for career women who have earned a college degree and are over 25, the divorce rate is very low.

Divorce stats are cumulative. Think of it as a continuum rather than a snapshot. Looking at things over a period of time gives us a better view of what’s going on. 10% of first time marriages end in divorce within the first five years. The next 10% end at the tenth year. This is of course blending the two subgroups mentioned earlier. But looking at it in this way, it takes until the 18th marriage year before the divorce rate hits 30%. It would take to the 50th year to reach 40%. About half of all divorces happen within the first five years. After that, the chances of getting divorced become far lower. There is very limited data associated with second marriages. But it looks as though the outcomes are very similar to first marriages. So if you are in a marriage or entering into one, don’t let the stats skew your view. If you are planning out your life at this moment, including marriage, perhaps wait until you have a degree and are old enough to give it the best chance of success. To make sure you and your spouse don’t end up on the wrong side of the pie chart read, The 8 Acts of Love That Make Your Marriage Last: A Marriage Therapist’s No-Nonsense Guide on how to Prevent Divorce, Build Love, Increase Sex, and Make Your Marriage Last by Abe Kass.

Divorce Rate among Older Americans Increased Significantly


Divorce Rate among Older Americans Increased Significantly

A new report by sociologists at Bowling Green State University, found that since 1990, the divorce rate among Americans 50 years old and up has doubled. For those over 65, it has more than doubled. While other age brackets have seen a leveling off or even a decline in divorce rates, 25% of those getting divorced today are 50 and up. 10% are 65 and over. Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Li are the authors of the report. What these researchers found is that this trend stands in contrast from the majority of divorces that take place. 50% of divorces by younger people are among those who have not acquired a college education. But for older people, education level is not a factor. In younger generations, primary marriages last the longest. Second marriages are generally not as stable. But in older Americans, primary marriages have a 50% chance of ending. 55% of divorces take place between those who have spent two decades or more together. Brown said, “We found that flabbergasting.” Many of these older marriages do not come to divorce over constant arguing. They quite simply have grown apart. What researchers have failed to pin down in the document is why the older generation is filing for divorce in such record numbers. Still, no matter what demographic, the majority of those asking for a divorce are women.

Brown said, “It’s not as if marital quality has suddenly declined. Instead, I think we have higher expectations now for what constitutes a successful marriage. We expect spouses to be best friends and marriage a source of happiness and fulfillment.” She added, “As women achieve more financial independence and autonomy, frankly, they can afford to get divorced. And after you’ve launched your children and retire, people may realize, ‘Boy, we don’t have much in common, and I could live another 20 years.’ That’s a long time to live with someone you may not be that into anymore.” Since the social stigma has worn off in most places, people are not likely to stick together for tradition’s sake. As a consequence, there has been tremendous growth in the number of older Americans cohabitating. A multitude of new dating websites targeted toward older Americans has cropped us as a consequence.  For those in a good financial situation and strapping health, a divorce could mean a new lease on life. It will allow more independence, freedom, and opportunities. For those who lack resources, a divorce increases their chances of becoming impoverished. Older married couples have 80% more wealth on average than the older divorced. The financial well-being of the widowed 50 and over is double what these sociologists have dubbed the “gray divorced.”

“Now that they no longer have a spouse, divorced older people have less social support. Relationships with their older children could be compromised as a result of the divorce,” Brown said. “As they age and experience health declines, who’s going to take care of them? Especially if they’re not able to afford the level of care that others with more economic resources have?” This is not only an American phenomenon. According to a senior researcher at the Paris School of Economics, Elena Stancanelli, the same thing is happening in France. Brown wonders if the trend occurring now with the baby boomer generation will hold true when their children, Generation X and Millennials, get older. “As marriage becomes more selective, and more tied to education than in the past, that could help stabilize marriages,” Brown said. She believes these latter generations might save a little time for their partner rather than throwing all they have into career and child rearing, and so be more connected when they get older, rather than not recognizing the person they married, when the couple becomes empty nesters. If you find yourself divorcing and in the upper tiers of life it may be useful to pick up a copy of, Divorce After 50: Your Guide to the Unique Legal & Financial Challenges by Janice Green.

What to Know about Dating a Jamaican Man

jamaican man

Whether you know a Jamaican man in your own country, or you are on vacation and are interested in dating a Jamaican man, the culture is a bit different than that of the U.S. The stereotype is that Jamaican men are controlling, womanizing, and disrespectful of women. The truth is they are like any other group of people. Some Jamaican men don’t treat their women well. Others treat them like queens. We cannot stereotype or generalize, but the culture can be a little bit different. Study the culture if you are seriously interested in someone of the Jamaican persuasion. Here are some things to get you started. If you are going out for a date, or hanging at home, realize that they don’t have the same fast food culture that we in the U.S. do. In fact, Jamaicans eat lots of fresh food prepared at home. Fast food may be okay once in a while, but of course it isn’t healthy so he won’t appreciate eating it all the time. So instead, why not prepare something at home, go to a healthier restaurant, or perhaps ask him to make one of his favorite dishes? And what makes a better date than cooking together? Jamaicans are said to have a number of jobs at one time. The truth is that Jamaicans have a strong work ethic. So don’t be afraid to ask him what he does. It will probably make for interesting conversation.

Jamaicans are very family oriented. In American society, being taken to meet a man’s family means that he’s serious about you. In Jamaican culture, not so much. Very often someone in the family is throwing a party. If they are aware of you they will invite you. But that doesn’t mean, should he be seeing someone else, that he won’t bring her to the next family party. So don’t take an invite or a point where you meet his family as too big of a sign. Also, Jamaican men often take what their mothers say to heart. Understand that her opinion in his life in general, and of you specifically, may carry more weight than an American man’s. If you are a bit prudish, dating a Jamaican may not be for you. In American culture, talking about sex is done behind closed doors, never in front of the family. In Jamaican culture the attitude about sex is much more laid back, and may even be discussed in front of the family. Understand this and don’t be too embarrassed if you find yourself in the middle of some awkward, funny, and interesting conversations. Machismo and masculinity is very essential to the Jamaican lifestyle. If you have any gay friends, realize that your Jamaican interest may be homophobic. Talk to him about it before you bring your gay friends around. Lastly, Jamaican men are thought to be smooth. Don’t get too caught up in his accent or the way he can put sentences together to charm and sway you. You can learn more about dating Jamaican men through the advice of Empress Yuajah in her book, How to Date a Jamaican Man: How to Love and Understand a Jamaican Man.

“Gray Divorce” Is On The Rise

gray divorce

It used to be quite rare to see older couples get divorced after 15+ years of marriage, however, the prevalence of what is termed “gray divorce” has risen substantially since the 90′s.  In 1990, less than 10% of divorces were among those aged 50 or older.  Now, it’s estimated that 25% of divorces are among this age group.  One explanation for this dramatic increase in divorce is the changed meaning of marriage among individuals in the United States.

The concept of marriage has changed substantially over the years, with gender roles becoming more neutral and individuals looking for self-fulfillment from a marriage more so than in the past.  It’s also more acceptable to get a divorce today, and when people feel that they would be happier without their spouse, they easily opt out of their marriage in order to fulfill that desire.  People are also looking for friendship and open communication from a marriage, which are difficult things to maintain over time while trying to raise a family.

Other potential reasons behind the increase in divorce for this age bracket are the ways people reassess their lives at this stage in life.  People may have what is called a “mid-life crisis” once their children leave the nest and/or when they reach retirement.  People may stay married for quite some time and get into a routine where they feel comfortable, while at the same time not noticing that the relationship itself is deteriorating.  Once the children leave the household and one or both partners retire, the couple is left with more free time to spend together with a different routine than what they were used to during the majority of their marriage.  This is where many marriages break down because suddenly the roles of marriage are different and expectations are also bound to change.