Well, it’s the piece of research we have all been waiting for. We can now confirm that the seven year itch is a myth.
A new report What is the divorce rate? has been published by the Marriage Foundation analysing divorce statistics and trends for the last 40 years. It shows a number of interesting points but two things stood out for me: people are making better marriage choices today than they were in the early 1970s, and seven years is not a common stumbling block for married couples.
So often, statistics about marriage and divorce do seem to contradict each other and are a matter of interpretation. You can probably find some stats to support almost any theory about marriage if you look hard enough, helped by the fact that the figures publicised by the ONS are often so difficult to follow. This means if you are trying to follow up some figures you have read about, more often than not you don’t find the exact figures but find something else instead.
In this new report, the facts are laid bare. The divorce rate after 10 years of marriage is unchanged from the end of the 1960s, with one in five going their separate ways. That rate drops the longer couples have been married – only 0.5 per cent divorce after 40 years or more of wedded bliss.
Half of all divorces take place in the first decade of marriage – most of those between three and six years of marriage – but that rate itself has fallen from the peak in 1993, suggesting people are thinking longer and harder about the choice of lifelong partner they make.
Will that trend continue? Well, depends which stats you look at. Are the messages about valuing marriage getting through? Are more people working through their issues rather than reaching for the phone to call a family lawyer when things are a bit rocky? We don’t know this. For what it’s worth, I think we all need to work harder to get people to work harder at their marriages. However, in the meantime and on the face of it, this report appears to be good news.