Divorce is common in Hollywood. This is a fact we all know. All we have to do is wait in line for a few minutes at our local grocery store. The tabloids are piled high with stories of divorces and how much so-and-so will receive in their divorce settlement. And up until a few recently released studies, we also thought we knew that the divorce rate was 50% and that one in two marriages ended in divorce. But the idea that America is a divorce crisis might not be all that accurate. We actually might be in the middle of an actual marriage (as in getting married) crisis. Seems like a ton of people are questioning how blissful “wedded bliss” actually is.
Some Statistics to Consider
Our thoughts on divorce and marriage might be shifting in a way that we weren’t quite aware of. Consider these statistics:
- Though the overall divorce rate is dropping slightly across the nation, it’s actually on the rise among 25- to 29-year-olds. All this is according to the latest U.S. Census.
- One in 10 first marriages fails within five years.
- There are fewer marriages actually happening in the first place. According to Pew Research Center analysis, only 51 percent of adults today are married. That’s compared to 72 percent in 1960. From 2009 to 2010 alone, new marriages fell 5 percent.
- According to government data, more than half of the births by women under 30 now occur out of wedlock. “This is quite amazing,” says Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University. “A hundred years ago, if you had a child out of marriage, you’d be a social disgrace. Today women feel comfortable enough economically and culturally to bring up a child without a recognized commitment from a man.”
This data is compelling enough, and might just show that we have a marriage problem, not a divorce problem. So does it make sense to say that marriage is a failing trend that could soon just be something that people “used to do”?
Will Marriage Be a Thing of the Past? A Survey
A recent survey done by Glamour magazine asked more than 2,100 women and over 1,000 men ages 18 to 40, if they felt that marriage in America could soon become part of American history. There answers prove it’s still up for debate.
Of the men and women asked, 92 percent say they want to get married someday. The dream of a big white wedding day is alive in most peoples hearts. But it seems that when the reality of marriage gets broken down, women are more skeptical. Half of those surveyed under 30 – which was 51 percent – feel that the institution of marriage is becoming outdated. “This is really a breathtaking statistic,” says Pamela Haag, Ph.D., author of Marriage Confidential. “If you’d asked this 60 years ago, a lot of women would have been too busy making dinner for their husband or running after their children to even take the survey, and they couldn’t afford to not be married. Today there are so many other options. Marriage might still be the preferred dream. But it’s not the exclusive dream.”
And a lot of women seem to feel that way. According to Melody Wilson, 26, from Washington, D.C., “At some point I would like to be able to say ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my boyfriend.”She been with her boyfriend for four years. “But if I never got married, I wouldn’t feel shunned or inept at relationships, which I might have if I lived decades ago.” Vanessa Vancour, 27, from Reno, Nevada, expands a little further: “Having a ring and legal documentation does not guarantee commitment, devotion, or happiness,” she says. “Weddings can be beautiful, but beyond the pretty dress and a few legal rights, I don’t see the point.”
It’s important to say that these two women, obviously, don’t speak for all women. In fact, 49 percent of those surveyed say that marriage really is a timeless institution. “I think it’s the ultimate sign of commitment,” says Megan Brames, 22, from Nashville. “I want to know my partner is serious about spending his life with me.”
Guys Thoughts on Marriage
This might sound surprising, but it seems that guys are even more traditional. Of those surveyed, 55 percent aren’t giving up on saying their vows. “Despite the myth that men are less committed, they are predisposed to desire marriage,” says Fisher. Apparently, it’s good old evolution playing apart. She goes on to explain: “He wants to keep the mother of his children around to ensure his DNA lives on.”
So Why the Loss of Faith in Marriage?
So then, why does it seem that more young women are losing faith in marriage? And could Hollywood and all that tabloid fodder be to blame? Apparently, yes, it does play a role. According to 44% of women in the survey: all the drama is fueling the divorce rate.
Research might be able to give us a reasoning for this. In 2010 a controversial study from Harvard University, Brown University, and the University of California, San Diego, suggested that divorce is catching. Meaning it can be spread. An example: A friend ends her marriage. That means your odds of following suit rise by 14 percent. When it’s a sibling that says “I’m done,” that percentage rises to 22 percent.
So it makes sense that in our digital and TMZ obsessed world, that stars which are “Just Like Us” can affect the way we view marriage and divorce. “I think of Heidi Klum as a friend,” says Ashley Spencer, 25, from Orlando, Florida. “I follow her on Twitter and love all her projects. I really thought she and Seal were going to go the distance. So when I heard she was getting a divorce, it was like hearing an actual friend was ending her marriage.” And Caitlin Brody, 25, from New York City took the Klum-Seal breakup hard. “They seemed in love beyond belief. He freakin’ had an igloo made for the proposal!” she says. “It can be hard to believe in happily ever after if even supermodels and award-winning musicians can’t make it.” What she’s saying that in a dream-world bubble, if they can’t make it work, then no one can. So is this realistic?
Celebrity Couples = Just Like Us? OR Not Like Us at All?
Celebrity couples have a unique list of challenges that typically differs from the average person. These challenges include: long stints on location with sexy costars and dealing with droves of love-struck fans seeking you out at all hours of the day. Laura Jansen, 24, from Los Angeles puts it this way: “I am just not on the same planet as Demi and Ashton.”
That being said, according to the survey, women were more affected by breakups among couples they know personally. Of those women, 63 percent say they get upset when a friend or someone they know goes through a split up. “It’s depressing,” says Wilson. “And sometimes I find myself hoping it doesn’t happen to me.” And it’s that feeling, according to Haag that, “gets at the ripple effect of anxiety and fear that one divorce can have among friends. While divorce might not be, strictly speaking, a viral phenomenon, I’ve seen how catalyzing one breakup can be within a small community.”
How Celeb Divorces Help
But celebrity divorces can actually help in this regard. Often times with divorce, whether it’s your mom or dad, you, or a family friend, it can be kept hush-hush and no one is allowed to talk about it. “While it can be difficult to speak our mind when someone close to us divorces, riffing on Heidi and Seal helps us to process it,” says Eric Klinenberg, Ph.D., a New York University professor of sociology and author of the new book Going Solo. “We’re interested in celebrities’ revolving-door marriages because so many of us have experienced the same thing among our circle.”
There might be another upside to this change in views towards marriage: the pressure is being taken off women to get married. Almost a third of the women surveyed said she’d feel fine going through the rest of her life checking off the single box. Also, 59 percent of the women feel that divorce is healthy if the people in the marriage fall out of love. “Thirty years ago people in a bad marriage felt they had to justify getting divorced—to themselves and to their friends and family,” says Klinenberg. “Today they have to justify staying together. Very few think that if they get divorced, their life will be over. The country is full of single people living big lives.”
But what do people actually want from marriage today? Something truly great. And now that marriage seems as if it’s more “option” than “standard,” according to experts, we have higher expectations of it. “There’s a real strengthening of the idea that marriage is now about personal growth and fulfillment,” says Andrea L. Press, Ph.D., professor of media studies and sociology at the University of Virginia. As Laura from L.A. puts it, “Getting married is really important to me, but I won’t do it unless it’s going to be amazing.”
Fisher advises that if an amazing marriage is your dream, then follow that — just don’t pretend that divorce is something that might not happen to you. “Learn from what’s going on around you,” she says. “Why are your friends breaking up? Is it money, cheating, issues over kids? The brain is built for love, but knowledge is absolute power when it comes to surviving the ups and downs of marriage.”
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