We’ve all heard the statistic floating around our culture that 50% of marriage in the United States end in divorce. In our microwave culture we shouldn’t be surprised that when we see this headline or hear it on television that we take it as being the absolute truth and then move on. After a while of hearing this statistic thrown out at us, we start to internalize the truth that it supposes to provide us with: don’t bother getting married- it’s likely that you all won’t make it. With that, we shrug our shoulders and move on with our lives.
Today I would like to examine that statistic which we hear quoted in so many places, by so many people that nobody even knows the original source any longer. It seems like the sort of question that a family law office ought to know a thing or two about, after all. If we spend so much of our time helping families get divorces then it would behoove us to understand how many marriages in our community are likely to end up on the rocks, headed for divorce. With that said, thank you for joining us on the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.
Are you and your spouse both committed to going the long run with one another?
This is the question that I think we need to approach first and foremost. Through sickness and in health, until death do part. That is the idealist language used by many a wedding officiant. The thing is for generations (really, for many, many, many generations) these were not idealized words that had no practical application in our modern society. Divorce rates were nowhere near as high as they are now even a generation or two ago. True, the millennial generation has seen a lower marriage rate but also lower divorce rate. On the whole, the “atmosphere” is more ripe for divorce now more than in prior generations I think.
I think that commitment, or the unwillingness to be committed to a person, is what leads to higher divorce rates. If people simply work harder at staying together, then it would be more likely that marriages would last. Instead, people tend to focus more on their hobbies, their work- basically people are more apt to focus on themselves rather than their families now more than ever. What comes with that is a greater willingness to simply divorce away a problem in the relationship rather than work on it with your spouse.
If you get divorced once, you are more likely to get divorced a second time
Law students must pass an exam known as the Texas Bar Exam prior to being able to practice law. We graduate law school and then spend the following summer studying like crazy to help ensure that we pass this exam. Our law degree is a nice thing to have, don’t get me wrong. However, a law degree alone will not allow us to actually represent clients in a courtroom or mediation office.
So, we sit for this three day exam with all the pressure in the world on our shoulders. It’s not going to war or running into a burning building but it’s about a nerve-wracking an experience as someone who intends to be a lawyer will experience. Everyone who takes the exam has to wait about three months in order to find out whether he or she passed. It’s a long time to wait in order to find out whether or not the work you put in for almost three years was worth it or not.
What the statistics show is that if a law student fails the Bar Exam once, he or she is more likely to fail it a second time. There are probably a lot of reasons why this is true, but I’m not going to give you my theories on why people struggle to pass the Bar Exam on their second and third go-arounds. Here is how this fact relates to another fact regarding divorce: if you get divorced once, you are more likely to get divorced twice. If you get divorced twice, you are more likely to get divorced three times. You can pull up the statistics online just as well as I can and you will see that almost two thirds of second marriages will end the same way as the first marriage- in divorce.
For one, it is easier to get divorced in our country today than it ever has been. Starting in the 1960s in California, laws were passed that allowed people to get divorced for any reason at all. These are generally referred to as “no fault” divorces. You are basically saying in a no fault divorce petition that there is no specific cause for your filing for divorce. Rather, there is a more or less straightforward conflict in personalities and no chance at a reconciliation. Say those magic words in a divorce petition and you, too, can get divorced in Texas. Whether or not your spouse wants the divorce you can get divorced.
How can you determine if you are more at risk for divorce?
Of course, there are underlying factors that impact your specific chances at getting divorced. We live in a diverse nation and are residents of perhaps its most diverse state. What is true for you is probably not true for your neighbor and almost certainly is not true for the lady living across town for you. We can throw around statistics all we want but the truth is that we need to examine what factors more generally lead to divorce than others.
Now, when we go over these factors I want you to understand that I am not saying if you are one of these “things” that you should not get married. Additionally, I am also not saying that your marriage is doomed if you fall into one of these categories. If anything, in the event that you do fall into one (or more) of these categories then you need to be aware that you are a greater risk of suffering this fate.
The first factor that I will mention to you is being young when you married. Marriage is tough. It will cause you stress in areas of your life that you did not even think were possible. Your finances, children, domestic issues, goal planning, etc. These are areas of your life that suddenly become shared when you get married. If you are not prepared for the hardships that come with working on these areas with your spouse then you are at risk of divorce. It just so happens that young people are not as equipped to deal with these problems, for the most part, compared to their older counterparts.
Second, your educational background has a lot to do with your chances at getting a divorce. There is a point at which your education begins to not make much of a difference, but the statistics show that even if you just a few college level courses in your background, as opposed to just having a high school degree, that you are more likely to remain married. Lower levels of education generally mean a lower income potential. Lower income can directly lead to money problems. Money problems are a leading cause of divorce in the United States.
Third, the income issue that we discussed just a moment ago can rear its ugly head in the middle of a marriage and can sink the relationship. When money gets tight people tend to go at one another. If you don’t earn a great salary and are not on a budget then life can get even more difficult for you. As a result you can run into marital problems that are tough to solve if you do not have a stable, decent income.
Fourth, something that I have read about repeatedly that leads to divorce with great frequency is full time habitation with your future spouse before you are married. The modern thought is that by living with your partner before marrying him or her, you are more or less taking the relationship for a marriage test drive before popping the question. On some level, it makes sense. We do, after all, take cars for test drives before purchasing them.
However, I did some detailed research and discovered that marriages and cars are not the same thing. This may surprise you but it is true. By living together before marriage, there is nothing special about the marriage ceremony and the living condition that you experience afterwards. It is more or less the same thing that you have been doing for years before you marriage. As a result, when there is nothing telling you that the relationship is more permanent you are less likely to bat an eye at ending the relationship. After all- if you have been living together for years, a divorce is not too different than breaking up with a significant other.
Having a child before getting married places a lot of pressure on you and your spouse. This is one of those lessons that absolutely should not surprise you. Your grandmother could have told you to wait until after you are married to have children. Having kids puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a relationship. Sometimes pressure can be a good thing (putting a rock under pressure makes diamonds!) but it can just as easily crush whatever is being pressurized. Having a child in the early years of your marriage can be hard. Having a child in the early years of your marriage when the marriage is already struggling is even harder.
Infidelity and addiction
What would you do if your spouse had an extramarital affair? Would you ever consider taking him or her back? Would you be able to trust him or her again? This is a question that people need to ask themselves who are married. Going to counseling is an option, but only if both spouses attend. Sometimes you may just feel like the counseling Is not going to do the trick and are unwilling to attend. At that point, your marriage is close to being over with.
It should come as no surprise that our culture’s problem with addiction has also led to impacts in the world of divorce. It seems like we attorneys see spouses alleging problems in the marriage associated to addiction more now than in prior years. Pain killers, illegal drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc. all are addictive substances that can harm a marriage irreparably. If you are dealing with an addiction it is important for you to be able to receive treatment. I am not in a position to tell you how to get treatment or from where. Be aware that a problem can best be classified as an addiction when that problem begins to impact your work and your relationships.
Closing thoughts on how many marriages end in divorce
The trouble with trying to answer the question of how many marriages end in divorce is that it would be unfair to say that your marriage is as likely to end in divorce as it is to go the distance. We don’t live in a homogenous society where you, your neighbor and your neighbor’s neighbor have the same or similar backgrounds, beliefs, etc. We are different. We are diverse. You need to understand that the factors that impact your marriage may not be the same as impact your neighbor’s. This can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. What you make of it and how you respond is up to you and your spouse.
Questions about divorce in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about divorce in Texas please consider contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to ask questions and receive direct feedback about your particular issues and circumstances from an experienced family law attorney.