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Patience as a Virtue: Divorce Rates Lower When Couples Marry Later


In the Lehigh Valley Morning Call, Riley Yates points out that taking one’s time before marrying can have real benefits.

Joshua Cole and Jessica Mack, recent newlyweds, feel pretty good about their chances for a long and happy marriage. While surely every couple must feel this way until at least the end of the honeymoon, Cole and Mack have a few facts on their side:

  • They both hold master’s degrees.
  • They dated for four years before deciding to get married.
  • They are in their late 20s.

According to a growing number of sociologists and marriage counselors, the above factors have kept marriages intact in increasing numbers over the past twenty years. People in Cole and Mack’s situation are more likely to take marriage seriously, and more likely to be cautious before finally taking the plunge. According to Mack, it was all part of a master plan.

"We both wanted to finish our master’s degrees, have a stable career and be able to buy a home."

In Pennsylvania, the number of divorces has been falling since the mid-1990s. In 2007, there were 40,627 filing for divorce in the state, down more than 10% from the 1995 totals. Two counties did even better, with Lehigh County seeing divorce rates fall by 25%, and Northampton county measuring 15% fewer splits.

The shrinking numbers indicate that change continues in marriage, a fundamental institution in society. Marriage counseling is more prevalent, the overall education level is higher, and there are actually fewer marriages these days, in part because couples are waiting longer to tie the knot.

Paul Amato, a sociologist at Penn State University, agrees that the growing trend to wait longer to get married is driving down the numbers.

"Couples who marry at older ages tend to have more stable relationships." He also says that college graduates see lower rates of divorce.

The math is persuasive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of marriages involving 18- or 19-year-olds fail within 15 years. For couples marrying in their mid-twenties, that number drops down to 35%.

Divorce rates climbed during the 1960s, '70s and '80s for a number of reasons, including a growing women’s movement that empowered women to make more choices for themselves in marriage, including when to end it, a movement that also led to changes in the law that made it easier for couples to divorce.

Tom Strohl, a marriage counselor in Allentown, Pa., says that he senses a change in the way divorce is regarded in society. People getting married today are more likely to be the children of divorce and therefore wish to avoid putting their children through a similar situation if at all possible.

Strohl also says that more couples are seeking marriage counseling at a young age when problems arise, and he has also notice a significant rise in the number of men who take the first step to seek help.

Joshua Cole and Jessica Mack will just have to wait and see what the future holds for their union, but given their bona fides, they have more than a fighting chance to make it work.

Source: The Morning Call

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