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I spent the better part of last year reading tedious, boring research studies on marriage and divorce for my upcoming book on the subject (which I promise is fun and snarky and not tedious and boring!). A lot of what crossed my desk was deeply depressing: Divorce is contagious. (Everyone we know is splitting up!) The happiest marriages are ones in which the wife is thinner and better looking than her husband. (My husband is lean and hot. Ask anyone.) Folks who were happy as teens are more likely to divorce. (Crap! I was downright giddy in the ‘80s.) Dating duos who delay sex ultimately have better marriages. (Hmmm....no comment there.)
It wasn’t all bad news. For instance, according to a study by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, that whole half-of-all-marriages-end-in-divorce stat everyone assumes is true? Apparently that number has been declining since its peak around 1980 (when I was merrily jeopardizing my future marriage, apparently). In fact, today only 37 percent of couples in this country will split up before their ten-year anniversary -- a number that drops to an even more impressive 11 percent when the couples in question are college-educated.
In a recent New York Times piece, one expert speculates that educated couples may elect to tough it out because they believe children need a two-parent home to thrive. (This expert obviously didn’t grow up with constantly warring parents who loathed each other deeply but stayed together “for the kids” like I did.) Others hypothesize that divorce rates are down because the “yippy, you’re free” mentality of the past has morphed into something more like “yikes, you failed.”
We know that couples are marrying later (in 1960 the average bride was 20; today she’s 26), so maybe the drop in divorce rates means people are holding out for someone they actually like instead of shacking up with the first person who will have them. Hopefully it’s not that the abysmal state of the economy has made splitting up financially unfeasible for some poor, miserable bastards. All I know is that I am college-educated! And so is my husband! Hopefully that will negate the fact that I pretty much put out on our first date.