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Women Are Marrying Later and Divorcing Less

If you’re married now, you’re more likely to stay that way than you would have been a generation ago. The divorce rate is falling slightly. About 35 percent of women in their 40s have ever been divorced. At the peak, that number was 40 percent.

Marriages may be lasting in part because women are marrying later. The typical age at first marriage for women has jumped from 20 to 26 since 1950. Early marriages tend to be fragile; age at marriage is one of the strongest predictors of whether or not a couple will divorce. The younger you are when you get married, the more likely your marriage is to fall apart.

In addition, all marriages are more susceptible to divorce in their early years. About 10 percent of all marriages end within five years. The median length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years.

Looking at census data and a large scale survey, this study turns up all kinds of juicy data about marriage and divorce. The emerging picture is a good one for married people: marriages are becoming more stable, with the divorce rate having peaked around 1980. People, especially women, are delaying marriage and then sticking with it once they’ve made the commitment.

In addition to staying married more frequently, most people marry only once. The NYT tells us:

The report also gave figures for the number of times people married in their lifetimes, based on the survey conducted in 2009. About half of all those interviewed had been married only once, the report found. An additional 12 percent had been married twice, and a tiny minority — just 3 percent — had been married three or more times.

The popular perception of marriage is often that it’s flimsy. We hear over and over that half of marriages end in divorce. The real statistics show marriages are much more stable than that, which is great news for anyone committed to the hard work of staying married. It’s not really a coin toss whether or not your marriage will last. It’s a commitment you and your spouse can make together, like many other couples have.

That’s not to say marriage is for everyone, or that staying married is always the right choice. It’s just nice to know that many people do.

What do these new marriage statistics mean to you? Do you see your relationship reflected in the numbers or are you defying the odds?

Photo: adamjonfuller

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