Of course I want to believe in true love and long-term commitment, but as the divorce rate steadily rises and open relationships gain popularity to compensate for our inability to be monogamous, I have to wonder if the fairytale actually exists. Statistically, it’s starting to look like it doesn’t.
The current divorce rate is depressing. Getting married is pretty much like playing Russian roulette, except instead of one bullet in the chamber, almost half of them are loaded so you have a really good chance of dying, or in this case, divorcing. The official statistic is that 41% of marriages end in divorce, which means one every 36 seconds in America, and it typically happens after an average eight years of marriage.
Same-sex marriages have a high divorce rate as well. If 41% seemed high, same-sex marriages might seem to fare a little better at around 20% but that number could easily increase. Since most marriages end after an average eight years and same-sex marriage was only made federally legal two years ago, that leaves at least six more years before we find out whether the divorce rate of same-sex couples will rise up to meet that of traditional, male-female marriages.
Domestic abuse is a serious concern. While it’s hard to determine whether physical abuse is on the rise because so much of it goes unreported, abuse is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States. That’s more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. It’s so prevalent that abused American women lose more than 8 million days of paid work per year because of their injuries. That’s the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs and $512 million in wages at $8 per hour.
The infidelity rate is growing. And will no doubt continue as side-bitches and open relationships gain popularity, though I suppose it’s not exactly infidelity if it’s an open relationship. Still, if you managed to somehow avoid the dismal divorce rate, there’s a good chance you’ll still be cheated on since 41% of marriages face infidelity at some point and of those, only 31% of marriages survive it. Married or not, 57% of men admit to having cheated on a partner, with women closing in at 54%. So yeah, there’s a good chance that old couple at least cheated at some point.
Many have given up on marriage. Almost half (44%) of Americans are currently single and that number continues to rise. It’s a trend we can thank women’s liberation for. Gone are the days of hoping a man will offer marriage to prove your worth as more than an old maid or spinster. And now that we’ve found our independence, many of us have decided that we’re perfectly happy to fly solo. That doesn’t mean there’s no dating going on, but a growing number of singles believe marriage is altogether an outdated ideal.
The marriage rate is down. Speaking of not getting married, of all the American adults that haven’t tied the knot yet, 27% aren’t sure they’ll ever want to and 14% have no interest in marriage. And while 50% of the U.S. population is currently wed, it’s nothing compared to the 72% national average of 1960. The age of American women who marry is changing as well: In 1960, the median age for a woman to marry was 20.3, compared to 27.4 today.
The divorce rates of remarriages are the worst. Maybe it’s because marriage feels sacred the first time and after a divorce, it’s hard to see it as anything more than disposable. Maybe once that dream of forever is shattered, it’s difficult to believe in again. Whatever the reason, 60% of second and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. It seems that once the first marriage ends, the chance of finding a happily ever after drops right off.
Open marriages aren’t faring any better, it seems. While statistics on open marriage are difficult to find, I did come across an article from CNN that claimed these marriages fail 92% of the time. I imagine time will tell as open marriage becomes more accepted and millennials who practice open dating add these agreements to their marriage vows.
Monogamy is idealized but unattainable for most. I think we’ve proven as a species that we’re not monogamous. Of the species that mate for life—for example, penguins—it isn’t only some of the penguins that remain faithful. It isn’t that penguins mate for life, but only once they’ve found the one. It’s in their instincts, their DNA. Every one of them is faithful— and obviously humans don’t fall into this category.
However, the future of relationships isn’t completely bleak. Despite these depressing statistics, I don’t believe that the future of love is doomed. While I’m not purporting open marriage, I think it’s obvious that, as much as we romanticize lifelong love, we rarely find it—or give it. Maybe instead of forcing an idealized definition on ourselves, it’s time to simply love one another the best we can, for as long as it lasts.