Profundity from the Marriage Foundation

Marriage

The Marriage Foundation ‘think-tank’ (how I hate that expression) have been back at their statistic-bashing again. New ‘research’ by them provides us with the earth-shattering revelation that the longer a couple stay married, the less likely it is that they will divorce. Wow. Who would have thought it?

This ‘research’ does not, in fact, involve any new statistics, merely an analysis of existing statistics from the Office for National Statistics (I think some poor soul at the Marriage Foundation must be permanently tasked with the mind-numbing job of trawling ONS statistics, on the off-chance that they drag up some nugget that supports the Foundation’s aims).

Specifically, the ‘research’ tells us that once couples reach their tenth wedding anniversary the ‘risk’ of divorce (as if divorce is due to some outside cause, like a disease) “diminishes with every year until more or less vanishing altogether among couples married for fifty years.” Accordingly, we are told that:

“Couples celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary face a one in 25 risk of divorce. The risk drops to just one in 150 couples among couples celebrating 40 years of marriage. And for those married 50 years, the risk of divorce virtually disappears to one in 1500 couples.”

Most scarily we are told that these “ever-diminishing divorce rates suggest couples could live together indefinitely.” Being manacled to your trouble and strife for eternity? Perish the thought.

And what is the point of all this profundity? Well, this is revealed in the following from the Foundation:

“This finding demolishes the myth that rising divorce among the over 50s has anything to do with higher divorce rates or couples living longer.”

It seems that the Foundation, for reasons of its own, took exception to the idea that the so-called ‘silver splitter’ was becoming more common. They tell us that any increase in the number of divorces amongst the older generations is simply due to more people marrying later in life, rather than to more married people giving up on their spouse after a long marriage.

Now, I’m not even going to get involved in this argument. You know why? I DON’T CARE. It doesn’t matter a jot to me whether more longer marriages are failing than previously or, indeed, whether more marriages generally are failing than was formerly the case. A marriage is an arrangement between two people, not a statistic. If, at whatever point in its existence, that arrangement has broken down then it is almost certainly best for both parties if there is a divorce. OK, some might find it sad if a particularly long marriage breaks down, or if the parties to the failed marriage are above a ‘certain age’, but we should not patronise older divorcees by treating them differently from anyone else whose marriage has failed.

At the end of its research the Foundation provides us with a handy divorce predictor. The predictor tells you your probability of getting divorced, based upon the year that you were married. Thus, if you were married, for example, between 1991 and 1995 then you have a one in eight chance of getting divorced. Such information is always good to know, and we must thank the Foundation for providing it.

In a press release accompanying the research founder of Marriage Foundation Sir Paul Coleridge tells us:

“After the tenth anniversary the chances of going through a divorce diminish significantly year by year. This is very good news. It shows that effort invested in the marriage pays real dividends over the longer term.”

This, of course, assumes that the following equation is true:

Marriage = Happiness

Of course, in the real world that is not always the case. It may, for example, be that an older person in an unhappy marriage feels unable to go through with a divorce for economic reasons, through fear of taking such a step at a late age, or maybe just due to inertia. The idea that marriage equals happiness is, of course, the foundation of the Marriage Foundation, so they obviously can’t admit it is a fallacy.

So, what conclusion are we to draw from the research? Simply this: people whose marriages last longer are less likely to get divorced. Or, to put it another way, the longer you stay together, the longer you stay together. Remember folks, you heard it here first.

The Marriage Foundation research can be found here.

Image by Fatima via Flickr

John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

View more from this author

Leave a comment