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Why is marriage no longer till death do us part?

You may think this is an absurd thing for an un-married 19 year old to be thinking about or even commenting on considering the whole "un-married" part but I'm curious. This question has been doing the rounds on social media and it's been toying at the back of my mind.

Why is it that 40-50% of marriages in Australia end in divorce?

Why is it that marriages in our grandparents and great-grandparents generation lasted the test of time while our parents generation, millennial's and even my own generation are finding their marriages end most commonly less than ten years after they start?

Has societies perspective on marriage changed?

This was what lead me down the rabbit hole resulting in a number of hours reading various opinions on why marriage is now so commonly leading to divorce.

When I was a kid I decided after my parents divorce that I would do it better, that somehow whatever they had done wasn't enough and that when I got married it would be for life. I promised myself that I wouldn't get divorced, that I would find my fairy tale husband and commit.

I didn't understand what it meant to "fall out of love". I couldn't process what my parents meant when they explained it. In fact, I denied their explanation and spent a small period of time thinking that I, the second child, was the true cause of the demise of their marriage.

But I wasn't. They had 10 years together and at the end they just weren't as happy as they knew they could be, so it ended.

And then more and more of my friends parents started getting divorced. More people starting getting step-parents and adapting to blended families. It became a normal.

But it never used to be.

In early 1976 the Family Law Act 1975 came into effect and all of a sudden divorce rates skyrocketed.

Prior to 1976 there was no such thing as "no-fault" divorce. There had to be a reason, someone had to be at fault. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 listed 14 scenarios that were grounds for the dissolution of a marriage, these included:

- Abandonment

- Adultery

- Refusal to consummate the marriage

- Cruelty

- One party (for at least 2 years) having been a habitual drunkard or habitually intoxicated by a substance (drugs included)

- Where the husband has been frequently convicted for crimes where he has been imprisoned for at least 3 years

- One party being absent from the other party for so long they assume they are dead

All seemingly pretty reasonable reasons to divorce - albeit unique.

But what if you just didn't have the spark anymore? Prior to 1976 there was no grounds for divorce based on solely "falling out of love".

But in 1976 all of a sudden a marriage could end under one circumstance: that the marriage had broken down irretrievably. And so divorce sky-rocketed. Which really begs the question, how many people were stuck in marriages they didn't have enough of a reason to get out of?

Image: ABS (various years) Marriages and Divorces Australia (Catalogue No. 3310.0); ABS (various years) Divorces Australia (Catalogue No. 3307.0, 3307.0.55.001)

The simple answer would be a lot. Which is kind of sad in a way. How many marriages between our great-grandparents and so on weren't the life-long fairy tale commitment I grew up thinking they were.

Since the surge in 1976 divorce rate has dropped but it hasn't reduced back to where it was. Instead we are at a comfortable 40-50% of all marriages ending in divorce in Australia. Globally it's estimated that a third of all marriages end in divorce.

At the end of the day, that's a lot of divorce.

But I'm still holding onto my fantasy of one marriage to last my lifetime.

Why is that?

Why is it that every year thousands of couples skip into churches, registry offices, parks and other random locations for weddings and sign up to a life long commitment despite knowing that statistically it's not looking good for the long run?

I mean I look at my friends and those I know beginning to traverse their 20's and stumble towards their 30's. Most can't seem to stay in a long-term relationship, let alone settle down and get married.

But I still hold out hope. Every few months we see a celebrity couples divorce play out across social media, we see the same statement about having "nothing but love for each other" and what not but how much of that is true?

My conclusion is that I suppose it doesn't really matter. It appears to be one of those phenomenon's that just are simply because they are.

People get married everyday. Shit happens. People get divorced.

Maybe I'm just a perfectionist and the idea of a lifelong happy marriage suits my copy paste idealised life. But I've seen enough divorces to know that's not always the case.

I hope your marriages work out! But if they don't - at least you represent the rule instead of the exception... which does fit nicer.

Till next time,

Rhi xx

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