Dropping Divorce Rates for Educated Americans… Is it all Good?

Divorce rates may be on the rise for most Americans, but they are actually decreasing when it comes to college-educated couples.  At first glance, this might appear like a good thing; couples getting married only when they’re truly ready and plan to stay together.  But what about the stigma attached to the couples that do wind up getting a divorce in this segment of the population?  And what happens to the eleven percent of college-educated couples that split and find themselves the only divorcée in their circle of friends?

A New York Times article, How Divorce Lost Its Groove, explored the differences between women who divorce in the 2000’s as opposed to their counterparts from the 1970’s.  Instead of divorce being viewed as “liberating” by still married couples, it has become a “scary” alternative to simply “working through” their marriages for the sake of their children.  Even women within the eleven percent of divorced college-educated couples initially felt shock at idea of a divorce when young children were in the mix: “You’re kidding me. We have children. It’s not allowed.”

An interesting explanation for this rather conservative view on divorce (from a typically liberal population) is that a good portion of this generation of young parents were once the children of divorces themselves.  Many of the women interviewed in this article, including Susan Gregory Thomas (author of In Spite of Everything), had such negative experiences with their parents’ messy divorces, that they swore never to put their own children through one.  However, if half of marriages end in divorce, it is impossible that none of the now grown children of divorces go through one as well.

The good news though is that this does not mean that couples unsatisfied with their marriage have to choose either living a lie to protect their children or suffer through a messy divorce.  All states in the U.S. now provide no-fault divorces; it turns out that having an amicable break is more positive for children than forcing a marriage that just is not working, making everyone tense.  So even though none of us picture our marriage being the one that ends in divorce, there is relief in knowing that it does not have to be anything as traumatic as it once was for the children involved.