Divorce rates are highest among couples in their 20s. What causes ‘starter marriages’ to fall apart, and what can you learn from them?
Every divorce is an individual grief; it is also, however, part of a greater cultural story. This is not just that divorce rates are high, though that is part of it. Almost half of divorces happen in the first 10 years of marriage, and the rate is especially high between the fourth and eighth anniversary. The average age at divorce was 45 for men and 42 for women, which masks a more interesting statistic: by far the highest divorce rates have been among women aged 25-29 and men aged either 25-29 or 30-34, depending on the year.
But there are some things that come through again and again. That the pain and trouble of a difficult marriage are often a huge shock – “The church tells them marriages are made in heaven, but so are thunder and lightning,” as a wry matrimonial lawyer once put it. That divorce, though easier and more common than it was in previous generations, is still traumatic.
We recently assisted a young couple who were divorcing. Married at 18 and immediately a baby. The strain was too much. There was not enough time to be themselves and learn to be adults. These kids were always in debt, and never had enough money for anything. Each was forced to stop their education and take low paying and meaningless jobs. They always felt like they had their hands out to everyone. A combination of low self-esteem and getting lower all the time. And then, one partner was unfaithful. The whole thing blew up.