In our society today, divorce is a very common thing. Statistics vary but at a minimum 38% of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. It would seem that the institution of marriage has changed as our society has changed. In today’s society, marriage is regarded simply as the “next step” in a relationship, often regarded as a completely reversible decision if it does not work out. Married adults now divorce two and a half times as often as adults did 20 years ago and four times as often as they did 50 years ago.
Fault divorces used to be the only way to break a marriage up until the early 1970’s. There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that the acceleration of no-fault divorce has contributed to the rapid increase in the last 20 years of the divorce rate in the U.S. In August 2010 “no-fault” divorce became the law in the state of New York, making it the final U.S. state to do so. Under a no-fault divorce system the dissolution of a marriage does not require an allegation or proof of fault by either party. Grounds for divorce can include such things as incompatibility, irreconcilable difference, and, of course, the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. The State of California was the first state to implement no-fault divorce in the U.S. in 1969 and the other states followed suit in the following years. Interestingly enough, internet sites such as Rocket Lawyer will supply you free all the forms necessary for a no-fault divorce, thereby saving the applicant time and money.
Cohabitation has become another major factor in the decline of marriage. Individual characteristics such as age, education, race, and economic status all contribute to cohabitation between adults 15 to 44 years of age. From the years 1987 to 2002, the percentage of women between the ages of 35 and 39 who had lived in a cohabitated relationship doubled from 30% to 61%.
Delaying marriage or not marrying at all is the trend today. In 1960, 68% of young adults in the twenties were married. In 2008, just 26% were married. New research shows that the newest generation of young college adults is slowing the road to marriage. Heading into 2012, trend watchers note that barely half of all adults in the United States are married and the median age at the time of a first marriage has never been higher – slightly more than 26 years old for women and nearly 29 for men. Tragically, a Pew survey released in 2010 found that nearly 40% of the respondents said marriage is becoming obsolete. Pew also found that marriage statistics vary by race with 55% of whites, 48% of Hispanics, but just 31% of blacks married.
I recently ran across an article written by Father Dwight Longenecker that expressed the frustration he felt in dealing with “the devastated wasteland that is modern marriage and family life today.” He lamented that it was very difficult to maintain the Catholic teaching on marriage when the societal structure of family life and marriage was disintegrating around us. For Catholics,
Marriage is a sacramental covenant which springs from the order of creation. God created the mystery of man and woman. “For this reason a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife.” The nuptial relationship is bound up in the natural complementarity of the sexes and the intimacy between man and wife is part of this profound natural order, and from this intimacy new human life is created. The commitment that is expected within this marriage is one that reflects the eternal commitment of God to his people.
But if the current re-definition of marriage by homosexuals and an activist judiciary continues, it appears that this longstanding definition of marriage by the Catholic Church will become more and more of a sign of contradiction in our society. To society, Catholics will seem more like the Amish – following a quaint and archaic way of life which is somewhat admirable, but impossible.
As we roll along into the 21st century, we face some overwhelming and unusual situations: since 1970 marriages have declined 30% while the divorce rate has increased 40% during the same period. Interestingly enough, over 75% of divorced people get remarried. Not shockingly, 65% of these second marriages fail. There are no easy answers. As long as marriage is viewed as “a temporary arrangement” the situation will not change. Legislation was introduced in Mexico recently that proposed new temporary marriage licenses which could be discarded or renewed after a minimum of two years. Proponents of the bill pointed out that half of all the marriages end already now in divorce in Mexico City, and the new proposal would simply eliminate the need for couples to get a costly formal divorce. Maybe we should put them in contact with the author of the “no-fault” American divorce?