Why They Split Up
AFTER reading about skyrocketing divorce rates, a person may understandably ask: Why do so many more marriages break up today?
One reason is that new laws make divorce easier. “No fault” divorce was introduced in California in 1970, so marriages can be dissolved without attaching blame to either party. Already 50 states and territories of the United States have no-fault divorce laws.
Since December 1973 couples in England, who have no children involved, can get a divorce by merely filling out a form accompanied by a notarized statement that the marriage has broken down, and then mailing them to the authorities. Other countries, too, have been liberalizing their divorce laws.
But there is a more fundamental reason why divorce rates are skyrocketing.
It has to do with the very thinking of people—their values, how they look at marriage and what they expect out of life. In this there has been a sudden, dramatic change.
People have learned to expect and want more. Many agree with a U.S. beer commercial that says: ‘You only go around once in life, so grab for all the gusto you can.’ So, when marriage is not as exciting as they are led to expect, many look for a way out. They get a divorce. There is now even widespread experimentation with different kinds of relationships, even calling them “marriage,” as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes:
“In the Seattle area bankers and engineers are trying group marriage. Open marriage is a subject of Sunday morning sermons . . . No-contract marriages are competing with licensed unions. The elderly are quietly flouting convention and children of the revolution are growing up under a new sex ethic.”
To illustrate the suddenness of the change: In the spring of 1968, only nine years ago, there was a scandal when an unmarried New York city college sophomore admitted that she had been living off-campus with a man. The story hit the front page of the New York Times, and the girl was nearly expelled from school. Today many major colleges have coed dormitories, and living together is so common that it hardly draws a comment.
Despite the radical change in attitudes, a legal-contract marriage of one man and one woman is still popular. But instead of considering marriage a lifetime commitment, divorce is now viewed as a logical alternative, ‘if it doesn’t work out.’ A recent survey in West Germany revealed that 26 percent of German brides have divorce in mind even before they marry. Obviously this type of thinking contributes to divorce.
The modern “liberation” movements have encouraged the pursuit of careers outside the home, or whatever other course in life will bring one “self-fulfillment.” As a result, there is less emphasis today on commitment, and more on individual gratification. People are inclined to think first of their own satisfaction and pleasure, of getting everything they can out of life NOW. This attitude seems to be at the root of why there are so many divorces today.
The example set by world leaders has not helped, as Good Housekeeping of June 1977 notes:
“As the nation’s divorce rate headed upward, political figures seemed to lead the rush to the divorce courts. Cabinet members, Congressmen, ambassadors, high-level White House staffers untied their marriages as freely as the rest of the population, or even more so, with no apparent detriment to their careers or their public image.”
Such examples have contributed to the avalanche of divorces; and the very fabric of the family, as well as society as a whole, has been affected. Is there an answer? Can people find genuine happiness for themselves and their families?