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21st Century Breakup – 3 rather modern causes of divorce

James Watkins - Law on the Web

  1. 10 November 2015
  2. Family
  3. 0 comments
Handing back the divorce

Divorce is everywhere! In this day and age, with things like Tinder, sexting, and ill-defined other threats, it’s no wonder that no-one takes marriage seriously anymore.

Actually, that isn’t true – divorce has been gradually decreasing over the last 20 years, according to the Office for National Statistics.

As divorce rates change, so do people’s reasons for divorcing. The five grounds for divorce are still the same, and partners are still committing adultery and generally getting tired of each other.

However, some things have changed. Here are three particularly modern causes of marriage breakdown.

People are living longer

Marriage is the quintessential representation of lifelong commitment – however, as life expectancy has increased and people have started living longer lives, the ‘death’ aspect of “’til death do us part” can start to seem very far away indeed.

The UK life expectancy is now 81, while the average marriage age is around 31 years old – as a result, marriages that last for 50+ years have become more common.

This is partly blamed for the rise in ‘silver splitters’, couples who are getting divorced in their 60s (alternatively known as ‘Silver Separatists’, if you prefer to imagine of them as freedom fighters in some kind of futuristic war).

Divorce rates for over-60s have gone up in recent years, even as divorce rates in general have gone down. After all, they do say that 60 is the new 30/40/50/middle age in general.

More and more couples are becoming silver splitters as the kids leave home and they realise that they have a good few years in them yet, and they crave new experiences and freedom that they haven’t had for many years, if ever.

Other couples just find that with the kids gone, they don’t have nearly as much in common with each other as they thought.

However, divorce later in life isn’t all peaches and cream – it can put older partners in a difficult place financially, particularly if, as is often the case, one of the partners is blindsided by it.

“While divorce at any age is likely to be a painful experience, the older you are the more likely it is to have a negative impact on your health, wealth and general well-being,” says Richard Willets, Director of Longevity at Partnership. “As separation is generally not something that people plan for, they are likely to need the support of their family and friends as well as potentially need more state assistance.”

“Traditional” marriage and gender roles have changed

More women are pursuing their own careers, eschewing the traditional role of staying at home with the children while the husband acts as the breadwinner.

As a result, more women have the confidence and financial independence to take a leap of faith and leave their partners.

A study from 2005 indicated that working women were three times more likely to leave their partners than wives who stayed at home, with women who worked longer hours the most likely to get divorced.

Also, recent divorce figures indicate a sharp rise in men filing for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. Only 6% of divorces filed by men were done so on these grounds in 1971, compared with almost half in 2011.

Fiona Wood, family lawyer for Pannone Solicitors, put the shifting trend down to changing attitudes and the willingness of sisters to do it for themselves, so to speak.

“Some wives might be in well-paid jobs and are simply more confident about leaving a marriage if they are unhappy,” she says.

It gets worse for progressive-minded marriage fans – a Norwegian study from 2012 indicated that married couples who shared responsibility for the housework were more likely to divorce.

This was described by the Telegraph as “a slap in the face for gender equality”, so maybe treating men and women equally isn’t such a good idea after all. (N.B. This is sarcasm.)

Whatever the case, I suspect that telling your wife that you don’t want to do the dishes on the basis that it will strengthen your marriage is likely to have the opposite effect.

The internet is helping people to connect with other people

The internet is often cited as the driving force behind the breakup of a marriage, as it gives partners more opportunities to initiate contact with potential sexual partners existing outside their marriage.

This concern has existed ever since the internet hit the mainstream, as this article from 2002 shows. More recently, infamous infidelity site Ashley Madison hit the headlines after it was compromised by hackers, who claim to have made off with the personal records of 37 million (presumably now very nervous) users.

It’s not just dedicated adultery websites which are blamed for this sort of thing – the likes of Facebook and the now defunct Friends Reunited are also blamed for allowing married folk to communicate with old flames, former school friends, and anyone else who might seem exciting and new compared to their spouse.

In some cases, partners invite their own divorce by being unfaithful with people they have never even met.

Mark Keenan from Divorce Online said back in 2009 that as many as 1 in 5 recent divorce petitions had cited behaviour on Facebook as contributing factors.

“The most common reason seemed to be people having inappropriate sexual chats with people they were not supposed to,” he said.

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