Jump to content
The Education Forum
Sign in to follow this  
John Simkin

Changes in Society: Divorce

Recommended Posts

According to the Office for National Statistics the number of divorces in England and Wales rose 3.9% in 2003 compared to the previous year. There were153,490 divorces in 2003. This was the third successive year of rising divorce rates. The record year was 165,018 in 1993. It was thought that the rising number of couples not getting married would keep the divorce rate from increasing.

The Office for National Statistics said the divorce rate in 2003 was equivalent to 13.9 % divorcing people per 1,000 married population, compared with 13.4% in 2002.

Among men, the divorce rate was highest in the 30-34 age group, with 27.7 divorces per 1 000, the figures showed. Among women, the divorce rate was highest in the 25-29 age group at 28.9 divorces per 1000.

In all, 153,527 children under 16 saw their parents divorce in 2003; 20% of them were under the age of 5.

The UK has the 4th worst divorce-rate in the world. The top three are the United States (4.95 per 1000 people), Puerto Rico and Russia. This compares to Italy that has 0.27 per 1000 people.

The marriage guidance organization, Relate, says Britain’s long working hours is the main cause of the high divorce-rate. They also claim that the ease of internet access is providing increased opportunities for a disaffected spouse to seek out an alternative relationship. It is argued that websites such as Friends Reunited are fuelling a surge in marital break-up as bored husbands and wives contact old flames.

Broadband internet access also has increased the number of people working from home. This gives them greater freedom to continue relationships in secret.

The website below shows that countries have very different divorce-rates. I would be interested to hearing why people think this is.

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/peo_div_rat

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe we should look at why people get married. My friends in America had to (?) do a personality type test together before getting married - they found out all sorts about each other - helpful preperation before getting married!

Maybe it is too easy to get divorced too...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm a Civil Marriage Celebrant here in Tasmania and we are having all sorts of discussions on this topic. Our right-wing Liberal govt tried to make celebrants offer relationship training last year. We defeated them on that but had to accept the compulsory distribution of relationship training pamphlets to couples. This, to my mind, is a complete waste of time, as 99% of my couples have been living together for varying periods of time and simply want to make the relationship legal, often because of children, family pressure, or health reasons. They are totally uninterested in reading How to Relate brochures and often say they find it insulting to be given them by a Civil Celebrant.

It is also interesting that on our Celebrants' Association Chatline there was a recent discussion on Internet relationships - apparently Celebrants around Australia are noticing that they are increasingly marrying couples who have met that way.

Morally, after 10 years of practice, I'm no longer sure where I stand. Does it matter if couples divorce? Unmarried, they would probably move from one relationship to another in just the same way - the only difference being they pay courts and lawyers large amounts of money to process it. Does legal marriage encourage people to stay together? I don't believe so. The real problem seems to me to be the lack of will to solve problems, to compromise, accept imperfection and the realities and frailties of the human condition. Being able to do those things has nothing to do with being lawfully married or cohabiting.

Nevertheless, I am happy to go on marrying couples who see this as something they want to do!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Everybody

I teach English for all age-groups, from kindergarten kiddies up to their grandparents and above, in a society that is in a state of flux, and through this I have views on behaviours of a good cross-section of our society.

All these quick changes have acted upon us, and as a result we have a lot fewer fix points in life than ever before in our modern history. This situation results in a great deal of escapes; sometimes escaping into a relationship or marriage, and other times excaping from a relationship or marriage.

Hungary is in the top ten in divorces and the main reason is that we have neither the necessary knowledge of the self nor the necessary sensitivity towards the other. Very often two unhappy persons marry each other thinking that two unhappy persons could ever make a happy pair.

If I compare our time with grandmother's time, I think that it's relatively easy to marry and very difficult not to divorce nowadays, and it was more difficult to marry and almost impossible to divorce in granny's time.

I think that the main problem here is that this topic is full of taboos and we haven't learnt very much during the 100 years within which divorce has been legally possible at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very true, Leslie.

At the beginning of last year I asked my Grade 7 students (all girls school in a very middle-class suburb) to introduce themselves to the rest of the class.I was astonished to hear almost 3/4 of them starting with "I live with my mother and sisters....." or "I live with my father and sisters/brothers......." It is not even thought of as unusual these days, but what affect will it have on future generations and their ability to form lasting relationships?

Another thing which I'm becoming aware of, is the increasing likelihood of people ending up marrying their own half brother/sister etc as a result of so many children not knowing the identity of their father. There are so many young women who just want babies to occupy them and so many young men who sire children indiscriminately. Maybe there was never a "golden" era, but at least it was a bit more responsible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good Morning Jean

Having read your post I'm having lots and lots of associations Thank you.

The topmost thought is that in the so called 'primitive societies' [that in a closer analysis are not primitive at all] intra-marital affairs are less of a taboo and the young can learn more from earlier generations.

In our sophisticated societies it is quite the opposite; each and every generation will start afresh and re-invent the wheel or the spanish wax, and the building up of a bigger and bigger body of accumulated knowledge about human relations is almost totally out of the question.

In Hungary it has always been a strict taboo and a father would not talk to his son as man to man about a man - woman relationship in general. If he did, with that he would call the boy's mother in, and mothers, as a general rule, are asexual beings in the eyes of the child.

Other sources of information might do their best to educate the young with varying success. A priest, expecially one who has taken a religious vow of chastity, might be somebody we believe in, but might not be somebody we want to learn from when it comes to man - woman relationships and sexuality.

Other 'sources', like doctors, or teachers can do an excellent job on the 'enlightenment element', in other words they can serve the young person's wants, but very few of them would concentrate on what makes a developing relationship of a man and a woman, i. e. on what the young person really needs.

Because of this we end up having lots of men who live their whole life without realising what is good for a woman, as well as lots of women who live their whole life without realising that it is good.

As a result, when the first exciting, hotskin period is over between them, and it is over pretty soon, there is nothing left behind to depend on, and to hold them together. This is when they want to escape into a similarly baseless next relationship.

The root of all evil here, I think, is that a short-term love doesn't run parallel with a long-term respect, simply because many young couples are really strangers outside the bed. Most of them haven't had 'coalition talks' before uniting.

Sex is important and beautiful but it should be a special element that makes the already rich and dependable relationship even more rich and even more dependable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very wise words, Leslie - I think you would make a very good counsellor in your own country!!

In Australia we talk about relationships very freely, there are lots of ways of acquring knowledge, plenty of relationship courses etc, but we still have a very high divorce rate. It just seems as if young people today expect too much from marriage. They want everything to be perfect all at once, and when it isn't , it's very easy and not shameful to get a divorce - or two or three! My generation (I'm 60) were brought up to expect to have to compromise, make allowances, take the rough with the smooth, and put up with some problems if the relationship was worth saving, but now that seems to be too difficult for this generation.

Also, we now live much longer, healthier lives, than centuries ago, when marriages often ended in early death from disease, accidents, childbirth etc. and people either had very short lives or remarried. So they didn't have to be happy for a 40/50 year span with just one person. So, perhaps serial marriages are just the result of our different life span and expectations?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This discussion will be really helpful for my Sociology students when they study The Sociology of the Family. I hope non of the participants mind if I use it in a class room context?

This is why it was set up. I believe this can become a very important resource for sociology/social studies students. Especially as we have comments from people from different countries. It would be great if we could have comments from people living in the underdeveloped world. Also from those countries like Italy with fairly low divorce rates. I would also like to see contributions from young people. It would be interesting to hear what they think of current atitudes towards marriage and divorce.

I have a lot more to say on this topic (I especially want to reply to some of Leslie's interesting comments). However, I have been married for 38 years and I am currently on holiday and typing this in an internet cafe in Malta. As we have negotiated this period on the internet I will need to return now to my hotel in order that my marriage lasts a little longer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Everybody and an aside to Andy: please go ahead; I would feel privileged if you did.

I think you would make a very good counsellor in your own country!!

Hello Jean

Well, actually, I am a counsellor. From a distance I look like an English teacher, but inside my student - teacher, or trainee - trainer relationships I have lots of counselling jobs to attend to.

I think I can do it only because I'm trained, I'm not interested in teaching dogmata [i. e. I never follow the routine idiotism such as 'now it is in present simple tense, put it into future perfect continuous passive negative interrogative.'], and when teaching persons, I indirectly teach myself and create a learning environment for the students to learn themselves.

If / when the teaching is partly counselling, the students feel safe in a warm and accepting environment, and open up more easily. This is when the students start to learn for the teacher rather than from him.

If / when they open up, it's only the question of time to bring in otherwise taboo topics, divorce among them. If the students are kiddies or teenagers, that's why. If they are adults, that's why.

In a caring and sharing learning environment they will talk about their problems, try to get rid of some of their faceless anger, distil some of their irrational fright, and actually they free their amygdala for joys.

They read the experience as joyful learning, but really it is the joy of a better being being better. Towards the end of these courses many of them are closer to the state 'It's good to be ME.'

Women open up more easily [at least for me] and very often it is very clear that their fright of divorce actually might become a 'give-a-dog-a-bad-name' kind of self-fulfilling prophesy if they keep on flogging themselves.

It is quite common in a certain period in their life - for simplicity, I call it 'withering beauty' period. They don't love themselves enough, but they want others, including the husband, to love them. They don't love their own bodies enough, but they expect others, including the husband, to admire them.

The group can help a great deal. It is very liberating when some group members, who came in through the lower entry, are able to leave through the upper exit, and boast of being expectant [mind you, not pregnant] with a new baby.

Edited by leslie simonfalvi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, feel free to quote me - they're only personal insights really!

In our local paper this morning there was a report from "Relate" the Australian relationship counselling organisation who were quoted as saying that celebrities such as Brittany Spears and Jessica Simpson, are causing young women to go in for "starter marriages". Many celebs are marrying, magazines are full of them, and these young women in their late 20s feel they have to do the same to be accepted. The average age for women marrying for the first time is quoted as 29, but younger women are copying celebrity marriages at an earlier age. "They believe marriage makes them special and helps them stand out from the crowd. It's a romanticising of marriage in a new kind of way." "For women in the UK divorce is highest among those aged 25 to 29. Their marriages are breaking up at a rate that has more than doubled the national average. We're in a new era where marriage is not the big deal it used to be. It's all part of the so-called living a dream, and you can see how compelling that can be to young women. There's no question that seeing celebrities do it is feeding that fantasy."

In the same peper there is a repor tof an interview with Jerry Hall who says she will never have plastic surgery - "If a man loves you, he accepts you the way you are. If a man asks you to have plastic surgery, he doesn't want you, he wants a trophy." Well, in my day it was put up, or shut up! Plastic surgery wasn't an option!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In Hungary it has always been a strict taboo and a father would not talk to his son as man to man about a man - woman relationship in general. If he did, with that he would call the boy's mother in, and mothers, as a general rule, are asexual beings in the eyes of the child.

Other sources of information might do their best to educate the young with varying success. A priest, expecially one who has taken a religious vow of chastity, might be somebody we believe in, but might not be somebody we want to learn from when it comes to man - woman relationships and sexuality.

Other 'sources', like doctors, or teachers can do an excellent job on the 'enlightenment element', in other words they can serve the young person's wants, but very few of them would concentrate on what makes a developing relationship of a man and a woman, i. e. on what the young person really needs.

Because of this we end up having lots of men who live their whole life without realising what is good for a woman, as well as lots of women who live their whole life without realising that it is good.

As a result, when the first exciting, hotskin period is over between them, and it is over pretty soon, there is nothing left behind to depend on, and to hold them together. This is when they want to escape into a similarly baseless next relationship.

The root of all evil here, I think, is that a short-term love doesn't run parallel with a long-term respect, simply because many young couples are really strangers outside the bed. Most of them haven't had 'coalition talks' before uniting.

Sex is important and beautiful but it should be a special element that makes the already rich and dependable relationship even more rich and even more dependable.

You make some interesting points Leslie. The implication of your comments is that some of these problems could be solved by “educators” like teachers and doctors. Although it is important that we all do what we can to prepare young people for married life, I suspect that we can have a limited impact on the decisions that they make. The real problem is that in modern societies there has been a dramatic change in our values and attitudes.

My parents married in 1939. I recently had a long conversation with my mother about her attitudes towards relationships when she was a young woman. She is from a generation that believed it was wrong to sleep with someone before you married them. She tells me that having sex before marriage is something that young women in the 1930s did not even contemplate. Nor does it seem did young men put them under pressure to sleep with the. As one elderly man once said to me, you did not want to spend your life with someone who was willing to sleep with you before marriage.

Times have changed and virtually everybody now lives with their partner for a period before marriage. I don’t personally have a problem with this. It is clearly much more difficult for young people today to suppress or sublimate their sexual drives in the way that my mother’s generation could. It also seems sensible to live with someone before making the commitment to get married. Interestingly, my mother agrees and does not object to this trend.

The problem is not about attitudes towards marriage but attitudes towards divorce. My mother’s generation probably made just as many mistakes in choosing a partner for life as the generations that followed them. The difference is that when that happened they did not get divorced. This of course was partly of course because the law made divorce difficult. However, if you talk to people over 75 they will give you another reason for their decision to remain together. It was the fact that they had children. That they thought that their primary concern was with the well-being of their children. They believed passionately that a divorce would have a dramatic impact on their children. As educators we know this is the case. Many of the problems that our students face has been caused by the fact that their parents have split up. Understandably, they feel that by leaving home, their father or mother have rejected them. No child can be undamaged by that fact.

I know many adults attempt to justify obtaining a divorce by claiming that the children would be more damaged by living in an unhappy home than in a home without their mother and father. Maybe in some cases that is true. However, as my mother pointed out, in her day it was your responsibility to hide this state of unhappiness from young children. It was only after the children had left home and had established their own homes, was it acceptable to make a new start yourself.

The problem is not one of sexual morality. It is one of love. In previous generations the love of your children was greater than the love you felt for your partner. The happiness of your children was more important than your own happiness. In recent years we have seen a change in this attitude. A large proportion of the population believe that it is their own happiness that is the most important factor in their calculations. If that means leaving their partner and children for some new love, then so be it.

Yes there has been a change in moral values. This has nothing to do with religion or sexual behaviour. It is all about the way we have changed our attitudes towards our children.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think you have to be careful about generalising about peoples' morality in relation to generations. What John is referring to was more often the case with educated, middle and upper classes. If you read the diaries of Marie Stopes of that era you will find that the lower working classes did not have the same "high" morals and marriages were often the result of pregnancy and men of that class often made women's lives a misery with insistance on unprotected sex and consequent yearly pregnancies which resulted in horrendous health problems and early death for many of the women. Reading her case books some years ago was a revelation and a shock to me about the lives of the poor after WWI. Don't forget that those morals were closely linked to the unavailability of safe contraception.

However, I do agree that more people stuck together for the sake of children and if you could do that and "hide" it from them, it was often a better way than divorce, at least until they grew up.

I was probably the "in between" generation - morals were much "looser" due partly to Hollywood, rock'n'roll and mass media, but contraception wasn't freely available to young people and many of my age married because they "had to", because it was easy to fall pregnant, but still considered shameful to be an unmarried mother. This, in fact, happened to me - pregnant at 20 to my fiance, my parents refused me permission to marry (21 was the age then) so we lived together which was then considered highly unacceptable and had to be hidden from almost everyone we knew, and certainly from the authorities. I was put on the 5th floor of the maternity hospital. with all the other "unmarried mothers", away from good moral women who had managed to get maried in time, albeit in some cases only months before hand. I had "Miss ....." in heavy type on the card above my head and I was not allowed to visit the other wards. My son was legally noted as illegitimate on his birth certificate and it was only removed on application to the govt after we were legally married the following year.

My mother was actually right - I did marry the wrong person, because we "had to", but we stuck together for 23 years until the children were grown up, when I eventually left and went to live on my own, before meeting my current partner 10 years ago - the sort of man I should have married in the first place!!

My three sons are all now bringing up families and I like to think they are all decent citizens because on the whole they had a good childhood. Their father did the right fatherly things with them despite the unsatisfactory nature of our relationship, because that's what most men felt was their duty in that generation, and on the whole I think it WAS a better choice than a quick divorce and single parenthood. Mind you, I think it was also the first generation when extra-marital affairs became commonplace, also because of the pill.

It was the next generation when the pill was freely available to very young adults, that things changed dramatically. I'm not as sure as John that morals are what change, rather than the availability of safe and invisible contraception, but I'm willing to think more about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think you have to be careful about generalising about peoples' morality in relation to generations. What John is referring to was more often the case with educated, middle and upper classes. If you read the diaries of Marie Stopes of that era you will find that the lower working classes did not have the same "high" morals and marriages were often the result of pregnancy and men of that class often made women's lives a misery with insistance on unprotected sex and consequent yearly pregnancies which resulted in horrendous health problems and early death for many of the women. Reading her case books some years ago was a revelation and a shock to me about the lives of the poor after WWI. Don't forget that those morals were closely linked to the unavailability of safe contraception.

Both my parents were unskilled factory workers. They both came from working class families and all friends were from the same background. As mum says, the only middle class person she knew was her doctor.

Illegitimacy-rates in the 1930s suggest that sex before marriage was fairly unusual. There was of course a dramatic increase during the war (especially in those areas that had American and Canadian troops). However, these figures fell again after the war.

Marie Stopes was writing about an earlier period. As a middle class researcher I am not sure how reliable Stopes is as evidence of sexual activity of working-class women before marriage. Officially, she was not interested in this subject at all. Her concern was with providing contraception for married women.

However, my main argument was not about sex before marriage. I think the changes in attitudes towards this subject are to be welcomed. My concern is with children born as a result of these relationships.

Your own experiences suggest that you also share these concerns. You waited until your children were able to cope with the break-up of the marriage. This was the standard view of people living during this period. What we are seeing now is more and more people with young children getting divorced. It is this trend that I think poses serious problems for our society.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yesterday we had a man dressed up as Batman climbed up the walls of Buckingham Palace. He perched on a ledge for five hours. Jason Hatch was a member of a group called Fathers4Justice who are involved in a campaign for fathers’ rights. Hatch himself was protesting against a former partner who he claims has made it difficult to see their two children aged four and six.

Hatch is the father of four children by three different mothers. When interviewed afterwards Hatch said he “would do anything, even die” to see his children. He refused to discuss his youngest child. The mother, Gemma Polson, recently left Hatch, complaining that: “Fathers4Justice has taken over his life. He was seeing hardly anything of our daughter.”

What a strange world we are living in.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...