Getting married? It could end in divorce in ten years

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Richard Ford, Home Correspondent
Are you going to a wedding this week-end? Nearly half the happy couples you see walking down the aisle will divorce before they reach their 10th wedding anniversary.

One in ten of the marriages will not make it past five years and 45 per cent will, ultimately, end in divorce, if the current rate of breakdowns continue.

The United Kingdom now has the highest rate of divorce since records began, with the rate rising from 37 per cent two decades ago to a new high of 45 per cent in 2005, according to figures released from the Office of National Statistics.

The latest divorce predictions come a day after the ONS published figures showing that the proportion of men and women in England and Wales choosing to marry was at the lowest level since the figure was first calculated in 1862.

Churches and organisations supporting marriage yesterday called for couples to be given much more preparation before marrying, but admitted that this is increasingly difficult with the decline of religious services in fa-vour of civil ceremonies.

A spokesman for the Church of England said: “Projections are dangerous things but these are worrying figures”.

He added: “The church sees marriage as a good thing. It recommends marriage to couples as something that can help them to grow together in God’s love. But it also offers good preparation and support through the marriage. Often today this kind of preparation and support is lacking.”

The latest figures show that the proportion of marriages in England and Wales ending in divorce by the 50th anniversary has risen from 34 per cent in 1979-80 to 45 per cent in 2005.

The good news is that if a couple manage to stay married for ten years the survival rates improve. At 20 years, only 15 per cent will end up in divorce and beyond the 25 year mark – the Silver Wedding – just a few will end in the divorce courts.

“Divorce rates in 2005 suggest that approximately forty five per cent of marriages will end in divorce,” the ONS said in its Spring Population Trends bulletin.

It added that if divorce and mortality rates remain unchanged from 2005, ten per cent of those marrying now will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary with 45 per cent of marriages ending due to divorce and 45 per cent due to the death of one partner.

Couples who marry young and those who remarry have a higher proportion of their marriages ending in divorce, the ONS said.

Terry Prendergast, of Marriage Care, said the figures indicated that a lot of people were failing to prepare properly for marriage or entered into marriage with an unrealistic perspective.

He said that people marrying in the Roman Catholic Church had to undergo preparation, but there was no similar system for those who choose a civil ceremony.

“One of the difficulties with marriage is that it is often a dynamic and troubling relationship. Couples are driven on by the intense emotional drive of their coming together but have not thought about how they are going to live together or what it means to be in a long term relationship,” Mr Prendergast said.

He also highlighted the unrealistic expectations portrayed in Hollywood films of people living happily every after. “Couples need to be helped to manage their marriages and negotiate their way through difficulties,” he said.

Mr Prendergast said that Marriage Care, a relationship counselling organisation drawn from the Roman Catholic community, frequently saw people who thought that their marriage problems were terminal but after discussion realised that with give and take it was viable.

Claire Tyler, Chief Executive of Relate said: “Divorce is clearly a reality for many people today and these figures bring into sharp focus not only the number of adults coping with relationship breakdown, but also the children affected by divorce.

“More must be done to help fragile relationships survive. Firstly we need to see earlier intervention for couples hitting problems in their relationship so that they are able to access help before they reach crisis stage. Secondly, we need to do more to help children learn about healthy relationships within schools.”

Yesterday’s figures also show that 22 per cent of 146,956 births in England and Wales in 2006 were to mothers born outside of England and Wales – the highest proportion since the collection of information on parents’ country of birth began in 1969.

The ONS figures also showed that 69 per cent of the projected UK population rise of 10.5 million between 2006-2031 will be driven directly or indirectly by migration. Forty seven per cent or 4.9 million of the increase will be a result of net migration into Britain with the remainder being the result of births to new migrants.

Have your say

In total agreement with Kenneth on the value of the Church in preparing people for marriage, but also slightly perplexed. Only a couple of days ago the BBC were reporting that divorce rates had fallen substantially. Surely there could have been a positive spin on this article?

Meg, Pembs,

Why the prejudice against the church? Surely the church has a voice here given that a large number of people still want to be married by the church! Who else offers any comparable marriage preparation courses? Of course the church has glaring weaknesses – which the media often highlight – but it also does a vast amount of unpublicised, high quality work with people preparing to be married, having difficulty in marriage and going through divorce.

Kenneth, Porlock,

Bear in mind, marriage originated at a time when women wer married off at the ripe old age of 12, and the average life expectancy was about 35. Chastity was encouraged until marriage to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and enforce the power of religious institutions. So you could expect a marriage to last 20 years or so. Now with a life span of 80+, someone marrying at 20 will have to put up with thier partners foibles. moods and idoisyncracies for THREE times the amount of time. It’s no wonder the divorce rate is climbing. The excitement of youth quickly gives way to the dullness of daily routine, and eventually the boredom of being with the same person day after day.

Ron, Milton Keynes, Bucks

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