According to research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies there has been a sharp increase in the number of couples separating after 20+ years together:
- The number of divorces after 20 years of marriage rose from 13% in 1990 to 28% in 2011
- The median age for divorce had increased from 38 years for men and 34 for women in 1971 to 45 years for men and 42 years for women in 2011.
The director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Alan Hayes, believes that there are a number of reasons for this change:
- Women, who are more likely to initiate divorce, have an increasing economic independence – and hence a greater capacity to make a choice to leave an unsatisfying relationship;
- Increased longevity: people are aware of the length of time a relationship can go on for and are evaluating whether they want to spend another 30-40 years tolerating their spouse; and
- Those with children under 18 years of age seem to be less likely to divorce but once children are leaving home people re-prioritise – something of an “empty nest” syndrome.
The author of the Institute’s report on their research, Ruth Weston, believed that another reason is that divorce no longer carries the stigma that it once did:
“We found a lot of change in attitudes towards divorce. Younger people are more prone to agree with the idea of divorce than older people but right across the board we’re not seeing strong disapproval for divorce.”
But while “death do us part” may no longer be the norm, there is some good news for romantics:
- The number of divorces for shorter marriages fell from 1990 to 2011;
- Around 50% of people in all age groups believe that marriage is not an out-dated institution; and
- The overall number of divorces is decreasing – 48,935 in 2011 down from 55,330 in 2001.