Do 50% of marriages really end in divorce?

I’ve heard this statistic quoted a lot, and it’s kind of shocking to me. Do a lot of people get married planning to get divorced sometime, like celebrity marriages but less publicized, or is it that couples are getting married and they really mean to stay together (their vows, etc.), but it just doesn’t work out. Or is it like a guy who marries a girl first, and then “trades up” for a more attractive/younger woman later on?

Basically, what percent of these 50%, if that number is right, of marriages is entered into without the intention of ever staying together until “death does us apart,” the celebrity one year marriage being the extreme case, and the guy who plans to divorce his wife when he becomes rich and powerful (like Newt Gingrich) a less extreme one (in that at least his marriages last longer than a year)?

The Master speaks


Cecil has that covered:

Is it true half of all marriages end in divorce?

Well, from very personal anecdotal experience, mine hasn’t…yet.

But then I tell people I’ve been married so long because murder is still illegal!

(38 years as of 6/30/2012)

Well, saying that 50% of a certain age group have been divorced doesn’t mean that 50% of marriages ended in divorce. After all, you’re not limited to just one marriage. Just one at a time.

Based on Cecil’s column, 50% seems reasonable, if not a little low. Take the cohort he mentions that projects out to end at 46% divorced: first, there are presumably multiple marriages within that group. Second, I’d guess that some part of the entire group was never married in the first place.

I was thinking the opposite: that 50% of marriages ending in divorce doesn’t mean that 50% of people will get divorced.

Consider somebody who gets married and divorced three times. Now put him in a group with three couples that got married and remained so for life. Statistically, half of the six marriages in this group ended in divorce. But three out of the four men in this group were never divorced.

Mickey Rooney and Liz Taylor probably covered half of the divorces in their age groups. :wink:

As noted, “50% of marriages end in divorce” is not the same as “50% of the people who married later divorce.” Even that number has been falling (slowly) since the early 1990s, (perhaps because fewer people who would divorce are actually getting married, but the numbers are there regardless of the reasons).

If you killed her on your wedding night, you’d be out by now.

(34 years coming up)

The percentage of marriages that end in divorce in the U.S. is probably about 45%:

(Yeah, these aren’t perfect sources, but this is what a lot of people who’ve studied divorce in the U.S. say.)

The number of divorces per capita in the U.S. peaked in 1981 and has been going down since then:

The real change since 1981 (and the trend started even before that) is that the percentage of people getting married at all has been decreasing.

Second marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first marriages and third marriages are more likely to end in divorce than second marriages:

32 years as of last January.

If half of all marriages end in divorce, how do the other half end?

Seems like a losing proposition either way.

The Missus is sleeping so I’ll not let her in on this bit of trivia.:smiley:

You forgot Zsa Zsa Gabor.


If I ever do commit the evil deed, I shall ask for a jury of my peers. 12 wimmin-folk will acquit me in a heartbeat!

Also keep in mind that the chances of marital success are not evenly spread over the population. There are characteristics that make certain groups of people more likely to divorce than others (level of education, age of people getting married, if the couple’s parents were divorced, religion, etc).

Eh. Enjoy life while you can - you’re not getting out of it alive.

Yeah–my mother-in-law and her sister have seven failed marriages between them. Enough people like that can really skew the percentages.

If you kill one or both members of half+ of every married couple in the US, then statistically these marriages have not ended in divorce, and I’ve lowered the divorce rate (for that year). Where’s my medal for saving marriages, conservative-types?

About every year, i see stories of spouses (usually wives) who have consulted a divorce lawyer, and then decided it would be much cheaper to hire a hitman.

But usually the ‘hitman’ they hire turns out to be a police informant (which is why the story ends up in the news).

I started a poll here once on how many marriages actually end up relatively ‘happy’ ones over the long term. If you assume that all marriages that end in divorce had one or more unhappy parties involved and yet many long-term unhappy marriages never make it to divorce because of money, death of a spouse, or simple inertia, the stats become a whole lot more grim than the widely reported 50% failure rate. Estimates here ranged from 60% failure overall in the best case to 90% at the worst. You could frame the problem as too few divorces or too many marriages in the first place but nobody like to hear that.

I suppose if the divorce rate were lower, the trade-off would be a lot more people in unhappy marriages.