Contrary to popular belief, the divorce rate in America has been steadily declining in the last 20 years. Unless of course, you’re a Baby Boomer. So, why are we still getting divorced at a record rate?
The divorce rate since 1981 has doubled for people older than 50 and tripled for people over 65.
Some attribute this to the rise in feminism and the need for the “next big thing”, making both men and women chase after what they think might be the BBD or Bigger, Better, Deal.
For restless boomers, finding love in the ’80s was hard work and was when the concept and industry of marriage counseling came to be. It also happened to be when the term “soul mate” entered the modern vernacular. The pursuit of the idealistic “soul mate” made many couples second-guess their partners.
For the first time ever,a wife or husband wasn’t just expected to be a good match, they had to be “The One” During the late ’60s and ’70s, feel-good self-help books like The Courage to Divorce; I’m OK, You’re OK; Looking Out for No. 1 ,encouraged couples to fearlessly split and find happiness elsewhere, even if that risked traumatizing the children.
As the divorce rate increased, the term “broken home” was supplanted by the less-catastrophizing phrase “single-parent home, which shifted the responsibility of the mental stability of the children from the failed marriage to the children’s own, personal resilience.
That was one of takeaways of psychologist Judith Wallerstein’s 25-year California Children of Divorce Study, a groundbreaking longitudinal study she began in 1971. In the book Second Chances, published in 1989, she reported that more than half of children raised in divorced homes are so damaged they never marry themselves. The conclusions of Wallerstein, who died in 2012, remain controversial.
The echoes of the ’80s divorce boom continue to reverberate through American society. The children of these broken marriages grew up to be wary young adults: A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that millennials marry at rates far lower than earlier generations — half of those between the ages of 25 and 34 have never been married, which is more than double the rate in 1960. And the U.S. marriage rate overall is at a historic low.
Boomers however, continue to marry and then divorce. Another Pew study revealed that 66 percent of boomer-age respondents say they’d prefer divorce to staying in an unhappy marriage. With online dating now an easy, and not at all frowned upon alternative to remaining in an unfulfilling partnership, finding “The One” may not be the end goal, staying stagnant is certainly not a choice Baby Boomers are willing to accept.