Because there is no guarantee that a marriage will work and divorce is such a traumatic experience, particularly where children are involved, more couples are choosing to cohabit as a way of avoiding the drama that can be associated with legal commitment. More than 20% of all children are born to cohabiting couples, but research shows that fewer than four per cent of cohabitations last for ten years or more and the break-up of cohabiting unions is responsible for 15% of one-parent families. The figures for marriage are not encouraging either. Fewer people than ever now choose to get married and two in five of those unions end in divorce. Four weddings out of every ten in the UK are second marriages, but at least 60 per cent of these end in divorce and 73-74% or third marriages are doomed to fail.
Dr Helen Fischer, Biological Anthropologist, and Research Professor at Rutgers University has studied patterns of marriage and divorce in 58 societies and she believes that as a species, we are now moving away from lifelong commitment towards a kind of serial monogamy and she rejects the argument that longer life-spans are putting pressure on modern marriage. “Two million years ago adults who survived infancy were living for sixty or seventy years and in that time a woman might have two or three husbands because of death, divorce or desertion.”
Nobody knows what the cumulative impact of exposure to successive divorces will have on the millions of children involved, but there is no doubt that a percentage of those relationships would have survived if the couple had sought help sooner. The average couple wait seven years before seeking counselling and by the time they make the appointment the D word has usually already been bandied around. When you count the emotional and financial cost, you can appreciate the wisdom in trying to hang on to your first marriage if that is at all possible.