Divorce Rates Are Dropping, but Not for Reasons You Expect

Florence Williamson
3 min readOct 10, 2022

In the US, divorce rates are experiencing a 50-year bear run. And it’s even predicted to continue declining.

In 2019 alone, the American Community Survey stated that only 14.9 out of every 1,000 marriages ended in divorce. This is even lower than in1970 when 15 per 1,000 marriages ended in the divorce court.

Now, you might think this is a good thing, something that should restore your faith in the institution of marriage. Perhaps it means that more and more people respect the sanctity of marriage and that more families are staying intact.

While that may be true, there is a more prevalent reason — that marriage is no longer most couples’ first and only option.

Cohabitation has become a norm

Fewer people are risking marriage nowadays, especially the younger ones. They now prefer to “test the waters” first before vowing to have and hold their partners forever.

In the past, people would marry on the sole basis of “love.” But certain concepts of marriage keep evolving. And the younger generation want their partners to tick all the boxes during cohabitation before ultimately making a lifetime commitment to them.

Living together premarriage is convenient and makes sense financially. Should the couple discover that they have irreconcilable differences, they can save on the costs of what would otherwise be an expensive divorce process and on alimony.

Over time, society has become accepting of couples who cohabitate first. Even if they don’t plan to get married, they agree that cohabitating is a wise and practical exercise.

Married and unmarried, cohabiting couples share almost the same perks. There are legal benefits to being officially married. But in a lot of people’s view, what differentiates the two apart is a mere piece of paper.

Because of the pandemic, many weddings were postponed

The pandemic has also contributed to the continuing downward trend of divorces. A lot of wedding plans were canceled because of worldwide lockdowns.

During this time, couples were forced to either spend increased time together or apart. This took a serious toll on their relationships. Coupled with pandemic stress, many relationships eventually broke down and did not make it out of the pandemic.

Hence, not every wedding planned for 2020–2021 pushed through, even as things started opening up again. And fewer weddings mean fewer potential divorces.

People aren’t forced into marriage anymore

In this day and age, you can choose to remain single for as long as you want.

Marriage is no longer the requirement it used to be for men and women in their late 20s. This is especially evident in Western countries. People prioritize growth and stability before settling down. Rarely do they marry at the age of 25 when the brain is immature, or when their career path is still in question.

Even in conservative countries like China and Colombia, fewer women are dealing with the stigma of being unmarried. They realize that more people outside their country share the same disposition as theirs.

People are refusing to settle for less. They don’t work hard and establish their careers in their 20s or 30s for nothing. If they can’t find their match in their country, they can always try their luck in another continent. The Internet and online dating exist, after all.

The result? Those who marry stay married because it’s something they prepared for and have always wanted. Divorce doesn’t even crack their top 100 worries.

So is the divorce rates dropping a good thing?

People becoming more patient and not rushing into marriage is a good thing. They are contributing to the drop in divorce rates for the right reasons. But people losing faith in marriage and choosing low-commitment cohabitation for good don’t make low divorce rates a positive phenomenon.