The Candor

Is a Declining Divorce Rate a Good Sign for Our Culture?


Omair Ali

Perspectives Editor

Yesterday was a day when many relished in romantic ventures with their partners. However, the picture-perfect image of love on Valentine’s Day does not reflect the true, day-to-day nature of love in America. The heart-breaking reality is that the divorce rate has historically been  high in the United States, which has been a problematic social issue that has afflicted millions of Americans. Fortunately, the divorce rate has been declining for the last several years.

In this melting pot of a nation, we share the rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and also the right to hold different opinions. For instance, some cultures are fine with uncommitted relationships and divorces, whereas others are completely against both ideas (but isn’t that the beauty of diversity?). However, this doesn’t mean that a divorce isn’t one of the most tragic decisions. I mean divorce is not just a simple break-up between a legally-bonded couple: it’s an irreversible, traumatic experience that inevitably leads to incurable rifts families and personal hardship. Break ups might be difficult to deal with, but divorces are outright excruciating.

Remarkably, the millennial generation has contributed to unprecedented trend changes in the divorce rate in America. The National Center for Family and Marriage Research, sponsored by Bowling Green State University, reports that the divorce rate in 2015 was lower than the divorce rate in 2014 (16.9 vs. 17.6 divorces per 1000 married women), and has shown a steady decrease since 2012. Increases in cohabitation, when unmarried, romantic partners live together, also appears to play a key role in lowering divorce rates (The Insider). This means that romantic partners in our generation are being more patient before committing to marriage than in previous generations.

Obviously, everyone from every culture can agree that a divorce is inherently not good and a stable, long-lasting relationship is the best form of romance. So, what is something that all of these parties would love to see? Less divorces? Maybe, but how does this prove that we still want to have long-term, stable relationships? The truth is that it doesn’t tell us anything about improving cultural attitudes because having less divorces is simply a matter of more people making well-informed decisions, not a matter of enforcing new cultural norms that would allow everyone to immediately become romantically righteous. And accompanied by the decrease in divorces is an increase in temporary, unstable relationships, which has its fair share of problems that conflict with the idea of healthy, long-term romance. So, I don’t believe that a decrease in the national divorce rate is a telltale sign that our society is developing positive attitudes toward romantic relationships.

On the other hand, I can point out several social customs that glamorize not stable love, but lust and unhealthy romance. When I look at my age group, I immediately notice the prevalence of the hookup culture. The hookup culture has existed for quite some time at the national, college level, and is something to take note of. People that “hook up” with others are never trying to start or build a relationship: They’re simply seeking pleasure. Thus, the hookup culture is quite possibly the greatest enemy of the ideal, stable relationship or marriage, which emphasizes patience, balance, moderation, and loyalty. As well, this hookup subculture has been enabled by online dating platforms like Tinder to become more popular than ever before, as these companies have been shown to promote hookups rather than long-lasting relationships. Internet pornography, prostitution, strip clubs, and sex trafficking are also still alive and performing well, if not better than before, and none of these aspects promote healthy, romantic relationships. A quick glance at pop culture would show that many of the most popular songs today encourage lustful behavior rather than exercising temperance in romance. Finally, to make matters even worse, people will invent “sex robots” that would drastically change existing love dynamics so that people would crave robots more than humans!

Cringe-worthy, social taboos aside, the decline in the divorce rates has not necessarily improved the societal situation of the regressing family structure. According to a study published by Pew Research Center, more children in our time are being raised by unmarried, cohabiting parents or single parents. This means that more children are at risk for improper nurturing as a result of unstable or broken relationships, which aren’t necessarily related to divorces. And because being a parent without marrying (or worse, being single) is a relatively new phenomenon, only time will tell what the ramifications will be for the children raised in these circumstances.

Sorry for bursting any heart-shaped bubbles out there, but the jury is still out for proof that society is making reasonable progress toward healthy, long-lasting romantic relationships. Yes, it’s true that today’s generation has found a way to avoid divorces. However, it really seems that healthy ideas about love and family structure are considered by many to be foolish thoughts, and thus have been hijacked by cheap thrills, indecency, and poor decision-making by uncommitted parents.

May God help us all.