Lying About Divorce?

Liberals need to stop lying about divorce according to Fox News contributor Steven Crowder.

Crowder apparently believes that liberals are making up statistics that more than half of all marriages end up in divorce so that they can thereby undermine marriage in general. “When you proactively lie to people, insisting that divorce, that failure, is the norm,” Crowder writes, “Well ultimately people will accept it as such.”

So just how pernicious are these awful lies about marriage? According to Cowder,

In response to my latest column supporting young marriage, many leftists brought up what they believed to be a brilliant counter-point in the form of the fifty percent divorce rate. There’s only one problem; it’s not true. As a matter of fact, it’s less true today than it’s ever been in decades. Even worse, the liberals who perpetuate this lie know it.

The last link, to a 2009 article by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, attempts to debunk some common perceptions about marriage and divorce. They were responding to a Census Bureau report that claimed more than half of all marriages that occurred between 1975 and 1979 had ended in divorce before reaching their 25th anniversary. But, as Stevenson and Wolfers point out, the study was actually completed 6 months before many of the marriages in 1979 would have reached their 25th anniversary and so was by necessity inaccurate.

When Stevenson and Wolfers looked at the whole picture — adding in the marriages from that final 6 month period — they found that, in fact, 53 percent of the marriages entered into between 1975 and 1979 reached their 25th anniversary.

So there you have it. As Crowder notes, when liberals tell you that more than 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, when in fact it is only 47 percent, they are part of a monstrous lie designed to shatter people’s faith in marriage as an institution.

Oddly enough, Crowder is an advocate of marriage at a relatively (given current standards) young age. He got on the marriage kick when responding to a particularly dumb Huffington Post article suggesting that the minimum age of marriage be raised to 25.

But there’s hardly a need for such stupid measures when adults are starting to opt out of marriage at such a young age of their own accord. According to the 2009 Census report that Crowder links to, for example, in 1986 only 26.9 percent of women aged 25-29 had never been married. By 2009, that figure jumped to 46.8 percent.

The median age at which men and women first get married has shot up dramatically over the past 6 decades,

Since the 1950s, the median age at first marriage has risen for both men and women, increasing from 23 for men and 20 for women in 1950, to 28 for men and 26 for women in 2009.

Which probably goes a long way to explaining why divorce peaked around 1980 and has since leveled off. People wait longer to get married and, in many cases, end up breaking off cohabitation arrangements that previously would have likely led to marriages and subsequent divorce. As the Census report puts it,

As marriage rates have decreased and cohabitation has become more common, marriage has become more selective of adults who arebetter off socioeconomically and have more education, and divorce rates have leveled. These changes are reflected here in decreasing proportions ever divorced for ever-married women at younger ages. While 19 percent of ever-married women aged 25 to 29 had divorced in 1996, 14 percent had divorced in 2009—a decrease of about 30 percent.

In Defense of Polyamorous Marriages

Lee Stranahan took a lot of grief in the comments section of the Huffington Post with his piece earlier this year, Why are gay marriage advocates not defending polyamory? One answer, of course, is some gay marriage proponents don’t see polyamorous marriages as legitimate in the same way they see a homosexual version of a heterosexual marriage as legitimate.

Another response is that there are already legal solutions to polyamorous marriages such as settng up chapter S LLCs, etc. This, however, strikes me as a different version of the “why can’t you be happy with domestic partnerships?”

Ultimately, however, I suspect the reason is that the fight over gay marriage is focused largely on the ‘gay’ part of the equation rather than the marriage part.

Over the past decade or so, it has become less and less acceptable — both culturally and legally — to discriminate against homosexuals. As a result, marriage really sticks out as an area where there is a bright shining litmus test that screams ‘no gays allowed’. To some extent the opponents of gay marriage are correct to the extent that they fear that allowing gay marriage will complete the project of legitimizing and destigmatizing homosexual behavior.

Polyamory, meanwhile, goes pretty much to the core of what exactly we mean by marriage at all, and why we have specific laws that treat married individuals as a separate class.

Personally, I’m all for also recognizing n-tuple marriages; if the cultures of the Old Testament could do it, surely we can too.

Update: for another take on polyamorous marriage, see Lindsay Beyerstein’s 2006 article The legal logic of polyamorous marriage.

In Defense of Hetero-Technological Marriages

Hilarious line from an anti-gay marriage rally in North Carolina earlier this year,

David Gibbs III, a lawyer who in 2005 fought to keep brain-damaged Terri Schiavo on life support, told rally participants gay marriage would “open the door to unusual marriage in North Carolina.”

“Why not polygamy, or three or four spouses?” Gibbs asked. “Maybe people will want to marry their pets or robots.”

Providing it is among consensual adults (and dual core processors) there’s nothing wrong in principle with multiple spouses or marriages to robots (I do agree on the pets issue, but I’m not sure how Gibbs gets from consensual marriage among consenting adults to marriages involving animals with clearly extremely diminished mental faculties).

Personally, though, I think people will probably prefer to simply have sex with robots rather than marrying them. For those curious, David Levy wrote a fascinating book about future human-machine relationships Love and Sex with Robots.

Certainly in a world where Gibbs himself argues for a right to have life preserved by artificial means, why not a world where we have a right to love by artificial means?

Relatively Large Numbers of Single British Women and Men Don’t Want to Get Married

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a survey of British singles by Mintel found that 56 percent of single women and 46 percent of single men describe themselves as “very happy.” Meanwhile, 19 percent of men and 28 percent of women said they had no interest in marriage or living with someone else.

The survey polled 1,039 singles ages 25-70. Overwhelmingly, both men and women said the biggest advantage of being single was economic and personal freedom in not having to share decision making with a partner. Seventy-one percent of men and 69 percent of women ranked “making own decisions about how to spend money” as the best thing about being single and 66 percent of men and 65 percent of women ranked “Freedom to come and go as I please” as the second most important thing about being single.

Men and women differed, however, on the disadvantages with 27 percent of men citing “not enough sex” as the biggest drawback of being single, while 36 percent of men cited “people assuming I want a partner” as the biggest drawback.


British women are ‘happy singles’. The BBC, February 14, 2005.

Marketing to Singles – Charts. Press Release, Mintel, February 2005.

Affairs Major Reason for Divorce in UK, Where Women Initiate Almost all Divorces

In January, the BBC reported on a UK survey of divorce lawyers that asked the lawyers to provide statistics on the causes of the divorces they handled.

According to the survey, adultery was the number one cause of divorce in Great Britain, with 27 percent of divorces being initiated because one of the partners had an affair. In 75 percent of those cases, the adulterous spouse was the husband.

After adultery, 11 percent of marriages ended due to family-related strains, and 17 percent from emotional or physical abuse.

The study also reported that women were overwhelmingly the initiators of divorces, petitioning for divorce in 93 percent of the cases handled by the lawyers in the survey.


Affairs ‘main reason for divorce’ The BBC, January 23, 2005.