By KATE HUNTER
It was the talk of talkback radio yesterday.
A study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has revealed that while the divorce rate amongst young couples is falling, people who’d been together 20 years and more are splitting up in record numbers.
Forget about those retirement ads showing mum and dad driving down country roads in an Alfa convertible. They’re just as likely likely to be driving straight to the lawyer’s office. In separate cars.
The rate of couples divorcing after decades together has DOUBLED in a generation. The AIFS report shows the proportion of marriages ending after 20 years has leapt from 13 per cent in 1980 to 28 per cent in 2011.
This suggests that while couples stayed together so long for the sake of the kids, once the kids were gone, so was the marriage. That seems to make sense – it’s a rare divorce that isn’t tough on children, and raising a family doesn’t leave much time or money for the business of splitting up.
Kids can offer even the most disconnected couple something to talk about, worry over, be proud of. Kids are great for filling awkward gaps in a conversation.
Once the nest is empty, though, and there’s nothing on telly, the future can look ho-hum for many couples. Comfortable, maybe, but dull. The little habits that were once adorable have become irritating. Suddenly you’re the last two in the Big Brother house, stuck with someone you thought was a hoot at the beginning, but now the party’s over, you realise you’ve got nothing in common.
We’re talking about people mostly in their forties and fifties – relatively young men and women. The years stretch ahead. There could be twenty, thirty forty more. Their parents couldn’t have gotten divorced. Not so long ago, ending a marriage was a shameful thing – spoken about in whispers. Not anymore.
The barnies on the radio about these new divorce figures were predictable enough. One announcer was emphatic that divorce is too easy: people just don’t hack the tough times like they used to.
‘Really?’ I thought, ‘Marriage is something to be endured, like the Kokoda Track? Tolerated like a too-long visit from a boorish uncle?’
The other announcer argued, ‘But if both people are miserable and there are no kids to be hurt, why not get the hell out? Why stay in the carriage as it plunges over the cliff?’
Interesting that it was a woman who said this – 60% of divorces after many years of marriage are instigated by the woman. Their husbands are often shocked.