Marriage may be in decline among the younger generations, but according to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the over 50s are bucking that trend and opting for re-marriage.
We have known for some time that marriage has, to a certain extent, been on the way out since co-habiting became more socially acceptable and single parenting equally unremarkable. According to ONS statistics, the records for 2015 show “marriage rates for opposite-sex couples were the lowest on record.” The figure was 239,020 and that represents a 3.9% drop on 2014. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s enough to make people sit up and take notice.
By contrast, the marriage figures for men over 50 and women aged 35-39, as well as those aged 45 and over have risen. I think we can hazard a guess that the women in the 35-39 age group are under pressure from the biological clock and economic stability. But, what is happening with older people is surely a more complex tale.
Younger people have other fish to fry
Relate, the relationship charity, attributes the decline in marriage in those under 20 to the cost of weddings and prioritising other things like education and travelling. With few of them able to afford buying a property, student debts, employment problems, its small wonder that marriage comes very far down the list.
It makes more sense for parents to give them money towards the deposit on a first home rather than spend on a ‘one day only’ celebration. Interestingly, Harry Benson, research director of the Marriage Foundation, said the decline in teen marriage was “no bad thing” citing these typically being the marriages most likely to break down.
Over 50s less likely to put up with just ‘OK’ relationships
The ONS data shows that it is primarily over 50s divorcees who are happily getting remarried in later life. And here is something interesting: the number of divorced men aged over 55 reached 25,000 for the first time ever. By contrast, the number of widowers remarrying has shown a decline in numbers since 2003.
A lawyer specialising in family law suggests the trend amongst divorcees is attributable to the following facts: advancing age and even the pain of divorce are not seen as a barrier to enjoying one’s remaining years, plus a significant number of men in particular will have got though the recession and are at the height of their earning power.
Compared with our parents’ generation, we are less likely to hang around if a relationship is only ‘OK’. We are more likely to take a “but is it good enough?” approach when we turn 50, which we apply to other areas of our lives now, especially work.
The great anthropologist Margaret Mead said we all have three great loves in us: “the romantic one of youth and discovery, the stable partner for childrearing and homebuilding, and the adventurous free-spirited partner for the third age of life when we want to redefine ourselves.”
It would seem that some of us are redefining ourselves in new marriages, whilst others prefer to enjoy our third age on our own. And some couples manage to adapt to each life stage together. What we are certainly doing is showing that we have enough maturity to know we have a choice in the matter.