How Long Does the Average Marriage Last?

The issue of marriage duration is a hot topic in society. Knowing how long it lasts and what factors influence the longevity of relationships is crucial for sociological purposes. However, the answers to these questions are global and subjective because marriage duration can vary greatly from country to country and from couple to couple.

Statistics show that the average marriage lasts several years, but some studies prove longer periods. Defining a single exact figure is impossible since a myriad of factors can affect a relationship’s longevity.

One of the key aspects is the spouses’ age at the time of marriage. The more mature and well-established people are, the more likely they are to have a long and stable family life. The second important factor is the education level and social status of spouses. Couples with a high level of education and a stable income are more likely to maintain their relationship for a long time.

The shortened marriage duration is a noticeable tendency in today’s society. Social and economic changes, including higher levels of education among women, greater freedom of choice, greater access to information about relationships, and an increase in divorce rates, all have an impact on the average length of marriage.

According to the latest national statistics, the average marriage length in the USA is 8 years, which is the lowest indicator among the researched countries. In comparison, it is about 11 years in Sweden and the United Kingdom, 12 years in Canada and Australia, 13 years in New Zealand, and 14 years in Germany.

So, how long does the average American marriage last, depending on the state and other demographic factors? Let’s try to find the answers to this and other questions together.

Which State Has the Highest Divorce Rate?

According to the U.S. News article focusing on the latest U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), the general divorce rate in the United States increased in 2022 by 3.6% from the previous year. However, the overall indicators are still considerably lower than ten years before. Yet, to understand if the figures are high or low, it is reasonable to consider divorce rates in relation to marriage rates and population size.

In the national divorce rate, California ranks relatively low. U.S. News presents ACS findings, according to which the divorce rate in California is 5.88, making it one of 10 states with the lowest indicators. Arkansas has the highest divorce rate by state (11.85), followed by Wyoming (11.01), Kentucky (9.92), and West Virginia (9.66).

Several factors may influence these variations:

  • Marriage Age: Studies suggest that people who marry younger are more likely to divorce. So, states with lower median marriage ages may have higher divorce rates.
  • Religious Affiliation: Areas with strong religious communities may have lower divorce rates due to religious emphasis on marriage.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Poverty, lower education levels, and lack of economic opportunities are usually linked to higher divorce rates.
  • Laws and Policies: States with stricter divorce laws or longer waiting periods may have slightly lower divorce rates.

Importantly, correlation doesn’t equal causation. Just because two factors appear linked doesn’t necessarily mean one causes the other. While these factors may influence divorce rates, the interplay is much more complex. Additionally, data is often based on divorces per capita, which can be skewed by demographics.

What Is the Top Cause of Divorce?

According to the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst’s survey, the top reasons for divorce are basic incompatibility, infidelity, and money issues in that order. However, the categories are quite broad, requiring more detailed examination. Indeed, specialists argue that there are more individual and specific problems behind the formal phrase “irreconcilable differences.”

For example, some people get disappointed in their partner’s personal qualities; others accuse their spouses of irresponsible behavior toward the family as a whole; still others state the cooling of feelings as the reason for divorce.

So, why do people get divorced most often? Let’s consider 3 main categories of reasons:

Behavioral Causes

One spouse may struggle with the partner’s unacceptable behavior for a lifetime. Unfortunately, too many women choose to live with an alcoholic or abusive husband without making any decisive steps to stop being a victim.

At the same time, spouses’ incurable illness tends to be one of the widespread reasons for divorce, which reveals a very negative trend. In fact, it looks like an overt betrayal of marriage and family promises comparable with adultery.

Generally, a spouse’s unacceptable qualities that lead to divorce usually include:

  • Constant conflict resolution through quarrels and scandals;
  • Refusal to provide for the family and run a joint household;
  • Unreasonable separation;
  • Revealed infidelity and lies;
  • Alcoholism and drug addiction;
  • Illegal actions.

Material Reasons

Psychologists say that poverty makes family members extremely impatient with each other. Even if both partners make equal efforts to get out of debt or provide for living, the tense atmosphere can absorb all the loving feelings. Poverty is a real test for a marriage, especially the one with children.

Sometimes, a husband may lose his ability to earn money, and a wife is forced to provide for the family alone. In this situation, her patience and devotion are hard to rely on since she may feel unfairly deprived. Other spouses may be too demanding of their partner in terms of earnings.

The most common material causes of divorce are:

  • Poverty, lack of basic necessities;
  • One spouse’s personal debts;
  • Husband’s loss of earning capacity;
  • Housing problems.

Psychological Causes

Pettiness, excessive independence, inability to take responsibility for their decisions, and many other negative traits gradually lead spouses to believe they are incompatible. While some relations may survive many years due to patience, it may end in the first year of marriage in other families.

Spouses who have become intolerant of each other will likely get disharmonious intimate relationships. They are also not inclined to make joint plans for the future and quickly realize there is no point in continuing such a marriage.

The main psychological causes of divorce are:

  • Falling out of love;
  • Distrust;
  • Jealousy;
  • Differences in views;
  • Sexual incompatibility.

It’s unlikely that someone would marry a person they dislike, disrespect, or distrust. When creating a family, everyone expects their share of happiness and hopes to enjoy relationships with each other. However, if spouses’ individualities, each with its own habits and desires, clash over time, the root cause is probably the inability to put the family’s interests first.

What Is the Average Age of Divorce in the USA?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s report released back in 2016, the average age of divorce in the United States is 30. Yet, the data is quite subjective, with trends constantly changing and depending on individual characteristics and circumstances.

Generally, the correlation between age and divorce probability is rather relative. It’s hard to exactly answer the questions “At what age are people most prone to terminating their marriages? When do most divorces happen? What are the most common marital challenges for a specific age group?”, etc. Still, certain trends can be singled out to see the general picture and determine which families are at risk.

Surprising as it may seem, families in the range of 3 to 6 years of marriage with young children and newborns are in the first place in the risk group. Therefore, contrary to expectations, kids do not keep modern spouses together.

Next are families with 20-25 years of marital life experience whose children have grown up and left the house, leaving their parents with an “empty nest” syndrome.

On the other hand, divorce is the least common in childless families.

In fact, the risk of divorce is not the cause of a marriage termination and cannot serve as an accurate indicator, but some factors are thought-provoking. What if some marriages have poor chances of survival from the start?

One of the impactful factors is age at marriage. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ study supports the finding that, on average, people who marry earlier are more likely than older couples to divorce. Such an outcome may be explained by immaturity and lack of experience and preparedness for marriage. On the other hand, it may also be connected with a lower educational level, which is another risk factor for divorce probability since the age at marriage increases with education.

Similarly, the chances of divorce increase for couples who were too quick to wed, having too little time to get to know each other better and prepare for family life properly. Disappointment, or even shock, from the discrepancy between dreams and reality can quickly create a destructive atmosphere in a young family. Few people are able to withstand the conflict between “was” and “is” under the conditions of a new family life.

On the other hand, Dr. N. Wolfinger from Utah University conducted an analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth data and concluded that getting married at a later age is similarly risky as starting a family too early. According to him, the best time to get married with the lowest risk of the soonest divorce is the 28-32 age range.

So, knowing the risky years of marriage and spouses’ age when getting married, we can distinguish some common patterns and approximately deduce what the most common years for divorce are. Yet, there are more exact findings made by the Bowling Green State University based on the 2020 ACS analysis. They say that the median age at first divorce for men is 42.6 and 40.1 for women, which is an increase from 1970.

Who is More Likely to Get Divorced?

While other demographic factors, apart from age and educational level, may also help to see the general picture of the divorce trends, they do not answer the question, “Why do people divorce?”

Here are some of the most noticeable statistics:

  • A number of studies, including the one conducted by Dr. Rosenfeld in 2015, show that the percentage of divorces initiated by women is much higher. However, there is still no definite answer to why women initiate divorce more often;
  • According to the research on “The Growing Racial and Ethnic Divide in U.S. Marriage Patterns,” Black women tend to have lower marital quality and higher chances of divorce, while Asian women are least likely to file for divorce;
  • The percentage of divorced older adults (65+ years) is much higher than in other age groups, having grown twice in the past few decades;
  • Moreover, the divorce rate among Baby Boomers is higher than the marriage rate;
  • Hindus are least likely, while Historically Black Protestants are most likely to dissolve their marriages. Pew Research Center informs that 5% of Hindu population and 19% of Black Protestants are divorced;
  • Since same-sex marriages became legal throughout the United States, the divorce rate for these couples has risen. Now, they are about 50% more likely to terminate their marital union than heterosexual couples.

While these data are indicative of most common trends and patterns, they are not necessarily causes or predictors of divorce. Moreover, they cannot explain why representatives of certain demographic groups are more prone to dissolving marriages or who benefits more from divorce and why.

Every situation is unique and depends solely on individual circumstances. No one is safe from declined relationships or faded feelings. However, everyone resolves such issues their own way: some file for divorce right away while others try to save their relationship even when it’s obviously unsavable. So, it’s only up to you to decide how long your own marriage will last.