Pamela Paul, author of Starter Marriages, examines the restigmatization of divorce within the upper middle classes:

“That this change has occurred mainly among the affluent suggests it’s not just a reaction to the divorce epidemic of the ’70s,” Dr. Cherlin said. “The condemnation of divorce is also coming from the group that is most confident it can make its marriages succeed, and that allows them to be dismissive of divorce.”

Paul suggests that it’s primarily the children that are behind the change in trend, though she notes that some people invert the normal argument and contend that an amicable divorce is better for the kids than an unhappy union.

But I was mostly interested in this final bit:

In another unexpected twist, some divorced women say they detect an unspoken envy. Other wives and mothers, they explained, were “battling it out” while dealing with the unceasing tasks of wifedom, motherhood and work.

“What I get from a number of married women in my community is jealousy of my new lifestyle,” Dr. Monet said. “Dating, going to yoga five times a week, having time for myself. Raising young kids with a spouse doesn’t afford you much time.”

Ms. Morrison also sees a subtle, unexpected reaction. “Among my college friends and my closest friends, I’m still the only one who’s divorced,” she said. “In a funny way, I think I may have turned into the groovy one.”

What’s interesting to note is the way that what has sometimes been dubbed the ‘cult of youth’ is wrapped up in the attempt to keep divorce respectable.  Dating five times a week has its charms, no doubt, but they’re limited for the precise reason that one cannot make a steady diet of Snickers bars:  it’s a temporary solution, meant to get you into the permanent state of marriage.

And once there, the wisdom of the institution is that if you make it through the crazy period and get the kids out of the house, then you can settle down to enjoy all that “groovy” stuff together with someone who you’ve been attached to for 30 or 40 years–precisely at the point when attempts at “groovy” start to look ridiculous.*

*Noting my own absence of arrows in the quiver, which means you should all take this with a teaspoon of salt.



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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. Anonymous Viewer June 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    I’m skeptical of studies refering to the “decline of divorce”, especially among college graduates. The upper-class in reality runs amok with the approval of cohabitation, abortion, divorce, illegitimacy, racial mixing, homosexuality, transgenderism, democracy, individualism, capitalism, drugs, promiscuity and other concepts.

    Lower marriage rates= Lower divorce rates. And that is just one factor.

    Besides that perhaps some young inviduals are honest. The media just examines it incorrectly —


    1. Matthew Lee Anderson June 23, 2011 at 9:08 am


      Thanks for the comment. You’re on the money that the “decline of divorce” is not the same thing as “the rise of marriage” or even a healthy view of such things.

      However, I’m intrigued by the idea that divorce as divorce could be restigmatized within that community. Social stigmatization is obviously a problematic notion for a Christian, but it may have some beneficial functions for creating a culture of marriage appreciation.

      Which is to say, I think it’s important not to put TOO much weight in this trend, even while welcoming what limited good it represents.




  2. The reason the divorce rate has declined is because most heteros are abandoning marriage for cohabitation today. That’s the irony of people who oppose gay marriage – they’re trying to prevent gay marriage and keep it “traditional” at a time when heteros are leaving the marriage institution behind and changing what it means. It’s actually heteros who have changed marriage, not gays.


    1. Matthew Lee Anderson June 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm

      Yes, I make something of a similar case in my book (what a pretentious phrase! Ugh!).

      That said, “heteros”? I hadn’t heard the new nomenclature.



  3. As someone who came from a divorced family (my parents split when I was 5), I think that it’s interesting to say that divorce is being “re-stigmatized.” From the time my parents first divorced all the way until today, I think I’ve always sensed the negative stigma attached. The thing that has changed over time is seeing how the effects of being raised by primarily one-parent have effected the way I define “home” and my decision-making process in navigating through familial relationships. Without knowing Jesus Christ, I would be in a hopeless state, but thankfully He has been my refuge as I’ve had to make decisions and deal with realities that were not in God’s design for family.

    I also think the picture of the “groovy” divorcee is really shallow. It demonstrates a fantastical picture of life for the woman who is divorced, in particular, and fails to acknowledge the unseen financial struggles, battles with loneliness, and extraordinary parenting challenges that occupy the majority of life for the woman who is divorced. Like I stated above in relation to my own experiences, only Christ can make the divorced woman whole again.

    I think if the world that doesn’t know Christ really took a long and careful look at the total reality of divorce, it would point to a problem with their idea of marriage. Marriage is a pact, not the sum of feelings and conveniences. When we view it as such and invest in it time and energy, that’s when we reap the gift of romance. Covenant needs to outweigh emotions!


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