In forty percent of marriages begun in 2013, one or both partners had been married before, and close to one-quarter of all currently married adults have previously been married to someone else, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center. Both figures have risen sharply since 1960, when just 13 percent of married adults were on their second (or later) marriage.
Interestingly, while a growing proportion of adults have never been married and a growing share of ever-married adults have divorced or been widowed, the previously married have not become less likely to remarry. In other words, marriage may be less desirable to the never-married than in the past, but those whose marriages have ended have apparently not soured on the institution.
But the overall stability in people’s likelihood to remarry masks some changes among certain groups: Formerly married seniors have become more likely to remarry, whereas their 25- to 34-year-old counterparts have become less likely to do so, perhaps because so many of their peers today are single. Men have become less likely, and women more likely, to remarry, but now as in the past, men are more likely than women to marry again.
Institute for Family Studies senior fellow W. Bradford Wilcox described a few implications of these findings to the Deseret News:
Research suggests that, on average, couples who remarry are more likely to divorce than those who marry for the first time, said W. Bradford Wilcox, American Enterprise Institute visiting scholar and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
Children can play a key role in whether remarriage lasts, in some cases making it more challenging, he said. Plus, “the same orientations or vulnerabilities or vices that may have led to earlier divorce — whether depression or drinking too much or something else — can be carried over to the second marriage. For that reason, we see they are generally less stable than intact first marriages.”
Some people, he noted, are very intentional about not making the same mistakes they made in a first marriage. But it’s not always possible to realize those good intentions, given the challenges of new relationships.
Pew’s report concentrates only on the United States, but it’s worth noting that U.S. patterns of divorce and remarriage are far from universal. Americans “partner, unpartner, and repartner faster than do people in any other Western nation,” as Andrew Cherlin wrote in The Marriage-Go-Round. We marry or cohabit earlier than those in European countries, we’re more likely to divorce or break up, and after break-ups we’re quicker to find new partners. Those hoping for stable and fulfilling relationships should consider moving a bit more slowly at every stage of the game.