In a previous post, I gave a number of examples of polar opposites, like right and wrong or day and night. My blogger friend Jim, in a reply to that post, asked, “Why are people usually attracted to their opposite, the one who is totally different from or the reverse of themselves?”
My snide response to Jim was, “I don’t know, but that may be why the divorce rate is so high.”
That got me wondering if there was any validity to my off-the-cuff comment about the divorce rate being in any way related to people being initially attracted to their opposites, so I did some digging.
The United States has the highest divorce rate in the world, with roughly 45% of marriages expected to end through divorce. The good news, though, is that the overall divorce rate in this country has decreased slightly since its peak in the 1980s.
In fact, in 2017 the U.S. divorce rate has dropped for the third year in a row, reaching its lowest point in nearly 40 years.
Infidelity, money issues, lack of communications, and lack of physical intimacy are generally cited as the most frequent reasons for getting divorced.
I found it interesting, though, especially for a Baby Boomer like me, that while divorce has been studied extensively among younger adults, the research to-date has essentially ignored divorce that occurs to adults aged 50 and older.
According to the Pew Research Center, in contrast to the dropping overall divorce rates, the divorce rate among those 50 and older has increased substantially in recent years. And among those ages 65 and older, the divorce rate has roughly tripled since 1990. Divorce within this group of older Americans is sometimes referred to as “gray divorce.”
Among the top reasons for divorce by Baby Boomers is irreconcilable differences.
So perhaps people are, indeed, attracted to their opposites and may even end up marrying them. But it’s also possible that, as people age, their opposites grow less and less attractive.
And that might explain why the divorce rate for those over fifty is increasing while the overall divorce rate is going down.
Maybe, for older married couples, there is some truth to that saying that familiarity breeds contempt.