Divorce and separation have become more prevalent in our society in general. Not only has this become a more socially acceptable act between two partners, but its frequency is said to have increased as well around Europe. For example, if we examine marriage and divorce statistics rates from 1965 till 2019, we see a decrease in the first and an increase in the latter. Marriage rates almost halved from 8 per 1000 people to just over 4 per 1000 people, while divorce rates rose sharply from almost 1 per 1000 people to almost 2 per 1000 people.
Is there something wrong in our society, since more and more marriages are coming to an end? There’s no easy answer to that question, however part of the reason why we see a change in numbers would be the fact that in several EU Member States divorce was legalised during this period (for example, in Italy, Spain, Ireland and Malta).
Divorce is not an easy experience to cope with. Not only the two partners are affected by the process, but their children suffer as well, performing poorer in school and having increased depression and anxiety levels. If you know a family who’s going through a divorce or if you’re experiencing one yourself, you might ask: could this have been prevented?
Before answering the question, let’s look at the reasons most people name for getting a divorce. A study asked 306 couples to name the “major contributors for divorce” out of a list. It turned out that 75% of them cited lack of commitment, 60% cited infidelity and 57% cited too much conflict and arguing.
Fortunately enough for all couples out there considering marriage, most of these issues can be prevented with enough work and dedication from both partners. One program called PREP (or Prevention and Relationship Education Program) is specially designed for this. PREP is a psychoeducational program meant to equip partners with the skills they need for a happy and stable marriage like conflict management, problem-solving, the preservation of fun and friendship, and relationship expectations and commitment. Research shows that this program and its variations are generally effective, improving marital quality and maintaining high relationship satisfaction. This programme also lowered divorce rates (especially for minority couples and couples with economic difficulties).
As doctors and therapists like to say: “prevent before you treat”! We should all recognise the importance of prevention not only when it comes to physical illnesses. This is like dressing up warm not to catch a cold – but also when it comes to our mental health and our relationship wellbeing. This doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming; if the classic, workshop-based PREP isn’t available in your area, you and your partner can also try ePREP, the online version of the program.
The bottom line would be: divorce can be prevented, as long as you and your partner are aware of this and have the willingness to work on improving your relationship early on.
However, if it feels like too much work to do on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out here for professional help.
Alexandra Trașcă is an intern with Willingness and an undergraduate Psychology student at
Babeș-Bolyai University in Romania.
Allen, E. S., Rhoades, G. K., Markman, H. J., & Stanley, S. M. (2015). PREP for Strong Bonds: A Review of Outcomes from a Randomized Clinical Trial. Contemporary Family Therapy, 37(3), 232–246. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10591-014-9325-3
Marriage and divorce statistics. (n.d.). Ec.europa.eu. Retrieved August 20, 2021, from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Marriage_and_divorce_statistics#Fewer_marriages.2C_more_divorces
Scott, S. B., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Allen, E. S., & Markman, H. J. (2013). Reasons for divorce and recollections of premarital intervention: Implications for improving relationship education. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 2(2), 131–145. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032025