Germans staying married longer, divorcing less

Figures released on Thursday showed that fewer couples sought divorce last year and German marriages are lasting longer on average. But what is keeping more bonds from breaking?

Germans staying married longer, divorcing less
A German couple celebrates their 70th wedding anniversary. Photo: DPA.

In 2014, 166,200 married couples got divorced – a drop from the year before as well as from ten years before, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

Marriages were also found to be lasting longer than in previous decades. Those that split up had been together on average nearly 15 years, while couples who separated 20 years ago had stayed together on average 12 years.

The statistics office said that currently 35 percent of all marriages within a year are expected to end in divorce of the next 25 years. In 2004, that percentage was 42 percent.

Most divorce filings were made by women last year (52 percent), while men applied for divorce in 40 percent of the cases and couples who filed together made up the remaining 8 percent.

But one factor for why there are fewer divorces in Germany could be that fewer couples are deciding to get married. At a peak in 1988, 535,000 couples registered new marriages, while by 2013 that number had shrunk to 374,000.

A factor in why those who do get married stay lawfully wedded longer may be that people are getting married later, according to some experts.

“The process of finding a partner lasts longer,” said Harald Rost of the State Institute for Family Research at Bamberg University.

Rost said that newlyweds are now older and more mature with previous relationship experience behind them.

“They wait for marriage until they are relatively secure,” Rost added.

Siegen University psychologist Insa Fooken pointed out that living together without getting married has also become more common.

“Because cohabitation without marriage has basically become the norm, today you have to almost give justification for why you actually are married,” Fooken said.

“Most of the time it is discussed along with family planning.”

Still, about half of newly divorced couples in 2014 had children under 18.

“People have their life’s dreams and yearnings that they want to satisfy,” Fook continued. “Weddings are in the meantime these ‘events’ that have minute details, sometimes with professional wedding planners, and planning them can last a year.”

She warned though that this kind of escalation of marriage can have it’s pitfalls and lead to “high expectations about the relationship and happiness”.

“The notion that you want to grow old with a partner is often a deciding factor for marriage. But feelings are fleeting and one might also at some point realize that it would be a nightmare to be old with their partner.”


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