Proposing on Valentine’s Day? The future looks rosy as wives lead the way in falling divorce rates

Valentine’s Day is traditionally a date when many couples take the plunge to get engaged. But what does the future hold for couples who

Valentine’s Day is traditionally a date when many couples take the plunge to get engaged. But what does the future hold for couples who get engaged on 14 February 2019?

Recent research paints an encouraging picture. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that divorce rates continue to fall. Divorce rates are currently at the same level as in the early 1970s, with 101,669 divorces granted in 2017, compared to 164,672 divorces in the peak year of 1993.

Interestingly, new analysis of this Office for National Statistics data by Marriage Foundation published today shows that, during the past twenty-five years, the number of divorces granted to wives has fallen by nearly 50%, while the number of divorces granted to husbands has fallen by around 15%.

From 1993 – the peak year for divorce – until 2017, divorces granted to wives in England & Wales fell by 55,689, a fall of 47 per cent from 118,401 to 62,712. In contrast, divorces granted to husbands fell by just 7,314 during the same period – a fall of 15 per cent from 46,271 to 38,957.

Previous research by Marriage Foundation has found that this reduction in divorces granted to wives is heavily concentrated in the early years of marriage. This strongly suggests either that today’s newlywed wives are ever more tolerant of their husbands or – more plausibly – that reduced social and family pressure to marry means that the new generation of newlywed husbands are a lot more committed, as they are making the decision to get married with clearer intent.

“In this #MeToo era, where men’s past bad behaviour towards women is being challenged – and quite rightly – we are now seeing clear evidence that men’s behaviour in their marriages at least has improved substantially over the last twenty-five years,” said Harry Benson, research director for Marriage Foundation.

“I believe that family stability is improving – and will continue to improve over the next decade – precisely because men who marry today are so much more committed to their wives. They are ‘deciders’ and not ‘sliders’. That is feeding directly through to happier wives, happier marriages, and happier teenagers,” he said.

“This is a clearly a good news story,” said Sir Paul Coleridge, former high court judge and founder of Marriage Foundation. “Men Behaving Badly is a familiar stereotype where relationship stability is concerned. And, like most stereotypes, it is inaccurate. These new and very clear statistics demand analysis and explanation. During the years when I was engaged on a daily basis in the family justice system, wives were almost always the initiators of divorce. That is becoming less and less true year by year. Why? The only sensible explanation is that men are behaving more responsibly when it comes to marriage. The solid married commitments they are making are mostly when they are older (and perhaps wiser) and, so far as women are concerned, husbands are keeping to these commitments better. Whatever the detractors may say or hope, marriage is alive and well and remains the gold standard for long term committed relationships today.”

Full report available at or from Harry Benson (07515 699187 / [email protected]) or Rhoda Hardie (0781 542 7111 / [email protected]).




Notes to editors

Sir Paul Coleridge, Harry Benson and Michaela Hyde from the Marriage Foundation are available for comment and for interviews linked to these new findings.

To discuss interviews, please contact Harry Benson on 07515 699187 or [email protected].

For all other media enquiries, please contact Rhoda Hardie on 0781 542 7111 or [email protected].


About Marriage Foundation

Marriage Foundation was founded in 2012 by Sir Paul Coleridge, a High Court judge who was moved by his personal experience in 40 years as a barrister and judge specialising in family law. The think tank seeks to improve public understanding of marriage and to reduce the numbers of people drawn into the family justice system – some 500,000 children and adults each year. It has established itself as a leading voice on marriage issues in the UK.

A source of statistics on marriage, cohabitation, commitment, divorce and family breakdown can be found on the Marriage Foundation website:

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