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Response to Fi Glover: In my opinion

By OnePlusOne, 15 November 2013 Strengthening relationships

In her recent column for Waitrose magazine, Fi Glover mused over the news that Norwegian minister Solveig Horne is advising married couples to go on date nights in a bid to curb the nation’s rising divorce rates. While the column makes for entertaining reading, we were struck by her comment “What is extraordinary is that we keep believing that we can somehow turn back the clock to a time when most people married, and stuck with it. There is no evidence of that ever happening again… although it may be worth staying in a good gym if you find yourself in a bad one, get out immediately”.

There is no disputing that relationships have changed over the last few decades, indeed family change is one of the most prominent social trends of recent times in both Britain and the rest of Europe. People tend to enter into marriage later in life and, whereas in the 1960s living with a prospective partner before marriage was rare, in recent years marriage without living together is as uncommon as pre-marital cohabitation was in the 1970s. Add to this the rise in same-sex partnerships and couples who are living-apart-together we are seeing a wide range of family forms which are now much more widely accepted.

Marriage is still the most common family type in the UK. In 2013 there were 18.2 million families in the UK, of these 12.3 million consisted of married couples with or without children (ONS,2013). However, the number of cohabiting couples (both opposite- and same-sex) has also increased so over time we can see that as the rate of marriage has decreased the rate of cohabitation has gone up. Also , even though people are entering partnerships later in life, at older ages there is very little drop in the overall experience of committed partnerships. In fact the proportion of men and women having experienced at least one committed partnership by their 45th birthday has fallen very little since 1985-89.

Both marriage and cohabitation imply commitment. Not all of these relationships will last; the divorce rate has remained relatively constant as the marriage rate has declined and cohabiting relationships have been shown to be more prone to breakdown than married ones. However we at OnePlusOne know from evidence that it’s not the status of the relationship that is key, but the quality of it. The analogy of going to the gym is a good one; a good gym is not necessarily about the building it is in, but about how committed you are to exercise. It requires effort to get results and the sooner you start the easier it will be. We know that relationships don’t just happen, they need work, not just when they are in trouble but right from the start. So don’t give up on the gym for the Bikram yoga class too soon.

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