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Is Divorce the New Black?

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Charles Orlando:Relationship challenges are becoming mainstream news. From Tiger Woods' and Jesse James' infidelity to Al and Tipper Gore's divorce, it seems that more couples than ever are splitting. (Al and Tipper's divorce was just the tip of the iceberg for the Gore family. In May, their daughter Kristin divorced her husband, Paul Cusack. And now comes the news that another Gore daughter, Karenna, has been separated from her husband, Andrew Schiff, for a few months -- and may be nearing divorce proceedings.)

Wedding Cake

The notion that marriage is a temporary institution isn't new. Sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler penned the bestseller "Future Shock" in 1970, and with matter-of-fact conviction, he wrote of the rising trend of "trial" or "temporary marriages" (first-marriages of young people lasting three months to three years) and "serial marriages" that take place after the dissolution of the "trial marriage," happening at specific turning points in people's lives.

Toffler's views hold true today. Having accurately predicted the coming trends, he could see how men and women would begin to view marriage as a temporary state of being, and today the divorce rate still hovers at just over 50 percent. But that "50 percent" statistic is just a common data point. Here's the truth (per the latest U.S. Census and the Association of Divorce Reform):

  • 19.5 million American adults have been divorced at least once.
  • 50 percent of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce within five years.
  • Of the couples that last five years, only 50 percent make it to their 10th wedding anniversary. (That's a 75 percent divorce rate before the 10th anniversary.)

Here's something to consider: If you've been married for a few years, you might have a child (or two). So how is the rising divorce rate affecting kids? Is it providing the quintessential example for children of just how temporary marriage -- and perhaps all relationships -- can be? Broken (divorced) homes account for:

  • 63 percent of youth suicides
  • 90 percent of homeless/runaway children
  • 85 percent of children with behavior problems
  • 71 percent of high-school dropouts
  • 85 percent of youths in prison
  • Over 50 percent of teen mothers

So, not only are the adults in these relationships causing themselves heartache and challenge, but they are perpetuating the problem and showing their children -- by example -- precisely what a temporary relationship looks like. Not a pretty picture for our up-and-coming generations.

What Can Be Done

Obviously, there isn't a magic pill to "cure" these relationships issues. There are, however, some things that people might consider when contemplating tying the knot. Such as:

Be Ready. Why get into a committed relationship if you're not ready? There's no cardinal rule stating that people must get married by X date -- or at all! Before taking the leap, it's not only important that you know your partner, it's perhaps even more important that you know yourself -- who you are and where you're going. After you know those two things, who will go with you is a choice, not a forced decision. don't let anyone pressure you into committing before you're ready ... including yourself.

Don't give up your individuality. People who put everything into their relationships and leave nothing back for themselves are setting themselves up for failure. Maintain your own life, interests and friendships ... and then share them with your significant other.

Put "effort," not "work" into your relationship. I've long suggested that a successful marriage takes effort, not "work." Oftentimes, "work" is that thing you must do in order to have time and flexibility for the things you really want to do. "Effort" is what you put in to activities you care about, that you are most passionate about making succeed. In short, effort is a driving force behind a great partnership and marriage.

next: Kickin' It Old School: 10 Vintage School Supplies
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