In addition, there are usually many legal, financial, parental, emotional, and practical challenges that require time, energy, and changes in responsibilities. It can take people years to regain equilibrium. Nevertheless, divorce serves an important function in legally and emotionally freeing people to form a more satisfying and more stable relationship.
One of the most significant events of the 20th century was a change in the roles women could take on in private and public life, allowing women more opportunities for satisfaction and happiness. With a shift in roles inside and outside the house came a necessary—and often contentious—shift in the division of responsibilities inside the home, one of many factors fueling a highly publicized rise in divorce rates and liberalization of divorce laws.
Infidelity has long been a leading cause of divorce, along with financial upheavals. But one consequence of liberalized attitudes to divorce is a major addition to that list —the search for emotional closeness. Indiviuals today have high expectations for relationship satisfaction.
Fifty year ago, divorce carried too much stigma for couples to dissolve their relationship if the partners had grown emotionally distant, experienced disappointments because of unmet (and often unrealistic) expectations, or developed separate visions for their lives. And women had few means of support outside of marriage. Today, dissolution of marriage for emotional reasons is commonplace.
It is commonly believed that 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, but that is not the case. It is now estimated that only a third of marriages will face dissolution over time. Divorce is on the decline especially among those with higher levels of education.
Experts believe that education delays the age of marriage, so that individuals have some degree of maturity and relationship experience when they formalize their partnership. In addition, those who are highly educated are likely to marry others of similar education, and such similarity is a stabilizing factor in relationships.