Divorce rate drops in Norway
New figures showed the number of divorces in Norway dropped by 12 percent since 2005, and there’s less demand for separation and divorce mediation. Relationship experts said it was difficult to pin down the reasons for the drop, but said marrying older after long cohabitation, changing attitudes towards relationship counseling, a higher proportion of immigrants and a wealthier, better educated society all played a role.
While the divorce rate has declined, the number of new marriages has remained stable, according to Statistics Norway (Statistisk Sentralbyrå, SSB). The average length of time Norwegians were married before divorcing was around 12 to 13 years, a figure that hadn’t changed since the 1980s, reported newspaper Aftenposten.
“Divorce patterns must be looked at in the long-term perspective, since some of us are married half our lives,” said Frode Thuen, a professor at Bergen University College’s Center for Evidence-based Practice (Senter for kunnskapsbasesrt praksis) and regularAftenposten relationship columnist. “Those who were married in the 70s and 80s began to be a little more critical over who they married, and lived together for some years before they found out that they did not fit together after all. People have perhaps become better at choosing a partner.”
On average, men are marrying for the first time when they’re 34 years old, while for women the average age is 31. Oslo couple Henrik Richter Schie and Anniken Gurijordet were together for 10 years and lived together for a long time before they married last year. “My parents are divorced, and almost all my friends have divorced parents,” Gurijordet said. “Even in my social circle people had begun to separate. I did not want the same to happen to me.”
The pair speculated the dropping divorce rate may be because more people were now allowed to simply marry for love, rather than other responsibilities. “Love is the reason,” said Gurijordet. “Before there were a lot of other things, our parents could claim that. It may also have something to do with many having divorced parents, they are more aware.”
Open to counseling
Thuen said there had been greater awareness of the consequences of divorce on children in recent decades, and people were more open-minded about seeking help to try and repair relationships. Services also became more widespread. From the early 2000s many municipalities offered free relationship workshops to new parents, which led to couples’ courses becoming more common. “We know from the research that relationship workshops can reduce break-ups to some degree,” Thuen said.
“Those with higher education have a lower risk of breaking up than those with low education,” added An-Margritt Jensen, a professor emerita at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). “General economic growth in the population will also have a positive effect on the divorce statistics.”
She said family size also had an impact on separation rates. Large families with three or more children were more likely to stay together, while the growing number of immigrant families in Norway also had an impact. “There are probably fewer break-ups in this part of the population, something which is reflected in the total overview,” Jensen said.
Together 20 years
Løten couple Jesper and Arnhild Sandbakken have been married 20 years, and toldAftenposten flexibility had been the secret to their success. “We have been keen to do things together as a family, but have also given each other freedom,” Jesper said. For instance, he took a half-year sabbatical to Nicaragua when their eldest son was just six months old, but later worked part time so Arnhild could take on a management position at her job.
The 50-year-olds’ two children are now grown, giving them more freedom when it comes to both time and money. They said it was important to work on their relationship now it was just the two of them, but also necessary to accept that every couple had good days and bad. “A little bit of Italian temperament is healthy once in a while,” said Jesper.
July 23, 2014