Divorce is one of the ugliest words in the English language. Its specter haunts countless marriages. For the divorced couple, it is often a constant source of stress and financial strain. It marks affected children the rest of their lives.
Divorce was not frequent in times past. In fact, the stigma of divorcing saved many a marriage that later worked out well.
The Evolving Face of Divorce
In 1917, the American divorce rate was about 1 in 1,000. Because it was a cause of great social scandal, this rate was maintained well into the twentieth century among the general population. This changed, however, with the introduction of no-fault divorce.
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No-fault divorce (divorce without grounds) was first introduced into the modern world in 1917. Until that time, marriage was largely seen as an indissoluble union throughout the West. The practice really gained momentum with the outbreak of the Sexual Revolution of the sixties. Many states—starting with California—adopted no-fault divorce at that time. Within two years of its introduction, divorce rates increased nearly six times over. Much of the stigma surrounding divorce was lessened by no-fault divorce. At its zenith, half of all marriages ended in divorce. For some, divorce and remarriage became like trading in a car. It became an unfortunate fact of life.
This could especially be seen in members of Generation X (those born from 1961-1981). Many of these children of the baby boomers decided to opt out of the institution entirely or cohabitate. Although among those who did stably marry, they recorded the lowest rate of divorce in almost forty years.
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This may be changing with the millennials.
“Shout Your Divorce”
Millennials comes from the age of the internet, smart gadgets, and social media. Many have found a tragic expression of the breakdown of marriage in a new trend called the divorce selfie. It is exactly what it sounds like.
When surfing the web, a person might come across a picture of a smiling couple with thick-rimmed glasses in front of a courthouse. It may not be happy newlyweds, but a “happily divorced” couple that shouts out their divorce with a picture of themselves on Facebook.
In an article on ATTN, Marie Frenette, a millennial divorcee notes, “We saw an article on BuzzFeed [a popular web site for millennials] about the divorce selfie and thought, ‘wow, what a positive and empowering way to deal with it. Not hiding, not feeling shame.’”
A Potential Threat
The article reports on over 500 Instagram posts in which couples posted their photos under the hashtag “#DivorceSelfie.” The American Psychological Association has even encourages the “divorce selfie” as a benefit to involved children since it appears to reduce the friction between the divorcees.
Far from being a harmless fad, this trend banalizes divorce and further erodes the institution of the family. Divorce becomes something to celebrate as the two former spouses “continue separately on their life’s journey.”
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Resisting the Urge to Retreat
That is why it is all the more important to resist such trends and avoid the temptation to retreat in face of the latest phases of the sexual revolution. All society is engaged in a culture war and like it or not, everyone has a role to play.
Perhaps a counter-trend of posting anniversary pictures with positive commentaries on marriage would be in order. As the old saying goes, one should “fight fire with fire.”