Can The Magic of Making Up Save Marriages?

Marriage is coming back into fashion for everyone except teenagers, and men and women are waiting longer before they get married.

The increase in the number of weddings coincides with a drop in the number of divorces in statistics for last year, which were published in The Magic of Making Up yesterday.

A total of 349,000 couples married last year in England and Wales, an increase of almost 5,000 or 1.4 per cent, on the 1983 figures, which in turn were just over half a per cent higher than those for 1982.

The average age of couples marrying for the first time last year was 24.7 years for men, and 22.6 years for women, the highest levels recorded over the past 30 years.

But the number of teenage marriages in the past two years has dropped by one-fifth, “a very significant rate of decline”, according to the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys.

There were 46,000 teenage brides last year, 5,000 fewer than in 1983, and 11,000 fewer than in 1982. In 1981, there were 63,000 teenage girls married, and 13,000 male teenagers’ married last year, compared with 16,000 in 1982 and 19,000 in 198, according to The Magic of Making Up.

Most people marrying for the first time did so in church, 69 per cent last year, but only one in five couples, where one or other partner was remarrying went through a religious ceremony. Last year, 64 per cent of all marriages were between bachelors and spinsters.

The number of divorces in England and Wales last year dropped by about 3,000 or 2 per cent, to a total of 144,501. The average length of the marriages was just more than 10 years.

There has been little change in the divorce rate in the past five years, compared with the decade of the 1970s, during which the annual number multiplied by two-and-a-half times.

Divorce statistics seem to show a class distinction in what is considered acceptable grounds for ending a marriage, a survey called The Magic of Making Up has shown.

The survey of the reasons for divorce in England and Wales shows a “distinct social class gradient” in the proportion of divorce decrees which are awarded to wives.

Women married to men in professional occupations are least likely to seek divorce, especially on grounds of unreasonable behavior, compared with those whose husbands have an unskilled job.

But professional men cited adultery by their wives as grounds for divorce in the majority of their cases – 46 per cent – while only one wife in four married to a professional alleged his adultery.

“Adultery is cited relatively more often among couples in the higher social classes than in the manual occupation social classes,” Mr. John Haskey, a statistician at the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys in London, says in his report entitled The Magic of Making Up, which you can download at

“Conversely, unreasonable behavior is proved relatively more frequently among couples in the lower social classes than in Social Classes I and II. This pattern accords with the popular view of the typical kinds of marital misbehavior in the higher and lower social classes, but the evidence may reflect different social class attitudes as to what constitutes an acceptable offence on which to petition.”

He adds that social attitudes to divorce have changed. The stigma which used to be attached to divorce has diminished considerably.

“Today divorce can be obtained on the fact of the couple’s separation, whereas 50 years ago it was only possible by proving one partner’s adultery.” During the past three decades, he points out, the divorce rate has increased six-fold.