Since September 2001, 20% of military marriages ended in divorce. In fact, 27,000 divorces took place in the US military in 2004. In that year, the officers were the hardest hit. The military put programs in place to try to assuage this issue and the divorce rate of officers has fallen in line with its historical average. That’s the good news. The bad news is that enlisted personnel are still getting divorced at an alarmingly high rate. And the really bad news is that women in the military are getting divorced at three times the rate of men.
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Part of the rationalization behind the gap between the officer and enlisted divorce is life experience. Fresh officers tend to be older than beginning enlisted. They have to have a college degree (in all but a handful of cases) whereas the Army’s goal (which it misses) is to have 90% of enlisted personnel with a high school diploma. Pay is the next likely factor. Officers can earn a middle class after a few years of service. Enlisted troops earn what you would expect someone with a high school education to earn (unless they have seniority or highly specialized training). What’s more is that enlisted troops get a greater (percentage-wise) salary bump for getting married. This leads a lot of young troops into sham marriages (something the military is try to cut down on). And if every single military movie is to be believed, these young left-behind wives are sometimes tempted to stray. And not always with townies or fast-talking hustlers, many times other servicemen are involved. Also the military tries harder to retain officers. And is willing to go to great lengths to keep their support at home in place. It’s not terribly surprising to see why officer marriages tend to last longer.
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The real conundrum is figuring out why women’s marriages are failing at such an incredibly higher rate than men’s. One theory is that the support groups that the military organizes are not designed for military husbands. And that they feel a little alienated receiving support. Whatever the case, it’s pretty important that concrete policies and programs get developed to keep these families together.