From Henry VIII to A-Rod, how divorce has evolved in the U.S.
Marriage used to be about economics. A wife was a good solid investment and a husband ensured social and financial security. But as society has evolved so has our philosophy about marriage and their break ups. Nerve.com describes how divorce and society evolved in America. In turn of the century America…
Men could make like the Pet Shop Boys and go west, but women tended to stay rooted in their communities, and needed the social sanction of a divorce to remarry once their husbands were on the road. Getting out of a marriage remained an onerous process, however. The litigant had to prove the other party had failed in the marriage contract through domestic violence, infidelity, or simple abandonment. Even then, many judges were loathe to dissolve marriages, so simply shacking up with someone new without notifying the state was more common. Both men and women were more concerned with real relationships than legal ones: "In part, the need for marriage was a story about labor, about the impossibility of doing what was needed without at least two sets of adult hands," Hendrik Hartog wrote in Man and Wife in America. Though marriage has long been portrayed as an institution under attack, divorce is nothing new — it just didn't always take place in a way statisticians could measure.
So while, divorce is nothing new, its visibility in society is. Today, America is a society where women can vote and where a working woman is a socially acceptable reality, therefore need for the financial security of marriage has decreased. Also, as the divorce rate has shot up, so has the societal acceptance of divorced couples. Marriage today, more than ever, is about love and compatibility and fewer couples are willing to stick it out just for the money. Although, there are a few exceptions to this rule (Katie Holmes, we're looking at you).
While some conservatives may decry the downfall of marriage, the truth is marriage isn't under attack, it is being reinvented. From gay marriage to open marriage, this foundational society institution is in flux. A continual societal push toward equality and shared responsibility means that the odds are good your kids' marriage will look completely different than your own and that is not a bad thing.