IS THIS THE DEATH OF MARRIAGE? Couples Who Wed in Minority by 2011 Careers Are Put before Old Tradition Divorce Rate for over 65s Set to Soar

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK HENEGAN

COUPLES who get tie the knot will be in the minority in just six years as Britain rejects marriage, Government research out yesterday reveals.

Forecasts predict that by 2011 only 47 per cent of couples will be wed.

It will be the first time married couples are in the minority and by 2021 the number will have dropped to 44 per cent and to 41 per cent by 2031.

They will be outnumbered by young couples who choose only to live together - almost four million by 2031 - and divorced pensioners.

Experts blame the drop on young people staying in education longer, or being scarred by the break-up of their own parents' marriage.

In 1991, 32 per cent of women under 30 and 20 per cent of men were married but by 2031 just nine per cent of women and 10 per cent of men will have walked down the aisle.

Relationship expert Juliette Cole, from Relate, said: "People are beginning to move away from types of relationship they believe are set by institutions.

"It used to be that you would go to school, get a job, get married and then have children but nowadays young people do things differently." She added: "As many will have been brought up in single parent families they may not see the point."

By 2031 the number of women who have never married will be up from 28 per cent today to 39 per cent while almost half of men will never have tied the knot, says the Government.

Experts think divorce rates among the under 45s have peaked. But there is a projected increase in the number of over 65s splitting up.

In 1991, just three per cent of pensioners were divorced but by 2003 that had doubled and is expected to keep climbing to around 14 per cent by 2031.

Ms Cole added: "Older people are taking a look at younger people and realising they don't have to be stuck in failing relationships any more."

The top three reasons men gave for their marriage break-up was drifting apart, stress at work and bad sex.

Women also said drifting apart, their own infidelity and rows over their roles in the marriage.

CASE 1

JUDITH HICKMAN, 67, from Essex is divorced after being married to Alf for 24 years.

"MY husband and I hadn't been happy for a long time. …