Saturday, October 6, 2012

Marriage and the Census

Let me express my bias from the beginning. I am a hopeless romantic who believes in the love of one man for one woman for as long as both shall live. On October 2nd my wife and I celebrated our 33rd anniversary of dating. We have now been married 31 years and in that time we have seen many ups and downs and, like most couples, there were times when we wondered if we would be able to make it and keep the love alive. Yet, through the birth of three daughters, the loss of both of my wife's parents, two university degrees, and too many stressors to count, we find that we still love being together.

Recent statistics from the 2010 Canadian Census show that marriage is still a strong option for people in this country and that many marriages last for a long time. In 2008 it was estimated that 41% of marriages ended in divorce before the 30th year of marriage, an increase from 36% in 1998.1 Yet that still means that 59% of marriages last beyond 30 years. The following graph shows the raw number of marriages and divorces in Canada for the years 1926 to 2008. If we take the number of marriages in a given year, divide that number by the number of divorces in that same year, we can see some trends in the data. In 1926, there were 112.5 times as many marriages as divorces. In 1960 the ratio drops to 18.7 times as many marriages as divorces. 1970 sees a further drop to 6.3. By 1980 it is down to 3.1; dropping to its lowest in 1987 at 1.9. From 1988 to 2008, the ratio hovers around 2 (from 2.4 to 2.0). This means that twice as many people got married as got divorced in any one of those years. I will leave it to the reader to decide how optimistic or pessimistic we should be about such numbers and trends.

"After the spike in 1987, the number of divorces declined, then levelled off through the 1990s and has recently decreased in both 2007 and 2008." (Statistics Canada 2011)

The benefits to both the married couple and the children of such long-term marriages are great. Of course not every marriage that lasts 30 or more years is a healthy one. We can all point to examples of long-term marriages that are seriously hurting; yet we need to celebrate marriages that truly succeed.

As a celebration of long-lasting love Mike Charko and I wrote a story-song about a love that lasted. We call it "Flowers." You can listen to the recording while reading the lyrics.

Flowers
(Words and lyrics by Mike Charko and Keith Shields 2012 SOCAN)

His heart was smitten by this sweet young girl
She was the one who could rock his world
He didn't quite know the right protocol
But sure she was the best of all
He brought her the perfect gift

He brought her flowers
When he didn't know what to do
He brought her flowers
To prove his love was true
When the road was rough
Or when times were good
When he knew his love could never be enough
But this love was all he knew
So he brought her flowers

She said I'm not sure about marrying you
This world is big and there is so much to do
Afraid he'd lost her to another goal
So he looked down inside his soul
And he promised with all of his might

And he brought her flowers
When he didn't know what to do
He brought her flowers
To prove his love was true
When the road was rough
Or when times were good
When he knew his love could never be enough
But this love was all he knew
So he brought her flowers

When she brought him their son
And three more girls
He had all he could want in this world
When the kids moved out
And she was blue
He knew what he had to do

He brought her flowers
When he didn't know what to do
He brought her flowers
To prove his love was true
When the road was rough
Or when times were good
When he knew his love could never be enough
But this love was all he knew
So he brought her flowers

The last time I saw him he was all alone
His eyes looked tired and his beard had grown
He walked along with a shuffling stroll
As he headed on down the road
To a plot where a gravestone stood

And he brought her flowers
When he didn't know what to do
He brought her flowers
To prove his love was true
When the road was rough
Or when times were good
When he knew his love could never be enough
But this love was all he knew
So he brought her flowers
He brought her flowers


1 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11634-eng.htm

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