Item from the Smart
Marriages Archive, reproduced in the Divorce Statistics
Monday May 22, 2000
Most divorcees try again, study finds
The fact that more more people are giving marriage a second chance points
to the resilience of the institution, Jennifer Campbell reports.
Jennifer Campbell The Ottawa Citizen
Despite widespread worry over crumbling relationships and family
breakdowns, the institution of marriage is decidedly not dead, according
to a landmark study of Canadian society by the Ottawa-based Vanier
Institute of the Family.
And one of the key signs that the ancient tradition of exchanging vows
remains popular -- despite the risks of divorce and the relatively recent
rise of the common-law option -- is that a growing number of people whose
first marriages have failed will return to the altar with another
In fact, most Canadians who divorce will give knot-tying at least a
second chance. In 1970, there were just 29,975 remarriages in Canada; by
1989, the number was 62,276. There was a slight dip in the early 1990s
but by 1996, the numbers were up again.
"The institution of marriage is not dying," says report author
Glossop. "We do know that the vast majority of Canadians still do marry,"
even after the first attempt falls short.
Ottawa lawyer and mediator Peter Bishop says he wasn't reluctant to be a
groom again after his first marriage ended in divorce.
He and his second wife, Shirley, were married in 1988, just as the
remarriage trend in Canada was beginning to reach its peak. "We were
compatible and we loved each other and we wanted to be married," he
"For me, there really wasn't any fear about getting married again."
Mr. Bishop had two children from his previous marriage, living with his
ex-wife, while Shirley had one seven-year-old daughter living with her.
The Bishops are an example of an instructive statistic in the Vanier
report: Two thirds of female and male lone parents can be expected to
either marry again or cohabitate with a new partner.
The chief reason for remarriage, says Mr. Bishop, "would be to establish
a stable family unit."
Asked why they didn't just live common-law as many others do, the Bishops
agreed that an actual marriage ceremony was important to them -- as a
sign that they were committing to a new life together in a combined
"People want to live their lives with and for another," says Mr.
"These committed relationships are the essential foundation of meaning
for most people and most Canadians will tell you that the most important
thing in their lives is their family. We are a species that establishes
what we think -- at the outset at least -- are lifelong commitments to
Alan Mirabelli, executive director of administration and communication at
the Institute, said marriage attracts people because it is deeply rooted
in cultural tradition and personal need.
"It's wanting to share some aspect of life with somebody else. That's
what creates the meaning and the memories. It's this business of not
wanting to walk in life alone."
There was hardly any difference between the percentage of married
Canadians at the start of the last century and the finish. In 1901, 52.1
per cent of Canadians were married, while none described themselves as
being involved in a common-law relationship. In 1996, 51.1 per cent of
Canadians were married and another eight per cent were living common-law.
While the majority of people heading families are still marrying in the
traditional way, concern about the state of marriage persists.
"Behind much of the alarm over family at the end of the twentieth century
lies an interpretation of the history of divorce," writes Eric W. Sager,
director of the Canada Families Project at the University of Victoria and
a contributor to the Vanier report.
Mr. Sager points out that divorce rates shot up in 1968, with the
introduction of the federal Divorce Act, but that the "fear of divorce
a destroyer of family life goes back much further in time, and is poorly
connected to the actual number of divorces being granted." Mr. Sager
writes that those who claim divorce is causing family erosion are saying
that there was a time, in the past, when that wasn't the case. "All
often we rely on small slices of the past, personal memory, or images of
our own parents and grandparents, and we mistake these for history."
Of the 7.8 million families in Canada today, 6.8 million comprise a
couple -- the vast majority married in the traditional way.
It may come as a surprise, but marriage became more popular in the last
100 years -- "a larger proportion of Canadians in the last decades
20th century would marry at some point in their lives than did their
ancestors in the late nineteenth century," Mr. Sager notes.
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