Five myths about marriage

Modern Americans do put less emphasis on marriage as an institution that should organize everyone’s life, but they put much more value on it as a relationship based on fairness, intimacy and fidelity. That is, paradoxically, one reason they have become more tolerant of divorce. For example, a May 2010 Gallup poll found that while only 23 percent of Americans believe divorce to be morally wrong, 92 percent believe it is immoral for a married man or woman to have an affair — the highest disapproval of any topic in the survey. …

Employed wives with young children do, on average, spend 21 / 3 hours more per week on housework and paid work than their husbands do. But that comes out to an extra 20 minutes a day, hardly a full second shift. And once the early months of child-rearing are over, the average total workload of most husbands and wives (time spent in paid and unpaid work combined) is now virtually identical, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wives spend more time on unpaid household work than their husbands, but husbands spend more time on paid work. …

Divorce rates have been falling for 30 years, but the freedom to leave a dysfunctional marriage can be a lifesaver for women, who initiate two-thirds of divorces. Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that every state that adopted no-fault divorce, beginning with California in 1970, experienced an 8 to 13 percent decline in wives’ suicide rates and a 30 percent decline in domestic violence in the next five years.