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Once Married, Twice Shy: Remarriage Rates Are Plummeting

It is interesting, in a way, that such a fuss is made over brides and weddings and cutesy proposals when there is nothing special about getting married. Lots and lots of people do it. Some do it over and over again.

Yet amidst all the matrimania that shows no signs of slowing, something else is slowing quite dramatically – the rates of remarrying. These days, once people have tried marriage, they are less likely to do so again, compared to a few decades ago.

Here’s some of what we know about remarriage in the U.S., courtesy of the Council of Contemporary Families:

  1. In 1990, 50 out of every 1,000 people who had previously been married got married again. By 2013, that number was down to 28 of every 1,000 – a decrease of about 40 percent.
  2. Even when people do remarry, they take longer to get there. A decade or so ago, half of the people who remarried did so within about 3 years. Now, it takes about 4 years.
  3. Getting remarried is a guy thing. Nearly twice as many men as women who were previously married try it all over again (40 out of every 1,000 for men vs. 21 of 1,000 for women).
  4. Remarriages are still a big chunk of all marriages. Four out of every 10 marriages are remarriages for one of the people in the couple, and one in five are remarriages for both.
  5. Remarriages are more fragile than first marriages. For example, among women under the age of 45, about 20 percent of first marriages end in divorce within the five years, whereas 31 percent of remarriages end in divorce within five years.
  6. Remarriages are becoming even more fragile now than they were before. Consider, for example, those women under 45 for whom 31 percent of remarriages currently end in divorce within five years; back in 1995, only 23 percent of their remarriages ended in divorce within the first five years.
  7. Looking at the entire duration of contemporary marriages and remarriages, again the remarriages are less enduring. The duration of first marriages averages about 13 years, whereas remarriages last only about 10.
  8. Remarried couples are more likely to have children under the age of 18 living with them (46 percent) than are couples who are married for the first time (38 percent).

Americans (and people in many other places around the world) just aren’t as sold on marriage as they were before. Just about every year, the age at which people first marry inches up, and substantial numbers skip marriage altogether. In fact, Americans spend more years of their adult lives not married than married. I think our culture is so saturated with wedding themes and marriage plots and the hyping of all things having to do with coupling not because we are so secure about the place of marriage in our society and in our lives, but because we are so insecure about it. If marriage were really so self-evidently attractive, it would not need all the cheerleading it has been getting.

[For more about current ways of living, check out How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century.]

Saying “no” photo available from Shutterstock

Once Married, Twice Shy: Remarriage Rates Are Plummeting

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single." Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2015). Once Married, Twice Shy: Remarriage Rates Are Plummeting. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Oct 2015
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