Divorce expert: Infidelity is the “catalyst” for 50-70% divorces today

“The Boomer” column, written for Fox Business News by Casey Dowd, recently had an interview with Karen Stewart, a divorce and relationship expert and founder and CEO of Fairway Divorce Solutions. Some of Stewart’s observations and numbers are worth mulling over a bit, especially since the Church has, overall, struggled in recent decades to catechize Catholics about the nature and responsibilities of marriage. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Boomer: Whats behind the trend of divorce rates dropping in every other age group except for boomers where it is rising?

Stewart: Baby boomers tend to be the group that has the economic livelihood and the economic feasibility to get divorced. Whats really interesting is that divorce rates will increase in both good and bad economic times. When there is a lot of money in marriage, divorce is a reasonably easy financial solution because when it comes to dividing the assets, there are enough for both parties. Marriages with not a lot of money tend to be more financially strained which can lead to stress and increase the risk of divorce. The baby boomer generation is hit most by those extremes.

Kids getting older and leaving the nest is another main driver of the increasing divorce. …

Boomer: What are some of the leading causes of boomers divorcing? Is infidelity a big problem?

Stewart: The one thing that I hear consistently, regardless of the specific catalyst, is lack of communication–that is by far the universal response. Infidelity is certainly a catalyst and often labeled as a reason; it plays a very large role in the breakdown or end of a marriage. 

A really healthy marriage is hard to puncture, but one that is on somewhat-shady ground is very easy to puncture. It really gets back to the individuals and how they feel about infidelity based perhaps on their beliefs, value system and background. Infidelity is used as a catalyst reason for ending a marriage 50-70% of the time. …

Boomer: Hollywood is setting a certain tone with divorce when it comes to high-profile cases. Do Hollywood couples decision to split up make divorce more appealing?

Stewart: What is happening in Hollywood is almost sexfying divorce. Maria Shriver is the perfect example: the preppy girl who went off to school, married someone who is a little bit of a bad boy, but very successful. Arnold wasnt all brawn, he also had brains. This is the fairy tale of your average baby boomer and now Maria has just found that her marriage has been basically a bit of a facade. I think we will see a bit of a movement to empower baby boomer women. I am worried that we might be creating a victim sex appeal divorce baby boomer trend. I believe if we can get divorcing right we will actually see an increase in marriages.

Read the entire piece, “Why So Many Baby Boomers are Getting Divorced”. What Stewart says about divorce is very much in keeping with my own, very anecdotal, observations. Without pretending to know the ups, down, ins, and outs of marriages I’ve seen end in divorce, I know a large number of them did end because of infidelity. What is a bit surprising is how early in the marriage some of those infidelities often occur. Dowd mentions a friend whose marriage of 32 years is ending because of an affair, but I’ve talked to a decent number of people over the years who have said (either openly or more discreetly) that their spouse was cheating within the first two or three years of the marriage.

In other words, there was a lack of a robust “value system” before the wedding took place, which is hardly a news flash, but is worth keeping in mind. A few months before I was married in June 1994, I had a candid conversation with two men I worked with at the time in retail advertising. Neither was a practicing Christian; in fact, neither would have welcomed being called a Christian. One man had been married for about ten years (he was in his mid-thirties); the other for just a year or so (he was in his late twenties). I asked them: “If you had a chance to have an affair and knew your wife would never find out, would you have the affair?” The first man—who also was the father of two young kids—immediately said, “No, no way. I couldn’t live with myself. No way.” The younger man said, “Well, sure. Why not? Yeah, I’d do it.” I’ve long lost track of both men, but I would surprised if the latter is still married; likewise, I’d be shocked, honestly, if the first man wasn’t still married. The bottom line is that the younger man’s marriage was most likely doomed long before he made it to the altar (uh, or justice of the peace, as was morely likely the case). The challenge to fidelity and life-long commitment starts when kids are very young, not when they are twenty-eight years old and getting married in three months. But, unfortunately, that’s often how it works today. And the results have not been good.

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About Carl E. Olson 1217 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.