It's sometimes reported that the divorce rate is 50%. That figure, apparently, was a prediction based on the peak rate of divorce in the US in the mid-90s: it was the highest estimate of what the lifetime risk might be (current predictions seem to be around 40%).
Understandably the 50% figure spooks many young men. Under current no fault divorce laws, a man can be divorced by his wife without having done anything wrong and end up paying child support to help finance her life with a new man. It's reasonable for men to consider this unjust and to believe that they are not being protected under current laws.
So let me start by saying that divorce laws need to be reformed and, if we want to restore faith in marriage as an institution, we need to find ways to lower the overall divorce rate.
But having said that, something important needs to be pointed out. The divorce rate is not so high for everyone. Some people have an extremely high risk of divorce, others a low risk.
I looked up my own risk of divorce using a "divorce calculator" (which I'll link to later on) and it showed only an 8% risk of divorce after eight years of marriage.
So what are the factors affecting the risk of divorce?
a) The risk is much higher if the wife marries at a very young age. For instance, 8 years after marriage 42% of women who married under the age of 18 are divorced; 35% of women who married at ages 18 and 19; but only 25% of those aged 20 to 24.
The protective effect of waiting doesn't continue after age 25, at least not when longer term trends are considered.
b) Parental marital stability. If your parents divorced you're 40% more likely to divorce yourself. If your parents married others after divorce the figure rises to 90%.
c) Education & income. Any university level education reduces the risk of divorce by 13%. Having an income over US$50,000 reduces the risk by 30%.
d) Ethnicity. Divorce risk varies by ethnicity, with Asian couples being least likely to divorce, then whites, then blacks (the white rate of divorce in the US is 32%). Interracial marriages are less stable on average, with black male/white female marriages having double the risk of divorce compared to the white average.
e) It seems too that the more sexual partners a woman has before marriage, and the younger she becomes sexually active, the higher the risk of divorce.
These are just some of the more easily measurable factors connected to marital instability. There are no doubt others, including attitudes held to both marriage and divorce, mental health, financial responsibility, the level marital stability or instability within a peer group and so on.
The point to be made is that the risk of divorce for some men at least is still relatively low. There may be some men out there who believe that they have a 50% risk when the real risk is more like 15%. There's a "marriage calculator" here which plots in a few of the factors involved; as I wrote earlier, my own risk of divorce at this point in time was 8% (rising to 10% after ten years).