Zsa Zsa Gábor was an overachiever. She married nine times. If you feel like a piker for having only been married and divorced once, stay strong! You could eventually join the ranks of Gábor, Larry King (eight), Richard Pryor (seven) or Zsa Zsa’s sister, Eva (five marriages). Do second and third marriages end in divorce more than first marriages?

Anecdotal Evidence Says …

Anecdotal evidence is a good place to start when trying to validate hunches. Elite Daily points to The American Psychological Association as its authority in stating that second and third marriages divorce at a higher rate. Yet the APA’s “authority” is a bit suspect:

However, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.

No data. No footnotes. Just that statement. Well then, what about the august and staid Psychology Today (PT)? Surely, they have the facts to back up the perception. Says PT:

Past statistics have shown that in the U.S. 50 percent of first marriages, 67 percent of second, and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce. 

Again, no footnote, no source, no attribution. Just “trust me,” which, frankly, we don’t. So we do a little more digging, and find this highly suspicious data — which appears to be the source for the previous two sites — from Divorce Statistics:

Various studies on US rate of divorce show significant differences when a comparison is made in 1st, 2nd and 3rd marriage breakups in America. The marriage breakup rate in America for first marriage is 41 percent to 50 percent; the rate after second marriage is from 60 percent to 67 percent and the rate in America for third marriage are from 73 percent to 74 percent. 

“Various studies?” What studies? Enough! Let’s use real facts, with real numbers, from real sources. Let’s set the (divorce) record straight.

Baseline Divorce Rates

The divorce rate per annum in Virginia, according to the U.S. Census, is not the same for men and women:

  • Virginia men’s divorce rate per 1,000 men: 8.9 (a rate of 0.89 percent)
  • Virgina women’s divorce rate per 1,000 women: 10.2 (a rate of 1.02 percent)

So, Virginia’s women divorce at a slightly higher rate than Virginia’s men, but the rates are still very low.

Against this background state divorce rate for 2008-2009 (the most recent dates available) we can make some comparisons:

  • National men’s divorce rate per 1,000 men: 9.2 (a rate of 0.92 percent)
  • National women’s divorce rate per 1,000 men: 9.8 (a rate of 0.97 percent)
  • Arkansas’ men’s rate (highest in the nation): 13.5 (a rate of 1.35 percent)
  • Alaska’s women’s rate (highest in the nation): 16.2 (a rate of 1.62 percent)

These statistics include first, second, and multiple marriages (not all at once — that’s still illegal) ending in divorce. To pull out information about second and third marriages, we have to dig a little deeper.

Second and Third Marriage Divorce

The Census Bureau does, in fact, track people who have married multiple times. It states that twelve percent of men and women had married twice.

Three percent of Americans had married three or more times. Which age group is most likely to be married multiple times? “The proportion of men and women married twice was about 20 percent or higher for men and women aged 50 to 69.”

How long do marriages last and how quickly do people remarry? First marriages in 2009 lasted a median of eight years. The median time from marriage to separation was shorter: about seven years.

Says the Census, “Half of the men and women in all of the race and Hispanic-origin groups who remarried after divorcing from their first marriage did so within about four years.”

And now, the most telling statement from the Census:

  • The median duration of second marriages that ended in divorce did not differ from that for first marriages.

So people marry a second time and realize, again, it was a mistake. They are entitled to happiness; they are entitled to divorce. But they are not bailing out of a second marriage any faster than people exiting first marriages.

Higher Divorce Rates?

Of 115 million men included in the data, the Census estimates with a 90 percent confidence that 52.3 percent were married once, with 42.5 percent still married.

Second marriages? A mere 11.6 percent of men married twice, with 9.0 percent still married.

Third marriages? More than three? The Census shows a mere 3.1 percent of American men fit in that category, and 2.3 percent are still married.

So, do second and third marriages end in divorce more often than first marriages? No. Consider:

  • The ratio of “still married/married once” is 42.5/52.3, or 0.81
  • The ratio of “still married/married twice” is 0.77
  • The ratio of “still married/married three or more times” is 2.3/3.1, or 0.74

This means people in second marriages are less likely to divorce than those married only once. And third marriages are even more stable than second marriages.

Census figures bear this out. Sure, you occasionally have your Hollywood celebrity with five or more marriages, but most Virginians who remarry can relax: you will probably stay married.

Another hopeful note: The older you are when you remarry, the less likely you are to divorce, no matter the number of marriages you have endured.

Whether you are struggling with a first, second, or third marriage, the capable attorneys of The Firm For Men are here for you. Call our office at 757-383-9184 or contact us online today. We will be happy to review divorce statistics, Virginia marital law, and more. We are here to serve Virginia’s men. Let us serve you!