Why getting divorced may be secret to a happy marriage
Published 25/06/2014 | 02:30
Divorce in middle or later life is no barrier to having another long and happy marriage and can even lead to greater happiness in the long term, the author of the longest-running study of human relationships has concluded.
The project, which tracked the lives of 240 men over more than 70 years, offers encouragement to the so-called "silver splitters" not to give up on marriage.
While it found some evidence to suggest that marriage improves with age – especially after 70 – it also concluded that few, if any, of those trapped in an unhappy marriage by middle age successfully manage to turn it around.
Prof George Vaillant (80), who oversaw the so-called 'Grant Study' for 45 years, admitted he had had to rethink his earlier assumption that there was a link between being divorced and being temperamentally unsuitable for marital stability.
Speaking during a lecture in London on Monday, organised by the relationship charity OnePlusOne, he said it had been "startling" to see how many of those who divorced went on to form new marriages lasting decades.
Among them was one man who, after three failed marriages, met his fourth wife at the age of 45 and they stayed together for the next 42 years.
"One of the great lessons of the Grant Study is that people grow up," Prof Vaillant told his audience, recounting how the man had been a heavy drinker and lacked purpose but had turned his life around after meeting his fourth wife.
He made his comments after UK figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a 25pc rise in one year in the number of people in their late 60s getting married – the majority divorcees.
Prof Vaillant, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, concluded that many of those who divorced had ended up happier than those who stayed in troubled marriages.
The Study of Adult Development began tracking 268 Harvard students in 1938, when they were aged 19, asking them to take part in regular questionnaires.
Some of the subjects died in World War II, but researchers kept tracking 242 men. (© Daily Telegraph, London)