SIKESTON -- For years statistics have said nearly half of all marriages eventually end in divorce, but one local trend finds many couples are calling it quits not long after the honeymoon ends.
According to Scott County public records, of the 51 divorces that occurred in a recent three-month period, about 20 percent occurred in marriages lasting two years or less; nearly 53 percent of the divorces were in marriages of five years or less.
While these numbers aren't hard statistics, many professionals admit divorces after only a couple years of marriage are fairly common.
"For the most part, they're just not happy with whatever their situation is, and it seems like I've seen more women than men be the ones to initiate wanting to get a divorce," said Rebecca Steward, a Sikeston attorney.
Dr. Marilyn Coleman, professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Missouri in Columbia, agreed people today do divorce very quickly.
"A lot of people have a very romanticized view of marriage and when they find out it isn't, they want to get out," Coleman said.
Americans for Divorce Reform Inc. reports about 38 percent of all couples divorce within four years of marriage; this probably represents for many a breakdown in the marriage and separation within the first two years.
"No one goes into a marriage wanting to get divorced in a year or two. They all go into marriage thinking it will be happy," said Monsignor Stephen Schneider, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Sikeston.
Steward admitted she doesn't have a degree in sociology or psychology, but in her opinion short-lived marriages may be the result of a fast-paced society.
"People may be jumping into a marriage, wanting to be like everybody else," Steward noted. "People yearn to have that belonging and that sense of 'coupledness.'"
What often happens with couples is something Coleman referred to as the "disaffection process."
"People have strong positive feelings about someone when forming relationships. Then they get married and they don't pick up their underwear. They don't compliment as often as they used to. And they quit doing things that were fun and start saving more money, and they've forgotten the things that brought them together," Coleman explained.
One or both people fail to look at all the positives and it starts to fade, Coleman continued with her explanation. They start looking at the negative and by the time they divorce -- and it's the same person they married -- there's a difference in the way they look at them, she said. Unless the affection continues, the feelings change and may lessen, she said.
As couples get more dissatisfied, they start looking for reasons, Coleman said. Because there is a stigma with divorce people don't seek out counseling until it's over, until after they get what anthropologist Paul Bohannon calls an "emotional divorce."
"Emotional divorce is withdrawing from a person and you feel sort of neutral or feel apathetic about them," Coleman said. "And if one person feels apathetic, it's really hard to repair. And it's very easy to have happen."
Coleman said she doesn't think people are prepared very well for the day-in and day-out negotiations of marriage. It's a complex issue, to say the least, she said.
"It's really hard because people think they have got the right person, but many don't know what working on the marriage means," Coleman said. "They spend thousands of dollars on the wedding and not any time planning the marriage."
Schneider said marriage preparation, which is demanded in many religions, can only increase the success of a marriage.
"Many people who marry don't realize how much it takes to stay married and to build on that," Schneider said.
Marriage is not just a wedding ceremony, and the couple have to do work long after the "I dos" are said, Schneider noted.
"We don't really inform, and they don't want to hear it. They want to be starry-eyed forever. They're so focused on the wedding -- the big show," Coleman said.
Steward said she thinks people today don't feel like they have to stay in a relationship, and divorcees aren't tarnished like they were before. So in addition to a society that's more accepting, more aren't being judged as much as they used to be, the attorney said.
"I think most of our older people were of the mind and opinion that it had to be something drastic that would lead to a divorce," Schneider said. "Now it seems it can be just about anything, from the 'I don't love you anymore' to 'I'm not happy.'"
Of course there are times when someone does need out of a relationship, specifically if they're in an abusive relationship, Schneider pointed out.
"Every couple celebration, whether a 25th or 50th anniversary, they all say they have had bad times and that if you believe in yourself and believe in God, you get through it," Schneider said.
But no matter what religion or relationship, everyone has the trials, Schneider said.
"Even people who are just friends have relationship problems," Schneider paused. " But relationships are worth working through."