By Mark McGregor, Corelius Frolik
SPRINGFIELD — Fewer people in Clark County are getting married than 10 years ago, but even fewer are dissolving their marriages, county data show.
Meanwhile, there were more divorces and dissolutions than marriages in Champaign County from 2009-11, but marriages have trended upward from the mid-2000s, according to statistics provided by the Marriage Resource Center of Miami Valley in Springfield.
While statistics are a reliable way of tracking what’s happening, there is no reliable way of tracking why it’s happening, the center’s Executive Director Lavern Nissley said.
Reasons are often linked to the economy, education levels, socioeconomic status and risk factors like poverty, he said.
During economic recessions, people often postpone getting married, but as the economy recovers, the number of people tying the knot should increase, said Jeanne Holcomb, a lecturer in the University of Dayton’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work.
“The overall trend definitely has been a delay in marriage and waiting longer to get married,” Holcomb said. “The age of first marriage has been increasing, and it’s in the late 20s.”
People are delaying marriage because it is taking longer for them to accomplish the goals they want to before walking down the aisle, such as finishing school or finding stable employment, she said.
“Both men and women, to some extent, want to feel like they can provide for their families before forming a family unit,” Holcomb said. “Particularly for men there is a cultural emphasis on breadwinning.”
As marriages decline, cohabitation is on the rise, Holcomb said. More couples are living together in stable, long-term relationships, but they are not saying marriage vows.
Weddings also are expensive and people put them off until they can afford them. In 2011, the average wedding spending was about $25,630, according to the Wedding Report. That, however, was down 3.4 percent from 2010.
For at least the fourth straight year, the number of marriage licenses issued in 2011 across the Miami Valley declined, even though the numbers appear to be leveling off.
About 8,758 marriage licenses were issued in 2011 in Butler, Champaign, Clark, Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Warren counties, according to county probate courts and marriage-license departments.
That was down only about 70 licenses, or 0.8 percent from 2010. The number of licenses issued had declined by between 1.2 percent and 1.7 percent annually the three previous years.
Data show marriages in Clark County dropped in 2011 from 2010. The most marriages occurred in 2005.
Champaign County saw an increase in marriages in 2011 from the previous year. The most marriages occurred in 2000.
The cost to apply for a marriage license is $45 in Clark and Champaign counties.
Divorce and dissolution
A Springfield News-Sun analysis of court documents in July 2010 found that fewer people were filing for divorce or dissolution across the Miami Valley.
Holcomb said many people have delayed separating and divorcing because of the economy, but that will change as financial conditions improve. It costs $325 to file for divorce and $300 to petition for dissolution in Clark County. It is $350 and $250, respectively, in Champaign County.
Data indicate failures began trending down in 2007 in Clark County from a decade high in 2002.
Meanwhile, Champaign County’s failure rate skyrocketed in 2009, up from mid-decade lows.
Both counties were well above state averages in 2010, the latest full year of marriage and divorce/dissolution statistics available.
Statewide, failure rates trended upward over the last decade.
Slowing the trend
Organizations such as the Marriage Resource Center, founded in 2004, have contributed to the downturn in marriage failure at least in Clark County, but are not the sole reason for its decline, Nissley said.
Springfield couple Chris and Lorena Campbell were on their third week Tuesday of a Real Intimacy and Growth Skills (RINGS) class series offered at the center.
The couple, who married 14 years ago and have a 6-year-old daughter, began taking the class because they wanted to learn how to communicate better and make their marriage stronger, they said.
“We felt it was time to do something to reconnect,” Lorena said.
Several friends and co-workers who had success in their own marriages after the class suggested they try it.
One such lesson they’ve learned is how “love language” affects the other person, such as Chris taking out the trash without being asked or Lorena showing simple affection like touching Chris’s arm or back, they said.
“You don’t realize how much that means to the other person,” Chris said. “You don’t realize how much it can enhance your marriage.”
Jackie Jaudon of Springfield, who’s facilitated the RINGS class in Springfield for four years with her husband Eddie, said the class has grown over the years.
The most common complaint they hear from couples is lack of communication, she said. ”They don’t know how to solve it.”
“We teach them skills they can use,” she said. By the end of the series, “we see a big difference in how they handle themselves.”
The nonprofit center has an operating budget of about $1 million annually, mainly from an $800,000 federal Community-Centered Healthy Marriage and Relationships grant in addition to funding from Department of Job and Family Services, the Turner Foundation and businesses, religious groups and individuals, according to Nissley.
It offers classes in Clark, Champaign and Greene counties, but serves anyone who is willing to travel to classes.
Various electronic and printed posts on marriage and relationships as well as focusing upon MRC mission and vision.