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Average lifespan of marriage in Britain 'only 11 yrs'

entertainment Updated: Oct 18, 2009 13:54 IST

Marriages are made in heaven and couples vow to stick together. But the average lifespan of such a formal relationship in Britain is only about 11 years, latest figures have revealed.

Yes, 11 years is the average time that divorced couples had stayed together before their marriage broke up, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics in Britain, 'The Sunday Times' reported.

The findings have sparked a debate between supporters of marriage as a beacon of social stability and those who feel the expectation that couples must stay together for life runs counter to the lessons of history and evolution.

"The costs and benefits of a relationship are more fluid than in the past. People come together and stay together only when this is to their individual advantage," said Malcolm Brynin, co-author of 'Changing Relationships', a book based on five years of research into family life.

In fact, Brynin's book follows ONS figures showing the number of UK marriages in 2007 fell to 270,000, a 2.6 per cent decline from 2006. In 1940, there were 426,100 weddings. The figures also show that 144,220 couples were divorced and the average length of marriages ending in divorce was 11.5 years.

But, Prof Frank Furedi of Kent University and author of 'Paranoid Parenting', attacked such a mercenary approach.

"When you get married, if you make this kind of statistical calculation saying, 'Well, I'm getting married. The chances are we'll only get to 11 years', the whole ritual becomes entirely pointless. If you adopt the idea, we might as well give up the concept of durable relationships altogether."

Summed up Michael Buchanan, the twice-divorced author of 'The Marriage Delusion' book: "In previous centuries people would get married early, have children and then be parted by the death of one or other, usually within a decade or two.

"Nowadays they can expect to live for four to five decades after marriage. It's unrealistic to expect most people to sustain love and interest in each other for such long time, especially if their children have grown up and moved out."