Something seems to be going right for female servicemembers -- and the men to whom they are married. Since 2011 their overall divorce rate has dropped from 8 percent to 7.2 percent, a steady decrease that researchers say may be the beginning of a long term trend.
The rate among males across all services has stayed relatively the same over several years, going neither up or down very much. For example, the 2010 divorce rate for all male servicemembers was 3.0. It ticked down slightly in 2011 and then back up to 2.9 across 2012 and 2013. Researchers consider these changes insignificant.
The data tells us -- and male military spouses will testify -- that the divorce rate of females servicemembers is historically and consistently much, much higher than that of their male counterparts. In the past it has been more than triple that of males. For example, in 2012 enlisted females in the Army divorced at a rate of 9.4 percent while enlisted males were at 3.1 percent.
But while this year it is still high among female Army enlisted servicemembers -- 8.9 percent compared to 3.1 percent among males -- it is declining.
Declining is good. Declining gives hope.
Benjamin Kareny, a researcher with the Rand Corp. and the long standing expert on military divorce rates, told me that the decline could be a sign that the drawdown is having a positive impact on military marriages where the female is the servicemember. According to research he has done in the past, he said, deployments have a greater negative impact on the relationship of female servicemembers than those of male servicemembers. So, he said, it would follow that the positive impact of less deployments would be felt first by the ladies.
Still these are all statistics. We know that these numbers -- which are measured at the end of the fiscal year by comparing the total number of servicemembers who were married to those who reported divorces -- only tell part of the story.
Behind the numbers are real, live servicemembers and their families who are hurting. When I talk to researchers about how to help them I often hear "we need to do more research."And research IS important (and you can even help with some of it by going here) .. but so are stories.
So tell us, when you see military divorce happening (or had it happen to you), what are the reasons? How can support folks help our marriages last?