Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

December 4, 2012
County divorce rate outpaces state average

When it comes to divorce rates, Tooele County sits in the top five of Utah’s counties. Men in the county have the third-highest divorce rate in the state while women have the fifth highest.

According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006-2010 American Community Survey, 11.3 percent of men and 11.5 percent of women in Tooele County have been divorced.

The county’s divorce rate is generally higher than state and national averages. According to the survey, the national divorce rate is 9.3 percent for men and 11.7 percent for women. The statewide rate is 7.7 percent for men and 9.8 percent for women.

Only two counties had higher rates of divorce when it came to men than Tooele County: Grand County, which had a divorce rate of 13.3 percent, and Daggett County, which had a divorce rate of 13.1 percent.

Four counties had higher rates of divorce when it came to women. These were Grand with 15.1 percent, Beaver with 14.2 percent, Weber with 12 percent and Salt Lake with 11.7 percent.

Patricia McWhorter, a licensed psychologist who owns a counseling office in Tooele, said it’s hard to pinpoint what local issues are causing such a high rate of divorce locally compared to the rest of the state.

“There are so many factors,” she said. “It could be drug issues, alcohol issues or unemployment issues. We’ve got a lot of different reasons why the rate could be so high. I think it begs the question, ‘Why are marriages not given priority?’ The commitment to stick it out just isn’t there like it was in our parent’s generation.”

McWhorter, who has had her practice in Tooele for 12 years, said another thing she’s noticed locally is that many people jump into marriage very quickly.

“The record I’ve heard is someone getting married after knowing each other four weeks,” she said. “That is just way too fast.”

McWhorter said in the last 10 years she’s seen a lot of changes in American society that have caused more people to get divorced.

“The No. 1 reason why people end up in divorced is issues regarding finances,” she said. “We’re going through tough economic times right now and that puts a lot of stress on families and marriages. People have lost their jobs and homes.”

Evan Kenison, a licensed clinical social worker at Sunset Counseling, has about 40 couples on his caseload currently. He said every single couple he sees is having issues primarily due to financial problems.

“I see lots of financial pressure in our community,” Kenison said. “A lot of husbands and wives are working longer hours or two jobs, and many are going back to school to try to get better jobs. It’s causing a lot of time-starved marriages.”

According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the unemployment rate in the county was 5.8 percent in October, which compares to the state’s rate, which was 5.2 percent in October. This is the first time the unemployment rate for the county has been below 6 percent since November 2008, which may be a contributing factor in why the divorce rate went down from 2009 to 2010, but it’s not something to count on, according to McWhorter.

“As much as I hope the divorce rate is trending downward, I’m not encouraged by the lower rate,” she said. “Seeing how quickly people decide to get divorced, I can’t say I’m really encouraged at all. It’s just too easy to get divorced.”

McWhorter said the second reason why people get divorced is because of in-laws meddling in their lives in a negative way.

“A lot of folks who have lost their jobs and homes end up living with someone’s parents,” she said. “That creates stress  because the in-laws sometimes are just not supporting the couple’s partnership.”

According to the American Community Survey, 4.8 percent of people in Tooele County are living with other relatives besides their spouse and children.

Kenison said another contributing factor locally is he sees quite a bit of couples who struggle to communicate effectively.

“Couples seem to worry more about what they’re saying to their partner than what their partner is trying to say to them,” he said. “And unfortunately, divorce is the option many couples take. There are usually so many things that can be factors, but it usually comes from people feeling like expectations in their marriage are not being met.”

McWhorter said people who grew up in a family where their parents were divorced are more likely to get divorced because they learn that it’s OK to do and they don’t have a model for commitment.

Kenison said although Tooele County’s divorce rate is higher than in most counties, that doesn’t mean that trend can’t change.

“Couples just need to take care of the friendship they have,” he said. “Usually marriage begins with friendship, so it’s important to commit to giving time to your friendship. When couples are struggling, it’s important for them to protect their friendship.”

McWhorter said this can be achieved simply by being respectful, because a couple’s level of trust is directly correlated to their level of respectfulness for each other.

“If couples do have struggles, then it’s important that they get help,” Kenison said. “It’s important to figure out financial problems or any other problems while you’re married before it’s too late.”

Across the state, the counties with the lowest divorce rates for women are Morgan with 5.1 percent, Piute with 5.5 percent and Rich with 6 percent. The lowest divorce rates for men are in Utah County with 4 percent, Morgan County with 4.6 percent and Cache County with 5.2 percent.

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