Love ‘em and Leave ‘em. Divorce in Denmark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it’s sad to see one of my dear American friends nursing a broken heart after a tough break up with a Danish man. I have to sympathize with her plight – as I know it can be tough.

Especially because Danes are notorious for being pretty cold hearted and moving on (really quickly!) when the love is gone….But what makes these Nordic people so tough when it comes to the affairs of the heart? Why do they choose flight instead of fight? And does it contribute to happiness?

The divorce rate in Denmark has always been a high but steady 40 percent but now it seems less couples are getting married as well.

Experts suggest that a combination of factors have led the figure to decline since 2008, including the financial crisis, a parting from tradition, seeing friends with bad divorces and growing up with parents that have divorced.

A special feature of the Danish welfare model is also that the welfare system is not linked to the family. Rather, it tends to be based on a person’s need and his or her role in the job market.

So the old fashioned breadwinner is now replaced by households with two incomes. This has contributed to a ‘democratization’ of access to divorce (nearly everyone can afford to be single again), particularly for women and people with low income.

When Oprah was visiting Denmark in 2009, she had a funny discussion with a Danish woman about divorce rates and why they were so high…

Oprah: You don’t need a man to take care of you.

Danish woman: No.

Oprah: And when you don’t need a man to take care of you…

Danish woman: Exactly.

Oprah: …you are with a man just because you…

Danish woman: Exactly.

WINFREY: …you want to be.

And that is really it. One of the things that leads to a happy Danish life is a good marriage and you may have to pass through a few partners before you find Mr or Mrs Right. And people here are not willing to settle.

While this topic deserves a book (no worries I am working on it!). I have observed that this may be due to a non-existent dating culture in Denmark. People here hook up really fast, take the plunge and then find out months/years later after having moved in together that  ’hey, he wasn’t the right guy’. I have a divorced Danish friend in her 40s who has moved 5 times(with a different guy) in the last 2 years…

Many Danes that I have spoken to take a pragmatic approach to relationships, marriage and the children that they share. Some go on holidays with their ex-husbands/wives and even hold Christmas, birthdays together. That way the children keep a sense of family although the parents are no longer together.

Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard summed it up –‘better well-hung (to death) than ill wed’

That said, often, a person leaves their partner or husband or wife and soon after (like days) is presenting the new partner to friends and family. They say the best way to get over someone, is to get under someone else

But is it too quick? Perhaps, studies show that 2nd (67 percent) and 3rd marriages (73 percent) fail as well. But I guess it was fun while it lasted.

In some ways, love and marriage in Denmark have become a revolving door – and even the lawmakers are supporting the trend by looking at ways to make divorce even easier.

However in the name of love, one of the great strides that Denmark has also made is legalizing same sex marriages. So hopefully these couples can turn the tide and maybe put the love, commitment and longevity back in marriage.

On a personal note, I am now setting the record straight about my marital status as I too, have been through the marriage wringer. I am happily married to a Danish engineer, who is husband number 3, a total sweetheart and my soul mate. My ‘middle’ husband or Mr. X is the man I moved to Denmark for in 1997 and the dad to my beloved Danish daughter, (DD). My first husband is an American investment banker.

 

 

 

 

By Sharmi Albrechtsen • February 13, 2013


37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Posted February 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm by ash | Permalink

    hey sharmi third strike and your out!!! ok bad joke . just kidding … but on a serious note , its sad. , my 2 cents on this , is that people don’t respect the sacredness of marriage, but then again what about atheists. i got nothing :( ????

  2. Posted February 13, 2013 at 6:12 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    No worries. I have heard all the jokes….I am the Elizabeth Taylor in my family-
    but should marriage be sacred? I think the Danish marriage model – shows an interesting concept – perhaps one should treat
    marriage like anything else – it has a natural life cycle- that has a beginning and an end..

  3. Posted February 13, 2013 at 8:27 pm by MaryAlice | Permalink

    That seems very cynical and also what about all the sad children who come from fragmented, divorced families

  4. Posted February 13, 2013 at 8:30 pm by Bradley | Permalink

    I think it is Danish women. They seem so nice in the beginning but later on….they turn on u

  5. Posted February 14, 2013 at 8:58 am by Margie | Permalink

    Dont think so. What a generalization.

  6. Posted February 14, 2013 at 9:03 am by Margie | Permalink

    My experience is that both men and women usually accept pretty easily that divorce is that answer and try to act responsibly towards the children. I thnk the ones that have the hardest are the friends and other family who may have difficulties adjusting

  7. Posted February 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    I know this will take time but if children also understand that divorce (I hate that word)
    is natural and with 40 percent (it is) that it is easier to THRIVE not survive.

  8. Posted February 14, 2013 at 7:10 pm by thomasG | Permalink

    again, another comment on society and the way it is falling apart

  9. Posted February 14, 2013 at 7:12 pm by thomasG | Permalink

    to the atheist- u probably have nothing. if you really think marriage is should be more sacred than god

  10. Posted February 14, 2013 at 8:16 pm by Natalia | Permalink

    I think 40% is an extremely high rate :(
    I guess some people don’t give marriage the same importance as others. I mean, as you said, Danes tend to skip the whole courtship process (which makes me feel sort of sad for them :P ) and be ready to hook up and move in together. So why not just take one more step and get married?
    I myself got engaged after having been 8 months with my Dane. I am not married yet, but when I am I really hope it will be forever. I mean, right now it seems so… :P

    In any case, I am glad that people can afford divorcing and don’t need to stay with someone else just because they can’t provide for themselves. I have seen that in Spain, and it’s not a pretty picture.
    On the other hand, maybe couples with problems don’t really try to fix them but just move on to the next person?

    Who knows…

    Very interesting post, can’t wait for the book! :)

  11. Posted February 14, 2013 at 10:31 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    Yes, I believe in love too and I think most Danes go into the relationship believing its forever

  12. Posted February 14, 2013 at 10:42 pm by Jason | Permalink

    Its really sad with so much divorce..marriage has ups and dpwns

  13. Posted February 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm by Jason | Permalink

    Especially in the haåpiest place pn earth

  14. Posted February 15, 2013 at 6:52 pm by Thomas | Permalink

    Married twice here in Denmark and must say that divorce is too easy. people need top think twice before marrying in the first place: lets bring real dating back to DK!

  15. Posted February 15, 2013 at 6:56 pm by Muscado | Permalink

    Gosh:( I just married a Dane without a pre-nup; is that a bad thing? do I need to be better prepared in case of divorce. what is the deal

  16. Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:32 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    As I mentioned this is why people have stopped marrying. Maybe its easier to leave the relationship? For so long, we have made marriage an important institution, but is it more important than an individuals happiness?

  17. Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    Actually many Danes and others have sought post-nups, seek advice from a lawyer

  18. Posted February 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm by Bill | Permalink

    The issue of romantic and even filial “love” for Danes goes far, far, deeper in my opinion. My Ex told me when dating that her Danish parents never told her or her siblings that they loved them, in fact her parents themselves never publicly displayed affection toward each other. I thought this all very strange and although they were tough Jydske farm stock, I came to see this tough love arrangement as very common and “normal” in Danish society — both rural and urban. Most Americans of my generation grew up with quite the opposite arrangement, perhaps fueled by Hollywood portrayals of suburban family life and dating rituals. And so, children learn what they live, and when adults reciprocate to their children their own experience as children — and let’s face it, Denmark is not “I Love Lucy” or the “Brady Bunch” and rarely “Happy Days.” And the Ex? She left for a Danish man and a villa midstream, such is Danmark.

  19. Posted February 16, 2013 at 6:59 pm by Estee | Permalink

    Bill, how true. My husband’s parents were the same way. People don’t tell each other that they love each other (also to kids!) – either in public or private. You never hear people talk about love either. You hear a lot of SKAT (honey) – which I guess is a name of affection

  20. Posted February 16, 2013 at 7:06 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    Hi Bill and Estee

    Thanks for sharing. This is really amazing because my husbands parents have done the same!
    I really need to look into this and find out whether this has been
    passed on to the next generations. I have dinner with some
    Danes tonight and I will ask about this. Also next week.

    But my question is also – if you do not say you love someone -
    does that mean, they don’t know it or go through life feeling unloved.

    Could this be linked to high divorce rates?

    Cheers
    Sharmi

  21. Posted February 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    Also I have noticed that now with the iphone age, a smiley face and heart
    have replaced words, so you dont even need to utter
    Jeg elsker dig

  22. Posted February 16, 2013 at 7:53 pm by charlotta | Permalink

    I am the American friend Sharmi was talking about. Yes i did get my heart broken by a Dane.I truly loved him. Breaking up was so easy to do for him. No looking back. No emotions, no feelings. He just moved on to the next. I also experienced no emotions for his children. In the United States we alwys tell our children we love them. I found it so sad that love was never expressed for the family. Why are the danish men like this. I alwys expressed my love for him and his family. I was told you don’t do this. I found out the hard way that once he left me never turned back. Did he really love me. To me this is not love, this is a man being selfish and not caring about what it did to me. I do find danish man totally selfish, uncaring and heartless. Can’t they see a good thing in front of them. In my case, it was the fear of getting to close. I would have done anything for this man. Another interesting point is that none of our so call friends speak to me. So the question i would like to know is that were they my real friends. Does the danish man have so much power? I will alwys love this man, but i have learnt my lesson in a very painful way. What did i do to deserve the lack of respect, the lack of caring and falling out of love in a split second. I was a good partner, a loving partner. My only crime i committed was loving him. I hope one day he will wake up and realize what he throw away. However i cant go back because i know it will happen again. i wish him much happiness, but i know he will never be loved by anyone else the way i loved him

  23. Posted February 17, 2013 at 1:07 am by Margie | Permalink

    Gosh, charlotta. This is a familiar tale from couples that are mixed origin. Danish people want no obligations. If you can’t take care of yourself, the state will do so but no man is obligated. With regards to love, you are on your own baby

  24. Posted February 17, 2013 at 7:08 am by charlotta | Permalink

    Margie,
    This was not about taking care of myself. This was about feelings. I certaintly can fend for myslef. But was life was turned upside down with empty promises. I believed in love, i believed he loved me, but his cold reactions make me doubt. I am a loving person and was willing to give up my life in the us for this man. Do you thibk it could have been done in a nicer way. Do you think i deserve the respect of parting in a nice way. One day i was in dk madly in love the next i am out. The whole issue goes back to the question why are danish men so cold. committment is a word one does not understand. This country makes it to easy to walk away. Why dont they try to work out issues, instead of running away. Why should all my friends be taken away from me. I do not want to be pitied. I am a strong woman but i have a heart. I use to believe in fairy tales, but mine did not end up with the proncess getting her prince. I have never been so hurt before and i ask why. I will state again my crime, loving this man. I really can honestly say the only thing i did wrong was being to nice. I will never change who i am. I cannot be a cold dane. i was just a nice person who got burnt by a not so nice dane.However i will alwys love denmark. It holds a very special place for me in my heart. I hope noone else has to experience the pain i went through.I am not angy i am not sinicle just hurt

  25. Posted February 17, 2013 at 12:43 pm by Peter Petersen | Permalink

    Hi, I agree with Bill

    I myself come from a family where affection was rarely exposed and has later one, experiencing other, more affectionate cultures, had difficulties finding the right way of ex. “hugging” when greeting people in my home.

    Actually a recent evening having an American couple over, the question was raised, what is the right way of saying hello in Denmark, since they sometimes had found themselves in a strange situation doing the good old American hugging.

    Peter

  26. Posted February 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    Dear Peter

    Funny that you mention that, I think it is a good old
    fashioned handshake and for those you know a hug and an ‘air-kiss’
    on both cheeks. But it is always a bit awkward

    Sharmi

  27. Posted February 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    This is something I would like to investigate in my research. A danish
    friend last night suggested that we run a poll and see how often Danes
    have heard the words I love you from their parents.

    She (my friend) said her parents too had never said it but her psychologist friends
    persuaded her that she should since children need to know that they have unconditional love.

  28. Posted February 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm by Bente | Permalink

    this is so ridiculous: I mean who says that you have to say I love you for your children to feel and know unconditional love from their parents? Danish children get hugs and kisses everyday from their parents

  29. Posted February 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm by Dorthe | Permalink

    To Charlotta

    Again, every relationship is different and I think American men/women can be just as cruel. They lie and cheat, too. There are plenty of good Danish men who love their wives/partners, are faithful and kind. we must stop the generalizations

  30. Posted February 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    I know what you mean. I grew up in a conservative Indian family and
    you can imagine how often heard about love. like never.
    I saw my parents kiss, once in my life, on the cheek.

  31. Posted February 17, 2013 at 4:20 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    Not looking to generalize but more find patterns of behavior.
    I think it is really interesting to look at human dynamics and how
    we interact with one another

  32. Posted February 17, 2013 at 6:24 pm by Sharmi Albrechtsen | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing your story; Charlotta.
    I think it resonates with my readers

  33. Posted February 17, 2013 at 6:34 pm by thomas h | Permalink

    Enough of the bashing here.if you don’t like they way we live, you can leave.

  34. Posted February 17, 2013 at 6:39 pm by charlotta | Permalink

    I think everyone is missing the point. Isn’t there a nice way to say goodbye. If you were with am person for a long or even short time, there had to have been feelings. So say good-bye in a respectful way. Breaking up is so hard to do, but making the breakup less painful seems to be a way danes do not know how to do. Stop thinking of yourself, just for a bried moment think about the other person. I only wish my x a happy life couldn’t he do the same for me. It is simple. Caring, respect, goes along way. Again i am not down on danish people, i love denmark, but i do not like the way things are handled. Just put yourself in the other persons place then think. It is over but how can i make it less painful for her or him. Instead of being negative be positive, I loved you very much, however it is not going to work. Say something nice. Be nice. It is to easy in dk to walk away. Maybe marriages would last longer if you tried harder.

  35. Posted February 17, 2013 at 6:50 pm by charlotta | Permalink

    I quess you are one of the danes that do nit have a heart. Noone is bashing danes. i think you do nit understand the point. Just be nice about breaking up, try to work things out before running out the door. When one works hardrer for something, it means more. If you thibk this bashing you have no clue of this subject. it is about respect for another human being. Bieng cold is someone takes more energy then being nice to someone. Sorry you feel the wsy you do, but the truth is that most danes think about themselves, and never thINk about how they are hurting the other person. It happens all around the world but alot more in dk. Did i ever say i did not like the danes, did i every say i would never go out with a dane. You hear what you want to hear. I LOVE DENMARK AND THE DANES. i JUST DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THINGS CANT BE DONE IN A NICER WAY PERIOD

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  37. Posted February 26, 2013 at 4:41 pm by JohnP | Permalink

    Recently my Danish wife left me, she said it was for her own sake. she left me and the kids behind and for what? is her life any better or different without me. why did she not try and fix our relationship

Happy Danes

Sharmi Albrechtsen

Albrechtsen is an American journalist living in Denmark writing about the Danish Happiness phenomenon. Interestíng perspectives and comments from this Blog have been incorporated in her new book, A Piece of Danish Happiness (available on Amazon). Check out her website http://www.happydenmark.com.com or email her on sharmiindenmark@gmail.com. She can also be reached on +45 5117 6876