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.