Divorce in the 50's was frowned upon. A family with a divorced member was ashamed of it. It was not spoken of, even to distant relatives. Especially if there were children involved. The 50's married couple had many problems. The largest was having lived through a terrible war and trying to make a life that would help them put the war behind them and out of their mind.
Young people of the 40's war years came home to a grateful nation in 1945, looking for something they would never find. They had grown up on big band music and people like Frank Sinatra, Glen Miller and swing. They thought they would come home to an Irvin Berlin world with White Christmas's forever. But as life can be cruel, it was. Along came Rock & Roll.
Both young men and women came home from the war different than they had left. They left younger than their age would indicate and returned older than their hearts felt. Nothing was the same to them and they didn't understand. They went through the exact same thing that the Korean War Vet and the Vietnam Vet went through when they came home, but in the 1945 we didn't understand what they were going through. After Korea and Vietnam we knew.
It was easy for a young man to lose himself in his young bride and not realize that he had changed. He didn't want to own up to it and she wouldn't understand anyway. Like wise, the average young girl in the 40's had lost years of dancing and romancing due to the war and looked forward to the young men returning from war. But all was not well in the real world, only in Irvin Berlin Land. It took years for the young girls to realize it.
With the coming of the 50's these after war marriages were in that period of the "Seven year itch" and the real problems married couples were having were not attended too. Both men and women became secretively itchy. At the end of the war one needed little reason to marry. They had been through hell with the war and they were looking for something nice to come home to, but it came too easy after the war and in time they started realizing that maybe they had rushed to marriage too soon. Too late.
Unfortunately, the 50's were upon them. This generation who went to war, that had grown up doing what their parents made them do and having their live molded by their parents to the extent that they had no say around the house, anyway now, had another problem. Their days of Frank Sinatra, Glen Miller and swing were over and they were over thirty years old.
Their children, their younger brothers and sisters were into something new. These youngsters would have a mind of their own. They had an opinion and often voiced it. They wanted to watch a different show in the other room on the second TV, and to make things worst, they discovered Rock & Roll, Alan Freed and Elvis Presley.
All of a sudden the war generation grew old and still they kept their problems buried. They never spoke of the war years and they never addressed the problems in their marriage. They were now far less happier than in years past. We as America's first real independent thinking teenagers had no way of understanding why they felt as they did. We didn't know why our parents didn't like each other. So walls were built between us. We didn't want to be like them.
As for the British people across the pond, I would assume that they mirrored our problems here with the wartimes, marriages and the change from Irvin Berlin to Rock & Roll. Not to mention that they birthed four Beatles.
Where as today when you can almost mail in a divorce, it was extremely difficult in the 50's to obtain a divorce. It affected the whole family of both parties. Many times a divorced person with children had to make new friends to survive. No one really understood it well or tolerated it.
I remember when my brother Sal brought a young woman home, divorced with child, to meet my parents. Well we won't go into that, but my sister-in-law Betty was never accepted by my family. So, she came up short on her end of the marriage, not my brother. He was lucky to have her. I'll never forget her. Her child David, grew up to be one of my greatest admires and still is.
From the research I have done on the Second World War, the 40's generation and the 50's generation and Rock & Roll, I would say that most of the time, it was the women who left the marriage. I believe that it was they who had to learn to live with a young man who left for war one way and came back another way. It was the war that changed the young men of the 40's for the worst. In time, the not so young girls came to realize that they could not change things and so I believe that it was they for the most part who broke off the alliance, much to dismay of their partner.
I'm not at all sure that the young men of the war years can now in the wintertime of their life still realize how the war changed him. What it must have been like for his wife who had no idea what the war was like, how it was going to affect her. There were those who found a reason to make their marriage work and there were those who wanted something nice for themselves before they got too old to care. It was the young girls who did not go off to war who stayed home and saw the war years through the eyes of Hollywood's hopeful dreams, dreams for most of them that did not materialize.
Was World War Two responsible for a large number of divorces and dissention between men and women, yes. Did more women divorce their mate than men, yes. Would the British people have gone through the same problems? Maybe worst. If you stop to think, since World War Two, we here at America have had much opportunity and for the most part a booming economy. Many times martial problems can be tolerated and are for long times, when money is coming into a marriage. Its when the money runs out that the arguments start. That's still the same to day.
Dominic caruso... (c) 1986