OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — If you were asked where the busiest locations are on Valentine’s Day would you guess the flower shop? Perhaps the greeting card aisle? The courthouse?
Sure, the courthouse. You’re talking about marriage licenses right?
That counter is quite busy on Valentine’s Day, but at the Oklahoma County Courthouse across the hall from where couples are signing up to say “I do,” is the counter that records when couples say “We’re done.”
One of the busiest days at the divorce counter is Valentine’s Day. The divorce business is showing no signs of stopping in Oklahoma either. For years Oklahoma has consistently ranked in the top tier of states with the most divorces.
Officially the state’s divorce rate is 4.1 divorces per 1,000 people. That is called the crude divorce rate and does not take into account the fact that not every single person who lives in Oklahoma is even of marrying age. A refined rate is much higher explains Bill Sharp, a professor of psychology at Oklahoma City University.
The refined rate is much higher and has showed no signs of any significant decreases. Sharp said one of the reasons why the state has not seen any changes in the number of divorces is due to several factors, but one of the biggest is related to financial stress.
“The biggest [reason] that hits you right in the face is your finances,” Sharp said, “We have so many people so many families living below the poverty [line] in Oklahoma.
Sharp said the stress of making ends meet is often too much for couples to work through, especially when children are involved in the equation. Add to that, Oklahomans tend to get married earlier in life compared to other states.
“Immaturity is a problem because a lot of these individuals have not had a chance to work through relationships where you discuss and you argue and maybe even you yell but you come back to each other,” Sharp told FOX 25.
Oklahoma's divorce rate has stayed practically the same for years and even small declines have failed to match the decreases in national divorce trends.
The state has tried and failed to turn this fact around and these days cuts to social services are not helping alleviate the problem.
However, Sharp said there is one thing that is available for any couples that may be facing stress.
“Even if they're arguing, even if they are at each other a lot, if they have any kind of vision or thought or hope that they would like to be together then there is all kinds of resources and hope that things are going to work out,” Sharp said.
There is help available. If finances are creating stress Sharp said there are a number of consumer credit counseling agencies that will offer free assistance in budgeting and managing money. There are also nonprofits that will assist in making counseling more affordable or aid in other mental health treatment. Even as state resources are stretched, Sharp said contacting the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is a good start for couples who need help. They just have ask for help and be willing to work to make the marriage work.
“It's some give and take; it's I don't have to have my way and you are my partner and I do respect you,” Sharp said.