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In Chile, Where Remarrying Your Ex Is A Thing

Less than two decades after divorce was legalized, Chileans have a relatively high rate of retying the knot with their exes.

A (first-time) bride in Chile
A (first-time) bride in Chile

SANTIAGO — More than a few unhappy couples gave a sigh of relief when, in 2004, Chile finally began allowing divorce. But not everyone who took advantage of the newfound freedom to move on from their marriage managed to stay the course.

Indeed, in the nearly 15 years since Chilean husbands and wives were first allowed to formally split, more than 3,000 divorcees have decided to remarry their ex-spouse, the Santiago-based El Mercurioreports. And in at least five cases, couples have gone through all of the administrative (and emotional) load of divorcing, reconciling and remarrying each other more than once, according to data provided by the country's Registro Civil (Civil Registry).

Psychologist María Ignacia Veas of the Universidad de Santiago says that while it's fairly commonplace for couples to break up and get back together again, it's surprising that people would go through all of the hassle, stress and expense to do so in a legal sense.

"I think it has to do with the fact that non-married couples aren't as well protected in society, particularly when it comes to property, inheritance and healthcare," she told the Chilean news source.

Veas also thinks that in some of those cases, couples are influenced by traditional concepts about marriage and an "ideal family." They feel morally obliged, in other words, to make it work with their original spouse — come what may.

The strong influence of the Catholic Church had much to do with why Chile was one of the last countries in the world to allow divorce. But while a solid majority of Chileans continue to identify themselves as Catholic, plenty of husbands and wives have exercised their right over the past decade and a half to legally boot their respective spouses.

Government data suggests that since May 2004, when divorce was legalized, roughly 888,000 couples have gotten married in Chile. During that same period, about 520,000 couples officially called it quits. About one in four of those people went on to remarry, in some cases more than once, or twice, or three times even. In fact, 56 Chileans have married five times, and six a record six times, Registro Civil numbers show.

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