Crowe split: Just your average couple

Leaving aside the penthouse suite in Woolloomooloo, their mansion in Rose Bay, and an estimated $25 million settlement, Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer's break-up is actually pretty typical.

The couple has split after nine-and-a-half years of marriage, which is slightly longer than the median of 8.8 years between marriage and separation, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures on marriages that break down.

But a divorce - if it comes - may still be some time away, at least if the nation's average is anything to go by.

Figures from 2010 say the average gap between separation and divorce is now 3.5 years, up from 2.7 years two decades earlier.

In 1990, the median time from marriage to separation was 7.5 years. Overall, there were 50,200 divorces granted in Australia in 2010, and the median length of marriage to divorce was 12.3 years.

Crowe, 48, and Spencer, 43, are slightly older than most separating couples, against medians of 40.8 for men and 38.1 for women.

The highest rate of divorce in Australia is among the 40 to 44 age group for men, and 35 to 39 age group for women.

The Oscar-winning actor and singer-songwriter married on April 7, 2003, in a purpose-built chapel at their property in Nana Glen, in northern NSW, and their separation was revealed on Monday.

Though neither Crowe nor Spencer has commented on the split, there's been plenty of speculation that, among other things, the actor's busy filming schedule in the US put strain on their relationship.

Relationships Australia's director of operations Lyn Fletcher said their research showed that the most common factor leading to relationship breakdown in Australia was the inability to communicate.

''That's both knowing themselves, knowing what they want and being able to get that across to another person.

''So that's about speaking and also being open to hearing what the other person says.

''The result of that is they can't resolve any differences or conflicts between them very well.

''Most people think, 'I'm in love; I love this person; I'm besotted with them and that's the way it's always going to be and we'll live happily ever after'.''

Stress, busy schedules and transitions - like having children or retiring - can further highlight those communication problems, Ms Fletcher said.

''With lack of communication, or the inability to communicate well, and stress, working too hard will add to both of those.

''If you're not spending sufficient time as a couple and you are focusing too much on other people, your work, other activities that don't involve your partner then you're not paying sufficient attention to it to make it last.''

She said most people choose partners with similar values, but those values can shift.

''Over a period of 10 or 20 years they can change for you as an individual and they can change for you as a couple as well.''

Crowe and Spencer have two sons, aged eight and six. About half of all divorcing couples in recent years had children aged under 18, ABS figures showed.

Census data from last year showed of people in Australia aged 15 years and over, 48.7 per cent were married and 11.5 per cent were either divorced or separated.

The Australian crude divorce rate, which is calculated as the number of divorces per 1000 of the estimated population, is steady at 2.3, down from 2.9 in 2001.

The crude marriage rate has been relatively steady at around 5.4 marriages per 1000 people over the past decade, down from 6.9 in 1990.

Looking forward, if the marriage of Crowe and Spencer - both first-time spouses - does break down, they might take heart from the fact 28.8 per cent of Australian marriages now involve someone who has been married before.

The story Crowe split: Just your average couple first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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