"Half of our marriages end in divorce." No they do not. The real numbers are in and it seems that little more than half of half end in divorce.
As a homeschool dad, I often refer to the “smell test” when reviewing math assignments with my sons. ‘Okay, if you multiply a big number by another big number, the answer is not going to be a small number, right?’
Well, perhaps we can do the same here. How many married people do you know? Okay, now how many divorced? This is a difficult thing to get our minds around, but try. Think about the sheer staggering number of married adults you know. It is far easier to list the unmarried adults than the married. Now think about the divorces. Do they even begin to approach half?
Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn are Christian marriage counselors, popular conference speakers, and family enrichment authors. This month Shaunti released The Good News About Marriage reporting the findings of an 8-year research project reviewing the statistical data on marriage and divorce in America. Her conclusions are shattering many of our most common conjugal clichés.
Among her more noteworthy findings were:
- The divorce rate in America has never even been close to half. While the actual divorce rate is impossible to establish, [the Census Bureau stopped trying in 1996] realistic estimates put the societal divorce rate as low as 27% with almost every source reporting a decline in divorces for the last 30 years!
- College-educated couples, married after their mid 20s, who stay together for their first 5 years have a general divorce rate of only 5-10%.
- Almost 80% of married couples describe themselves as “happily married”.
- A statistical majority of those who respond that they are “unhappy” or “miserable” in their marriages, when willing to hang in there, rate their marriages as “happy” when surveyed 5 years later.
- Only around 33% of remarriages end in divorce, rather than the often quoted 60-75% figure.
- The vast majority of marital problems stem from accumulated minor offenses. Small, simple changes produce significant and lasting improvements for the majority of married couples in counseling.
- Christian couples who attend church weekly have a divorce rate 25-50% lower than the average.
After hearing these results, one reviewer told Shaunti, “Wow! You’re like the Snopes of marriage!” Indeed.
Well, besides being interesting, does any of this matter?
The Feldhahns insist that these things matter a great deal and that falsely inflated divorce statistics have been deeply detrimental to our national morality. If young people take for granted that they have a coin-toss-chance of succeeding in marriage, they will be much more prone to accept divorce as an inevitable outcome. They will be more tempted to cohabitate rather than marry. And they will be discouraged from persevering and fighting for their marriages. Statistics of defeat rob us of hope. And as any counselor can tell you, hope is the single most important factor in making a marriage work.