Everything We Think We Know About Marriage and Divorce Is Wrong

The Good News.

Perhaps most surprising, half of all marriages are not ending in divorce.

According to the Census Bureau, 72 percent of those who have ever been married are still married to their first spouse! And the 28 percent who aren’t includes everyone who was married for many years, until a spouse died.

No one knows what the average first-marriage divorce rate actually is, but based on the rate of widowhood and other factors, we can estimate it is probably closer to 20-25 percent. For all marriages (including second marriages, and so on), it is in the 31-35 percent range, depending on the study.

Now, expert demographers continue to project that 40-50 percent of couples will get divorced—but it is important to remember that those are projections. And I’m skeptical because the actual numbers have never come close, and divorce rates continue to drop, not rise!

Even among the highest-risk age group—baby boomers—seven in 10 are still married to their first spouse. Most of them have had 30 years’ worth of chances to get divorced…and they are still together.

Now, any amount of divorce is still too high! But still, knowing that most marriages last a lifetime is good news that urgently needs to be part of our conventional wisdom.

Another myth that is begging to be debunked is the notion that “Barna found that the rate of divorce is the same in the church.” Actually, the Barna Group found no such thing, and George Barna himself told me he would love to correct this misunderstanding. Because he wasn’t studying people “in the church.”

The Barna Group studies were focusing specifically on the divorce rates of those with Christian and non-Christian belief systems and didn’t take worship attendance into account.

So I partnered with the Barna Group and we re-ran the numbers: and if the person was in church last week, their divorce rate dropped by 27 percent. And that is one of the smallest drops found in recent studies: Overall, regular church attendance lowers the divorce rate anywhere from 25-50 percent, depending on the study you look at.

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shauntifeldhahn@churchleaders.com'
Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-trained social researcher, popular speaker and best-selling author of For Women Only, For Men Only and The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, which have sold more than 2 million copies in 22 languages worldwide. Her research is regularly featured in media as diverse as The New York Times and Focus on the Family, Cosmopolitan Magazine and The Today Show. With The Good News About Marriage, Shaunti is eager to support leaders in moving marriages from discouragement to hope. Get updates at www.goodnewsmarriage.com.

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