We’ve all heard the statistics: 50% of marriages end in divorce. And even worse, this number has been trumpeted as the same for marriages in the church. However, new research by Harvard-trained researcher and author Shaunti Feldhahn brings to light new, more optimistic statistics involving divorce rates in the United States. In her book, The Good News About Marriage, Feldhahn reveals that the divorce rate in the country is lower than 50%, but even more importantly the divorce rate in the church is much lower than previously thought and it is lower than the average rate in the country. Feldhahn estimates that the actual national divorce rate is around 30%, while the divorce rate in the church is around 15-20%.
While these divorce rates are still too high, these numbers are incredibly optimistic for couples in the church. The new statistics encourage pastors and congregations to say with confidence that faith in God can strengthen marriages and help couples avoid divorce.
Additionally, many people have used this 50% statistic to rule out getting married, reasoning that if half of all marriages end in divorce, why get married in the first place? This new research should encourage everyone that marriages can be successful – and a majority of the time, they are!
So why has the common-knowledge divorce rate been so skewed? Feldhahn claims the well-known 50% number came from researchers in the 1970s who predicted the divorce rate would reach 50% by the 1980s. The divorce rate was climbing at the time, giving researchers a gloomy outlook on the future of marriages in the United States. Additionally, Feldhahn looked into the divorce rate for marriages in the church and discovered that the researchers actually didn’t take church attendance into account, but rather only examined whether or not the couple claimed to be a Christian. Seeing as only one-third of Americans who profess Christianity actually attend church regularly, new research needed to be done to determine the effect regular church attendance could have on marriages.
Feldhahn found that couples who attend church regularly have a divorce rate even lower than those who merely profess Christianity – 27% to 50% lower than that of non-churchgoers, lowering the divorce rate for regular churchgoers into the single digits. These statistics should be incredibly encouraging to members of the church: actively pursuing their faith will have a strengthening effect on their marriage.
"We need to change the paradigm of how we talk about marriage,” Feldhahn says, “from marriage being in trouble and all this discouraging stuff to saying, 'No, wait. Most marriages are strong and happy for a lifetime.'" (emphasis added)
Admin note: This post was written by Natalie Wyman, one of our 2014 summer college interns.