The Good News About Marriage

Lark Kelsey

4.5 Stars

November 4, 2014

I ran across an article on Facebook a while back about some recent research done on marriage and divorce statistics and the book that detailed the research. It included some startling findings:

The actual divorce rate has never gotten close to 50 percent.
  • Those who attend church regularly have a significantly lower divorce rate than those who don’t.
  • Most marriages are happy.
  • Simple changes make a big difference in most marriage problems.
  • Most remarriages succeed.

  • I was intrigued and jumped at the chance to review the book, "The Good News About Marriage." We've all heard the statistics that 50% of marriages end in divorce, that Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to get divorced and remarriages have a high rate of divorce. Where did these statistics come from and how have they been misinterpreted?

    Shaunti explains in the first chapter how she got started on this 8 year project. She was working on an article about marriage and wanted to cite correctly the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce. She tried to find the study for 2 or 3 hours and finally tossed it to her research assistant, Tally, so she could get back to writing. When Tally got back to her after several more hours without a definitive answer they called an expert on marriage and divorce who told them, 'No one knows and there are many different types of surveys and different ways of tracking divorce.' They found that the Census Bureau stopped projecting divorce rates in 1996 and those projections were based on divorce increasing while it's actually decreased.

    With my background in Psychology I did a lot of work in school on how to conduct research studies and analyze statistics, so this book was especially interesting to me but it may be cumbersome to those who aren't into tracking numbers and statistical research. But the message of the book needs to be spread because these are very discouraging myths about marriage and divorce.

    It was really interesting to see her unpack each of the myths, to show where the statistical studies had been misapplied, misinterpreted or just simply did not exist! There were some studies that were 'projections' that had, over time, become accepted as the reality. According to the most recent authoritative data (Census Bureau 2009) 72% of people are still married to their first spouse. And that data does not account for those who are not still married but their marriage was ended by the death of their spouse, not divorce.

    The myth of 'divorce being equal in the church as it is outside of the church' is based on a Barna study that has been misunderstood. The study in question was looking at divorce trends based on faith based beliefs and self assessment of faith, not faith based practices like worship attendance. So participants were asked if they affiliated themselves as a Christian, not whether they were currently practicing their religion. New tabulations of the data shows that when a person attends church it lowers their chances of divorce by roughly 25-50% compared to those who don't attend. It also found that those who prioritize their faith and/or pray together are dramatically happier and more connected.

    As for the remarriage statistics, she found that a large majority of remarriages last. Among women in their second marriage 65% are still married to their spouse and of those who aren't many of those were widowed rather than divorced (because second marriages tend to happen later in life and thus have a higher likelihood to end because of the death of a partner than marriages at a younger age).

    Why is any of this even important or note worthy? One of the reasons that marriages don't make it is a loss of hope. There is a sense that 'we only have a 50-50 shot of making it' or a couple who is considering divorce thinks 'well, at lease we have a lot of company.' Some people avoid marriage all together thinking, 'Why bother?'

    It's also encouraging for pastors to know there is hope in the church for marriages! To know that studies have shown that couples who attend church, read their bibles, and/or pray together have a lower rate of divorce is a reason to encourage couples to get involved with a supportive church community and that believing in God and acting on your faith does make a difference in practical things like the success of your marriage.

    We have lacked confidence in the institution of marriage for far too long. It's sad to go to a wedding, flip a coin and conclude that this couple only has a 50-50 shot of making it for life. This book really encouraged me by the facts that have been undermined by misunderstandings and incomplete data. Now we can change the way we think about marriage, divorce, and the positive impact that faith can have in the life of a couple.

    I received a copy of this book through the Blogging for Books Program, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.