Sex Marriage and Divorce
What would CT readers say in confidential responses to questions about marriage, divorce, and other sexual experiences? We mailed surveys to almost 1,500 readers to find out. Over two-thirds responded in one of the highest response rates in over two decades of subscriber research. These responses were published in our December 14, 1992 issue.The results give snapshots of what readers agreed and disagreed on when it came to divorce and remarriage. They also showed that respondents stand out sharply from American culture's trends. Only one out of ten were divorced, for example. But there were surprises, such as the number of respondents who admitted they had engaged in premarital sex.While readers of CT—primarily church leaders—do not speak for all evangelicals, and three out of four of our respondents were male, their answers offer a wealth of insight on strengthening marriages, ministering to the divorced, and understanding the cultural pressures Christians face. Senior Editor Haddon Robinson here comments on some of the findings.
- Of the 28 percent who had ever considered divorce, nine out of ten said belief in Christian teaching about marriage helped keep them together.
- Only one out of ten respondents said intervention by family or friends was a factor.
While half of all marriages in this country now end in divorce, 83 percent of survey respondents who have ever been married are still in their first marriage. Most (90 percent) say they are satisfied with their relationship and describe their marriages as "warm and supportive."Giving marriage a hearty endorsement, however, does not mean that subscribers always enjoy Cinderella relationships in which they and their mates live "happily ever after." When those in their first marriage were asked whether "you or your spouse ever considered getting divorced," one out of five admitted that it had crossed their minds; 4 percent had given it somewhat more thought; another 4 percent had considered divorce a serious option.What kept these marriages together when the going got rough? That so many stayed together out of deference to biblical teaching (90 percent) should hearten church leaders. It also argues convincingly that we should place regularly before our congregations the teaching that marriage is a lifelong covenant. Commitment rather than love holds couples together in the dry times of marriage. Not surprisingly, the second greatest factor contributing to couples not divorcing was children (40 percent).
- Of those needing help with their marriages, 61 percent turned to a Christian therapist.
- Forty-one percent turned to a pastor, and 18 percent to a non-Christian therapist.
Almost 75 percent of those still in their first marriage say they have never received any marital counseling. Those who have been divorced and remarried are almost twice as likely to have turned to a counselor for help.Does marriage counseling make a difference? Of the 201 respondents who had marriage counseling, 85 percent report it was worth doing. Only 6 percent felt that it was not helpful.That so many turn to therapists rather than pastors helps explain why counseling has become a growth industry in the evangelical community. In many of our seminaries, in fact, counseling departments attract the largest enrollment, easily overshadowing homiletics or biblical studies. While this may reflect the obsession of a culture turning inward for personal "fulfillment," the rise of counseling clearly benefits hurting Christian couples.