Restoring Our Faith in Marriage
For decades, Americans have been hearing that the divorce rate in the U.S. is around 50 percent. And everywhere I travel as a speaker and researcher, I see a deep cultural discouragement about marriage today.
Conventional wisdom also holds that marriage is hard. We hear counselors and pastors use that term and picture most couples silently suffering in unfulfilling partnerships.
It feels like that college freshmen orientation where you’re told to look to your left and right and realize that one of you won’t be here in four years. We essentially hear, “Two out of four of you won’t be here. And the rest of you will be miserable. But have a nice marriage!”
It makes couples look around and wonder which of their friends is headed towards inevitable failure. It makes singles question why they should get married to begin with. And it sure makes it all too easy for a struggling couple to give up, when they think half of everyone else couldn’t make it either.
Turns out, though, so much of what we believe about marriage and divorce isn’t even true. For the last eight years, I’ve been intensively investigating marriage and divorce research, and I summarize what I discovered in The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce.
I have seen in the research what every marriage counselor knows intimately: divorce isn’t the greatest threat to marriage. Discouragement is. A sense of “why bother” is. And for too long, our confidence in marriage has been undermined by persistent misunderstandings and damaging myths.
The Good News About Marriages
The divorce rate for society as a whole – the percentage of marriages that have ended in divorce at any one point in time – has never hit 50 percent. There are some subgroups that have higher divorce rates, but the overall average has never gotten close.
The myth has persisted in part because leading researchers continue to project that 40 to 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce. Those projections started with no-fault divorce in the 1970s, when divorce rates skyrocketed. The researchers of the day projected that if that trend continued, we would hit 50 percent someday. But very quickly, around 1980, the divorce rate peaked. And according to all available data, it has declined dramatically since then.
Today’s leading demographers continue to project that 40 to 50 percent of couples will divorce in the future. Although I respect these experts (most of whom have helped me greatly over the years) I think they should be revising their projections based on the overwhelming evidence that we’ve never hit that for society as a whole.
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