Stop saying the divorce rate is 50%. You’re killing us.

The good news about marriage, and the REAL divorce rate

I read a book, and I’m really fired up.
Before I tell you what it is I’m so fired up about, let me tell you why it’s so important.
The #1 most important ingredient that keeps marriages together is HOPE.
When couples lose hope, it’s the beginning of the end.
The absence of hope is an indicator of the presence of a lie sinking its claws into its prey; whoever is believing the lie.
Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn interviewed thousands of couples over 12 years.
They found that there was one common denominator among marriages that survived versus those that failed: HOPE.
According to Shaunti, many different factors led to either outcome, of course.
But underneath it all was this bottom line:
Did the couple have a sense of hope … or a sense of futility?
“After all, if the ship is going to sink anyway, why bother working so hard to bail it out?”
Far better, they think, to work on escaping the wreck intact. In other words, a couple’s futile feeling that “We aren’t going to make it” ends up being one of the main reasons they don’t make it.”

The vitality of hope is reinforced in Romans 15:13 and Hebrews 10:23:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

The percentage of what has been widely believed to be the divorce rate in America has been thrown around for years.

But it turns out to be a lie.

Now that’s a big deal, because HOPE is the most important ingredient to keep marriages intact.

All these years we have been led to believe a lie about the divorce rate, which has only compounded the challenges we already have in marriage, and created even more grounds for losing hope that our marriage will survive.

Believe me, I am the last person to blindly believe some revolutionary statement about the divorce rate that supposedly trumps what we’ve heard for years.  I like to see evidence and facts.  If you’re anything like me, then you need to read Shaunti’s book!

As a kid, I distinctly remember hearing this for the first time.

“The divorce rate among unbelievers is around 50%, and in the church it’s about the same.”

It felt like a blow torch igniting inside my stomach, and I was sure wisps of smoke would start pouring out of my ears.

What in the world! How is that possible? Something is seriously wrong with that, if that’s true!

What’s the point of Christianity if it doesn’t really work in the most important relationships of life???

I was caught in the crossfire of depression and fury.

I didn’t know what to do with this inconvenient contradiction, so I just hoped deep inside it wasn’t really true.

Thank God almighty it’s actually not true.

Here are a few myth-bunking facts I learned from Shaunti Feldhahn the author of

The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce

Shaunti is also the author of the book

For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men  which has sold 2 million copies in 21 different languages.

The actual divorce rate has never been close to 50 percent.   It’s significantly lower and has been declining over the last thirty years.

The beginning of Shaunti’s trip down this rabbit hole, was when she asked a divorce expert what the divorce rate was at the time.

She needed some information for an article she was working on.

After a confusing conversation, and not really getting any concrete answers she decided to ask the expert what the Census Bureau says about this.

This was the expert’s answer:

“The Census Bureau stopped projecting divorce rates in 1996. And even those projections were based on divorce increasing, and it’s decreased instead. That won’t help you. Actually, the divorce rate has never hit 50 percent. It has never even gotten close. Again, it depends on what you mean by the divorce rate, but no matter what definition you use, we’re significantly below 50 percent right now. It is maybe closer to 30 to 40 percent, but again, no one knows.”

The divorce binge of 1970-1980

After the legalization of no-fault divorce in the 1970s there was a divorce boom, as people could now divorce just because they wanted to without having to prove anything to a judge.

The divorce rate peaked around 1980, but as people began to see that divorce wasn’t such a wonderful thing after all, it started to go down.

From 1980 to 2011 it declined by a drop of more than 32% overall.

The real problem here is that most of what we hear about the divorce rate are PROJECTIONS.

Not real measurements.

Shaunti says:

Ever since the divorce boom of the 1970s, several generations of researchers have predicted that the prevalence of divorce would be 50 percent or higher by now. And yet divorce rates have been dropping instead, which is why we’ve never come close to the projected overall “ever divorced” rates we “should” have by now. The reality has always been more positive than what it was projected to be.

Shaunti’s extensive research and analysis of hundreds of studies shows that the vast majority of marriages last a lifetime, and the current divorce rate is actually closer to 20 to 25 percent for first-time marriages and 31 percent for all marriages— and has been declining for years.


The Barna Blunder

Barna Research is kind of the Christian version of the Gallup organization who gives us all the stats on everything Christian. Church attendance, giving statistics, how various generations think, and act, when it comes to faith, and that kind of thing.

When we need real factual statistics in the faith-based world, we kind of depend on the brains of George Barna.

In 2001 Barna released a widely quoted study that basically showed that PROFESSING Christians had the same divorce rate as non-Christians; roughly 33-34 percent.

It was a big fat black eye for all the clergy and marriage-fixer people.

This, of course was great news for the devil, and all his pet news networks.

And they made sure the black eye was covered with all due diligence (not an eye patch).

Now you might say “Wait a minute. 34 percent is not 50 percent.” Good observation Dr. Watson.

Here’s what happened. Someone would say something like this.

“Did you hear that a study showed that the divorce trend among Christians is the same as non-Christians? And I’ve heard that the divorce rate is 50 percent, so that means the divorce rate among Christians is around 50 percent. Yikes!”

And just like that, without a single hashtag, the rumor spread like wildfire.

I’m sure Barna meant no harm, but here’s where the blunder lay, tucked away out of sight.

That is, until Shaunti and her sidekick Tally came along and pulled it out of the bushes.

The Barna study was designed to reveal divorce trends based on faith-based beliefs, and was not designed to look at faith-based practices such as going to church.

They were studying those who professed to hold Christian beliefs, NOT those who attend church regularly.

The study actually excluded consideration of whether the person went to religious services.

Here are the real facts.

  • The rate of divorce in the church is 25 to 50 percent lower than among those who don’t attend worship services, and those who prioritize their faith and/ or pray together are dramatically happier and more connected.
  • New tabulations of the Barna data that include church attendance, as well as the findings of several other studies, show that when a person attends church, it lowers their chances of divorce by roughly 25 to 50 percent compared to those who do not attend.
  • In a vibrant church with couples who are trying to put God first, more than half of them are not just “happy,” they are at the highest level of marital happiness and enjoyment.

That’s merely a taste of the feast of good news in this book.  If you want to hear more, I highly recommend reading the book.  Hope is important. But it’s hard to have hope, when you’re believing a lie.

Help get the truth out there, and increase hope!

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Every area of our life not glistening with hope means we are believing a lie, and that area of our life is a stronghold of the enemy.” Francis Frangipane


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