Don’t believe the myth — good news about marriage is still out there!

Don’t believe the myth — good news about marriage is still out there!

Hi everyone – I thought you’d want to see this piece from the Washington Post, which is an encouraging sign that more people are busting the 50% divorce rate myth, and that the positive news continues to get out there.  I must admit that for a while I felt like my Good News About Marriage book was a lonely voice crying in the wilderness!  But thankfully many others have also been working through this area of research and seeing that amidst all the very obvious negative numbers there really are encouraging signs.

For those of you who are interested in the data, this piece is a good starting point for divorce rates by different groups.  BUT it also shows how the lack of true divorce rate data makes it all-too-easy for people to misread and spread the bad data – and believe the myth.

In these charts, they show, for example, a percentage of 39% for men in one of the higher-risk groups – those with a high-school diploma or less. Yet I can almost guarantee you that even these very clear and simple charts will be misunderstood and misquoted, I can almost guarantee you.  Why?  Well, if you look closely, these charts do not present the divorce rate. Remember, no one knows the divorce rate!  Instead, these charts present the rate of those divorced and those remarried.  Meaning it includes people whose spouse died and they married again.  Let me say that again: these charts include TWO reasons a marriage could end… divorce AND death!  If you notice the ages, the rates climb as they get older into age 65 and above.  The 39% rate is at 95 years old!!!  Almost certainly meaning “spouse 1 died and the person married spouse 2.”

Looking at the first chart of that higher-risk-group of men with a high-school diploma or less, what do we see before the usual ages of widowhood start?  Let’s look at that same group of men at age 60.  Oh my!  Instead of a 39% rate, those men have only a 25% rate of death-or-divorce!  Huh.  And that is a higher-risk group.  What do we see at age 60 for the less-high-risk-group of those men with a college diploma?   The rate of marriages ending through death or divorce is only about 17%.

Seriously, go through each of these charts.  Look at the rate at age 60 for every single one. And realize how easy it would be to miss the very real good news about marriage.

Everyone: we have to stop being snookered. Our culture will always push us to try to believe the worst.  And yes, the bad news is out there.  A rate of 25% of divorce (what I estimated overall for all first marriages in the book) is still too high!   But that means the vast majority of marriages still last a lifetime.  Thankfully, this is yet another data point showing that good news about marriage is still out there.


Wish Shaunti could speak at an event in your area? You can help! Forward this piece or others to a leader at your organization or church, with a note of recommendation. They can reach Shaunti at NDuncan@shaunti.com.

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her findings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.

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