Marriage is on trial as many couples have become more and more reluctant to tie the knot. The culprit? Divorce. Why bother when the statistics tell you that there is a 50% chance that your relationship will not make it? Besides, marriage is outdated, right? Are married people even happy after all?
You’ve probably heard about those grim numbers and because of that, you may have doubts about marriage. Besides, if your parents themselves are divorced or if divorce is the only model you’ve experienced around you, it may not be easy to even want to challenge this narrative.
However, there is some good news!
Shaunti Feldhahn is a journalist and author who spent eight years researching the subject of divorce and wrote a book about it in 2014 called “The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce”.
And you know what? The 50% divorce rate is a pure myth!
How many marriages end up in divorce then, you may think? *Drum roll*
28%. That’s true. According to a 2009 survey by the Census Bureau, 72% of first marriages are still intact. And among those who aren’t, remember that some of them got dissolved not because of divorce, but because of the death of one partner. That number is 8% out of 28% according to a 2013 study from FamilyLife.
Want even better news? The divorce rate has been declining since the 1980s! It reached a peak in the 1970s after the introduction of no-fault divorce which basically allowed people to divorce much more easily than before.
Since social-cultural trends are not evident to analyze as results depend on the time of the study, other analysis found the divorce rate to be around 30%, but nowhere near the alleged 50%.
So where does that percentage come from?
For one, from the fact that 40 to 50% divorce rate is a projection that some researchers make and not a measurement. Also, some newspapers sometimes misinterpret the actual statistics and quote the wrong numbers. Soon enough, thanks to the word of mouth, everyone is convinced that half of marriages are doomed.
And what about the (real) “one divorce for two marriages happening each year” fact? The author explains that it still doesn’t mean that the divorce rate is 50%, because “the people who get married in any given year are not the same people getting divorced in that same year”.
This is a very legitimate question because you’ve probably heard that long-term happiness in marriage is rare, if not impossible. But it turns out that indeed, most marriages are actually happy. 70% to 80% are found to be happy depending on the study. The book author herself carried out such a survey. She interviewed over 600 couples separately in order to ensure that neither spouse knew what the other said, and found that 71% of them were happy. And among the 71%, 34% admitted being “very happy”.
What about the struggling married couples? Most of the time, the root cause is not a “big-ticket” issue, but a small one. In other words, little things can often make a big difference, and fixing the problem doesn’t require a Ph.D.
Even more surprising, in 82% of so-so and struggling marriages, one partner is simply unaware that the other person is not happy, due to a communication issue. In fact, we all express and receive love differently, and we all need to learn how to show our love to our loved ones, in a way that they understand. Otherwise, they might think we don’t love them. You can learn more about the five love languages right here.
Some things have been found to improve your chances of staying married forever:
That last factor might sound counterintuitive if you think that living with your boyfriend or girlfriend before committing is a good idea to “test the waters” or “get used to each other”. Yet, researchers have found that couples who cohabit before marriage tend to be less satisfied once they marry and divorce more often.
So can we still believe in marriage nowadays? Yes! Marriage might not always be super easy because ultimately, we are all imperfect human beings. However, it is definitely worth it, and you should share the good news!
By Elodie Takamiya