I am teaching a course at Wesley College called “Marriage and Families.” This is my first semester teaching and the class is a lot of fun. It is a mix of students who are psychology majors who may use the academic information for their career and students who are interested in learning more about relationships. It’s a bit terrifying when students tell me that they leave class and discuss what they are learning with their boyfriend/girlfriend- but much like a sermon, if people are talking about what was covered it’s a good thing!
I wanted to read something in the area of marriage and families and picked up the book, The Good News About Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn. I had no clue who Shaunti is or what she does (she does marriage conferences) before picking up the book.
The book is short, compact, and based of a lot of statistics, polls, and studies- but readable. Shaunti provides five pieces of good news about marriage based off her own research and digging deeper into many national studies. Here are the five pieces of good news according to the book.
- The actual divorce rate has never been close to 50 percent. It’s significantly lower and has been declining over the last thirty years.
- Most marriages aren’t just so-so. The vast majority are happy.
- The rate of divorce in the church is not the same as among the non-churchgoing population. It too is significantly lower.
- Remarriages aren’t doomed. A significant majority survive and thrive.
- Most marriage problems aren’t cause by big-ticket issues, so being in a marriage, or fixing a troubled one, doesn’t have to be as complicated as people thing. Little things can often make a big difference.
While I won’t provide much feedback about her areas of good news about marriage I do think that figuring out the divorce rate is important. The text book I use in the course I teach states the divorce rate is around 50% of new marriages and that the rate goes up for each remarriage. My students were pretty discouraged about marriage because of divorce. They wonder, “Why get married if it’s just going to end in an ugly divorce.” We need solid research that can provide better insight on the actual divorce rate (rather than the projected- as according to Shaunti). As pastors and educators (and friends of people getting married) I want to be able to offer more hope than “there is a 50-50 change you’ll get divorced. Some of Shaunti’s statistics and interpretation show closer to a 30% divorce rate- (which means 70% of marriages are still intact- which is good news.).
While I am excited about what is written in the book, I do wish there was a way to quantify the research. Perhaps a peer-review article in a journal where research methods are challenged and affirmed. I am honestly a little skeptical about a book coming out of the Christian publishing subculture proclaiming that we’ve got it all wrong on our numbers about marriage and divorce. That said, if what the author writes is true- then it is good news! As leaders, educators, pastors, parents, and people in marriages and wanting to get married- we should encourage continued research that provides actual numbers about how marriages succeed and why marriages fail in order to help us help others (and ourselves) when it comes to relationships.
Skepticism aside, I think the book is worth a read if you work with couples who are getting married in order to have some insight on how some of the statistics have come about and offer an alternative to the “50% of marriages fail” narrative.