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Dispelling Marriage Myths

Posted: June 19, 2015

We’ve all seen hoaxes get blown out of proportion, especially in the age of Facebook and Twitter. Breaking news of the death of a celebrity who’s very much alive, the danger of vaccinations, or that a tooth left in a glass of Coca-cola overnight will dissolve are all examples of nonsense fabrications that somehow became accepted as fact.

The danger of these myths is when they’re allowed to run rampant without being held to any scientific rigor. They begin to shape our societal consciousness, and we eventually accept them as reality, when they’re anything but.

There are also numerous spurious claims about marriage that have become accepted by society as fact. Perhaps you’ve heard that 50% of marriages end in divorce? Or that the majority of married people are unhappy? It’s this kind of thinking that Shaunti Feldhahn dispels in her book, The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths About Marriage and Divorce. Written in 2014, the guide is intended “to provide something helpful … for the busy marriage therapist, pastor, priest, counselor, or other reader who wants a crib sheet” on their findings, all of which came from academic studies that are cited in the book.

Here are a few myths her book addresses:

  1. Half of all marriages end in divorce.
    We mentioned this common misconception earlier in the post, and it’s likely to be the most well-known. However, defining an exact number for this statistic is very difficult, and studies that attempt it often report very different numbers. “According to the Census Bureau,” writes Feldhahn, “72 per cent of people today are still married to their first spouse. And among the 28 per cent who aren’t, a portion of those marriages ended in widowhood, not divorce.” She surmises that this places the actual average at around 25 per cent — half of what rumours have led the general population to believe.
  1. The majority of partners in marriages are not happy.
    Believing this particular myth is very dangerous, because it allows couples to become complacent about being unhappy in their relationship, saying “Why bother to try and change anything? Most couples are unhappy anyway.” In a study Feldhahn conducted herself — which included answers from both the husband and wife instead of only a single member of the marriage — over 70 per cent responded that they were happy. And 34 per cent stating they were very happy.
  1. The rate of divorce is the same between religious and non-religious couples.
    The original study to claim this was conducted by the Barna Group in 2004. However, another study by the Barna Group done in 2008 revealed a nearly ten per cent difference between the group with the highest rate of divorce (downscale adults at 39 per cent) and those of Catholic and evangelical faith (28 and 26 per cent, respectively). And Feldhahn points out that special analysis of the Barna data carried out in 2013 showed a drop in the divorce rate by 27 per cent between couples who attend church weekly, compared to those who do not.
  1. Remarriages often end in divorce.
    More than half of second marriages end in divorce, along with nearly three-quarters of third marriages — according to urban legend. According to Feldhahn, these rates are actually closer to 35 per cent, as shown in a United States Census Bureau. Given how the question was phrased in the survey, there is also reason to believe that a portion of that 35 per cent became single again after their second spouse passed on, making that number even smaller. Feldhahn also throws in that the highest concentration of divorces occurs within the first five years of a remarriage, with the number of divorces dropping off severely after the five-year mark.
  1. Divorce is caused by large problems that can’t be fixed.
    The majority of marriage problems are actually small issues that come down to misunderstandings. Feldhahn says that in 82 per cent of struggling couples, the main source of contention is caused by a member of the couple not even noticing that their partner is unhappy. Paired with “unintended hurt and trying hard in the wrong areas,” these several small issues can seem bigger than they actually are. Simply learning to listen and pay attention to their relationship can resolve numerous issues.

Don’t allow a couples marriage to be shaped by hearsay. Read up on professional studies conducted academically so you know you’re helping couples make decisions based on fact. Prepare-Enrich is about being a guide towards a better understanding of a couple’s relationship, and marriage in general.

And that’s no fib.