50% of all marriages will end in divorce. This is the stat that I’ve come to believe because that’s what “they” say (whomever “they” are). The same “theys” also say that this number is not much different among Christians – 50% of Christian marriages will experience divorce as well. Not good news for the institution of marriage.
However, I can happily say that the “theys” are wrong! Recent studies show that the divorce rate in our culture is not nearly as high as “they” say it is, and that Christian marriages are actually faring even better. Here is the real truth about marriage today:
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 72% of those who have ever been married are still married to their first spouse. And the 28% who aren’t includes everyone who was married for many years until a spouse died. No one knows what the average 1st-marriage divorce rate actually is, but based on the rate of widowhood and other factors, it is probably closer to 20–25%. For all marriages (including 2nd marriages and so on), it is in the 31–35% range, depending on the study. Regular church attendance lowers the divorce rate anywhere from 25–50%. (The Good News About Marriage, Shaunti Feldhahn, Multnomah, 2014)
According to Glenn T. Stanton, the director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo., many people who seriously practice a traditional religious faith – be it Christian or other – have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population. The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes — attend church nearly every week, read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples — enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers.
W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, finds from his own analysis that “active conservative Protestants” who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to those who have no affiliation. Nominally attending conservative Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce, compared to secular Americans.
Professor Scott Stanley from the University of Denver, working with an absolute all-star team of leading sociologists on the Oklahoma Marriage Study, explains that couples with a vibrant religious faith had more and higher levels of the qualities couples need to avoid divorce: “Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said that they were more religious reported higher average levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce and lower levels of negative interaction. These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education, and age at first marriage.”
This is all good news! Contrary to popular belief (and contrary to what “they” say), marriage is not a dying institution in our culture, and the marriages that are most vibrant and secure are those where God is central.