by Dr. Lorin Bradbury
Question: I am in a live-in relationship with my boyfriend. At times I feel guilty for not marrying, but with the divorce rate at 50%, it scares me to commit to marriage. Do you have any encouraging words about marriage that might reduce some of my fears?
Answer: Like most people, you have heard repeatedly the myth and the truth of 50% of marriages ending in divorce. A number of years ago, Mr. Harris, founder of the Harris Poll, questioned the 50% divorce-rate statistic, ever popular with the media. What he discovered was that the number of people who marry for life was around 70%. The 50% divorce-rate statistic was the result of those who divorce and remarry multiple times.
I have often wondered if that has changed in recent years. Social researcher, Shaunti Feldhahn recently published her findings in a book entitled, The Good News about Marriage. Based on an extensive eight-year research study on the subject, she claims that the actual divorce rate has never even gotten close to 50%, that churchgoers have significantly lower divorce rates, and that most marriages are successful.
One of the things she learned in her research is, “If a couple thinks they’re going to make it, they generally do.” According to current U.S. Census Bureau data, 72% of people are still married to their first spouse. And among the 28% who are no longer married to their first spouse are those people were married when their husband or wife died and were never actually divorced. Feldhahn believes the 50% figure comes from a variety of experts (sociologists and demographers) who are making a projection that, at some point in the future the divorce rate will eventually be 50%.
There is some evidence that the media’s promotion of a 50% divorce rate seems to be associated the advent of no-fault divorce in the 1970’s. And it appears those who encourage living together before marriage as reason for not marrying have promoted the 50% divorce-rate statistic as a fact. Similarly, Christian writers proclaiming the negative state of the world in which we live also have bought into the myth.
Given these statistics, your relationship is likely safer in the committed state of Holy Matrimony than it is in the uncommitted state of a live-in relationship. If you were an investor, marriage would look like a pretty good investment.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].