Who Gets Divorced?

Bill was a pillar in his small farming community, Melissa the faithful housewife.The personal stories in this booklet are real, though the names have been changed. These stories were gathered in a series of interviews conducted by Focus on the Family Research Assistant Heidi Ihrke. They were a good Christian family, and she was looking forward to their upcoming 25th wedding anniversary. Melissa was in shock the night Bill came home and told her he had found "the love of his life" and was moving out. She literally spent the next year crying, unable to care for their 16-year-old daughter.

Unfortunately, Melissa's story is not uncommon. While the divorce rate in America has leveled off and even decreased slightly in the past few years, the divorce rate is still twice as high as it was in 1960.David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, "The State of Our Unions 2001," National Marriage Project, Rutgers, June 2001, p. 21, http://www.virginia.edu/marriageproject/. It's estimated that for couples marrying today, the lifetime probability of divorce or separation remains between 40 and 50 percent before one partner dies, although this percentage is significantly lower for those who marry after age 21, graduate college and are religiously committed.David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, "The State of Our Unions 2007," National Marriage Project, Rutgers, July 2007, pp. 18, 20, http://www.virginia.edu/marriageproject/. More than one million children a year experience their parents' divorce.Glenn T. Stanton, Why Marriage Matters: Reasons to Believe in Marriage in Postmodern Society (Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 1997), p. 29; Judith Wallerstein, et al., The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p. xxvi. And a recent survey reported that the divorce rate among Christians is now the same as or higher than in the broader culture."Christians Are More Likely to Experience Divorce Than Are Non-Christians," Barna Research Group, December 21, 2000, barna.org. Almost everyone knows someone who is either divorced or is a child of divorced parents. In fact, it seems rare to find young adults whose parents are still married. Divorce has become widely accepted. The growing acceptance of divorce has made it seem easier and all the more tempting.

Research shows the majority of marriages ending in divorce have average levels of happiness and conflict.Paul Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), p. 220. In other words, these are not deeply troubled, physically or emotionally abusive relationships, although even those are not always irreversibly broken. In short, most of the marriages that end in divorce are just plain average, or "good enough." Instead of throwing in the towel, these average marriages could be improved over time – if the spouses stayed together.

Is your relationship one of these normal but – at least at this time – unhappy marriages? Could it be improved and saved from divorce? Before you say, "No way!" please continue reading.


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