Who Gets Divorced?

Bill was a pillar in his small farming community, Melissa the faithful housewife.The personal stories in this series of articles 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,Wendy Wang, "The State of Our Unions: Marriage Up Among Older Americans, Down Among the Younger," Institute of Family Studies, February 12, 2018, https://ifstudies.org/blog/the-state-of-our-unions-marriage-up-among-older-americans-down-among-the-younger. the divorce rate per 1,000 people was still 45 percent higher in 2016 (3.2)Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "National Marriage and Divorce Rate Trends: 2000-2016)," https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/national_marriage_divorce_rates_00-16.pdf. than it was in 1960 (2.2).U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, "100 Years of Marriage and Divorce Statistics United States: 1867-1967," Vital and Health Statistics Series 21-No.24, December 1973, Table 1, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_21/sr21_024.pdf. It's estimated that for couples marrying for the first time today, the lifetime probability of divorce or separation remains around 50 percent before one partner dies,Casey E. Copen, Kimberly Daniels, Jonathan Vespa and William D. Mosher, "First Marriages in the United States: Data From 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth," National Health Statistics Reports, March 22, 2012, p. 1, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr049.pdf. although this percentage is significantly lower for those who marry after age 25, graduate collegeWendy Wang, "The link between a college education and a lasting marriage," Pew Research Center, December 4, 2015, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/04/education-and-marriage/ and are religiously committed.Charles E. Stokes, "Findings on Red and Blue Divorce Are Not Exactly Black and White," Institute for Family Studies, January 22, 2014, https://ifstudies.org/blog/findings-on-red-and-blue-divorce-are-not-exactly-black-and-white In 1988, the last year the Centers for Disease Control stopped gathering this type of data, more than one million children a year experienced their parents' divorce, and that number is estimated to have risen.Jane Anderson, "The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorce," The Linacre Quarterly, 81 (4) 2014, p. 379, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4240051/; Judith Wallerstein, et al., The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p. xxvi. 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.William J. Doherty and Leah Ward Sears, "Delaying divorce to save marriages," The Washington Post, October 20, 2011, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/delaying-divorce-to-save-marriages/2011/10/19/gIQAKh0f1L_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d7660c07cb46 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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Next in this Series: How Would Divorce Affect Me?