Two years ago, I wrote a column about marriage getting a bad rap in the community.
It wasn’t based on solid research; just my reaction to comments made at a couple of forums addressing local poverty. Some who attended the forums became offended when marriage was mentioned as a step to avoid economic hardship. I found their reaction a little disturbing and wondered why marriage was being scorned.
Well, I may not be a marriage expert, but I heard one speak at a Right from the Start luncheon held Thursday at the St. Luke Ministry Center on 11th Street. And she confirmed my nagging suspicion that marriage has been maligned.
The keynote speaker whom I am referring to is none other than Shaunti Feldhahn, a Harvard-educated social researcher and best-selling author who recently released a book titled “The Good News about Marriage.”
My husband and I read two of Shaunti’s books a few years ago, one titled “For Women Only” and the other “For Men Only.” We found the books very insightful and learned a lot about the opposite sex.
Shaunti presented her most recent research at the luncheon on Thursday, and the findings were just as revealing. “Right now, there is a cynicism about marriage,” she said. “There’s a great amount of fear. And it turns out that so much of how we view marriage today...it’s not true.”
She said there’s one common denominator that determines whether or not a marriage succeeds, and that’s whether or not the couple has a sense of hope, or a sense of futility. “If people say that this is difficult and we’re going to make it, they generally do,” she said. “The problem comes when people get that sense that, ‘You know what? If the ship is going to sink anyway, why bother spending so much time bailing out the boat?”
Shaunti said the negative views about marriage are the result of over-projections that were made in the 1970s when no-fault divorces went into effect. She said demographers predicted that the divorce rate in the U.S. would soar to 50 percent, and many people bought into the theory.
However, she has found in her research that the divorce rate had fallen to 30 percent since 1980 and continues to decline, and contrary to public opinion the vast majority of marriages last a lifetime. She said no one knows the exact divorce rate because the government stopped gathering such information years ago.
In her eight years of research, Shaunti discovered five myths that need to be debunked, she said. They include the beliefs that:
▪ Half of marriages end up in divorce.
▪ The rate of divorce is the same outside and inside the church.
▪ Most married couples are not happy.
▪ Second marriages have a massive divorce rate.
▪ Marriage is really complicated and it will take a rocket scientist to figure it out.
“We have to help people’s view of marriage right-size with the reality,” she said. “Because right now people think it’s looming large, there are so many problems, they’re just going to suck me in.”