How much should you believe in the marriage statistics?

The marriage statistics say that approximately 50% of all first time marriages will fail. The big question is, however, where did these statistics come from? How robust and thorough was the data collected and what if any factors contributed to these figures? For those who have gone through a divorce, they’ve also been told that their chance of having a successful second marriage is only  30 – 35%!

These ‘ugly’ marriage stats have actually convinced many men and women to think that marriage is hard and being married is a crap-shoot! Why bothered tying the knot based on this well-known and accepted statistic?  ‘Why risk it’ has become the prevailing attitude…

We can only imagine if these statistics weren’t true, what might be the case? If they were true, as so many tell us, wouldn’t we be seeing countless friends and couples heading to the divorce court along with us? It is also true that some statistics get misused. The Gottman institute states that half of all marriages end before they have reached the 7 year mark. This is very different from half of all marriages. According to Gottman once you are past that magic number, the chances are your marriage will not only be surviving but also thriving.

What do marriage researchers say?

According to other research carried out in the last 7 years, the chances of having a lasting marriage is around the 70-80% mark. In other words, only around a 20-30% chance that your marriage would be in trouble. Now that is very different from the bandied around number of 50%.

Shaunti Feldhahn (a Harvard-trained researcher and author of some of the best seller books about marriage), claims that most marriages are actually happy marriages, and that NOT only happy couples remain married but rather couples-who-are married-describe-themselves-as-happy. Feldhahn and her colleague also carried out extensive research into why there was such a high divorce rate only to discover that some, if not a lot of the statistics and claims were erroneous, or sometimes exaggerating!

Let me give you some examples from these research….

In some cases within those marriage studies, those who were widowed into the statistic giving a false impression. What in fact was happening was that women, more often than men, were being widowed and this was called a separation. What Shaunti Feldhalm found is echoed by John Gottman. In a research carried by the Gottman Institute, it was proven that relationships don’t crash and burn, they just fade out from a lack of connection. People start to neglect each other and often unintentionally. Neglect turns into indifference and then separation, followed by a divorce.

Shaunti discovered that it is not the big-ticket items that take a marriage down, like the affair, or an addiction, or mental illness but rather the day-to-day small things: things like… forgetting to acknowledge one another, or not paying attention to each other and so on…

My takeaway from the research, as a marriage counsellor

As a marriage and relationship counsellor, I am very encouraged by this robust research – the researchers never attempted to debunk the 50% marriage failure myth. It just happened that way. So my dear friend, now you know that your relationship actually has a (great) fighting chance of surviving, does it make getting hitched a much more attractive proposition?

…You don’t have to take my word for it. You can see for yourself here what the research shows.

If you want a slightly different take on this subject from someone with an academic view then go here.