Our culture is full of myths and legends purporting to be fact. Many of these myths are harmless. No doubt you’ve heard it said that the Great Wall of China is so large that it can be seen from outer space. Or you’ve been told of the scientific studies that purportedly show that people lose the majority of their body heat through their heads. Or the fact that bulls hate the colour red. These are all myths! They’re untrue but unlikely to cause much harm if you believe them (unless you’re being chased by a bull!).
Other myths, however, by influencing our attitudes and behaviour, can cause a lot of problems. This is particularly true when it comes to marriage and relationships. For instance, I suspect you’ve heard that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Or that most married people are unhappy. These are the types of myths that Shaunti Feldhahn challenges in her book, The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths About Marriage and Divorce. The good folks at Enrich Canada (an organization dedicated to helping couples prepare for and maintain healthy marital relationships that last a lifetime) recently reviewed Feldhahn’ s book and pointed out a few myths addressed in it:
1. Half of all marriages end in divorce. This is probably the most widely-held marriage myth. Fortunately, census data doesn’t support it. Feldhahn writes: “According to the [American] Census Bureau, 72 percent of people today are still married to their first spouse. And among the 28 percent who aren’t, a portion of those marriages ended in widowhood, not divorce.” Based on the data, Feldhahn estimates that probably about 25 percent of marriages end in divorce—still far too high but much less than the 50 percent we’ve been led to believe.
2. Most married people are unhappy. Recently, a person in my church told me a tongue-in-cheek statistic indicating that married men don’t live longer than single men—it just seems longer. Amusing as this little joke is, this myth can actually be quite dangerous if we buy into it. As Enrich Canada writes, “It allows couples to become complacent about being unhappy in their relationship, saying, ‘Why bother to try to change anything? Most couples are unhappy anyway.’” According to a study Feldhahn conducted herself, 70 percent of married people are happy in their marriage with 34 percent reporting being “very happy.”
3. The rate of divorce for religious and non-religious couples is about the same. Actually, Catholics and Evangelicals have about 10 percent fewer divorces than the group with the highest rate of divorce. Further, couples who attend church weekly have 27% fewer divorces than those who do not.
4. Remarriages often end in divorce. Have you heard the statistic that half of second marriages end in divorce along with nearly three-quarters of third marriages? The number is actually far lower—closer to 35 percent.
5. Couples divorce because of large problems that can’t be fixed. According to Feldhahn, most problems in marriage are usually small issues that come down to misunderstandings. In the large majority of cases, the main source of contention is caused by one partner not noticing that their spouse is unhappy. Add to this unintended hurts and these relatively small issues can seem huge. As Feldhahn indicates, simply learning to listen and pay attention can go a long way to healing a broken marriage.
Don’t let your view of marriage be shaped by myths and urban legends. Let authors like Shaunti Feldhahn and organizations like Enrich Canada help you to grow the strongest marriage possible. It’s within your reach!