The 50% Lie

You’ve heard it repeatedly on radio, podcasts, and TV. You’ve read it in various books and articles. You’ve even heard it in your pastor’s sermon. The problem: it’s a lie.

While getting my haircut the other day, the young lady who was cutting my hair said, “I don’t ever want to get married. My dad told me when I was 15 years old that half of all marriages end in divorce. So, I figured, why try?” I tried explaining to her that that statistic is incorrect, but she had heard it so many times from so many places, she couldn’t believe otherwise. 

 

It’s simply not true and never has been. As has been said: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” In this case, the lie made it all the way around the world before the truth even got out of bed.

While getting my haircut the other day, the young lady who was cutting my hair said, “I don’t ever want to get married. My dad told me when I was 15 years old that half of all marriages end in divorce. So, I figured, why try?” I tried explaining to her that that statistic is incorrect, but she had heard it so many times from so many places, she couldn’t believe otherwise. 

How many couples threw in the towel and defaced God’s beautiful design of marriage because they had heard that most couples “won’t make it”? It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. How many couples divorced, thinking that just about everyone else was doing it, when in fact, they weren’t? How many young people are afraid to commit to marriage because they believe it will most likely end in failure?

Researchers have shown that a mindset of futility toward marriage has an adverse effect on persevering in marriage or desiring to marry. The 50% lie has done more damage than we might suspect, but it can only be remedied with the truth.

The facts are actually contrary to what you normally hear:

  1. The divorce rate has never even come close to 50%. It is actually closer to 20-25% or lower.
  2. The vast majority of marriages are very happy.
  3. The rate of divorce in the church is not the same as the world. It is much lower (anywhere from 25-50% lower according to various studies). That means divorce in the church may be closer to 10-15% and not 50% as we often hear from misinformed pulpits.

Satan is the father of lies and he has many children. I believe the 50% lie is a lie and not just a mistake because of the obvious ways in which the evil one has sought to destroy and denigrate the family.

Shaunti Feldhahn has written an entire book devoted to debunking the 50% myth. It’s entitled, The Good News about Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce. Shaunti, with a Master’s degree from Harvard, had a career as an analyst on Wall Street, but then moved into social research, where she is esteemed as a careful and thorough analyst. I’ll let her tell the story, which is part of her 8-year investigative study:

In 2006 I was writing one of my newspaper opinion columns and referencing the high prevalence of divorce. I wanted to correctly cite the most recent divorce rate but was confused by conflicting sources and articles. After trying to figure it out for two or three hours (a lifetime in the newspaper business), I tossed it to my then research assistant (now senior researcher) Tally Whitehead, so I could keep working on the column. But after several more hours, Tally came back even more perplexed than when we started.

It can’t be this difficult, I thought. We quickly called a respected expert on marriage and divorce and asked, “What’s the exact divorce rate?” Her unexpected answer: “No one knows.”

Huh? Before I could say anything, she continued, “And it depends on what you mean by the ‘divorce rate.’ There are many different types of divorce rates. There are also many different surveys, of different groups of people; there are different ways of tracking the rate of divorce today and projecting it in the future. They all say different things. There’s no way to know one ‘exact’ rate.” [To understand the complexity surrounding different types of divorce rates, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_demography]

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