Should You Fear Divorce?

Divorce has become a regular part of our culture.  Many of us come from divorced homes and there is a huge fear of getting married and then getting divorced.

This affects unmarried people in a variety of ways.  It raises all sorts of questions. Questions about what is a biblical divorce or when it is it ok to remarry or even date a divorced person (or as a divorced person, can I remarry etc.).  There are some clear and some unclear answers to many of these and I plan to actually get into some of that at a later time (I’ve avoided it for about as long as I can).  But today I want to help us deal with fear of divorce.

As Christians we want to make sure that we don’t end up in that situation which is good. We want to choose well in a spouse with the intent of never getting divorced.  But I think we have bought into some lies that cause us to be more afraid than we need to be.  We want to avoid divorce but we don’t need to allow fear of divorce to affect our ability to get married to begin with.

So let’s clear some things up.

Let’s talk about the statistic everyone knows that says that 50% of marriages end in divorce. That is big time scary.  That’s half.  But that statistic is not quite what it seems in several ways.

For starters, that is not a first marriage statistic.  According to the census, 41% of first marriages, 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.  The point here is that the real number of first marriages ending in divorce is less than half and falling. Granted part of that is because WAY less people are getting married.

People who wait to marry until after age 25 (which is almost everybody at this point) are less likely to get divorced.  Attending college makes you 13% less likely.  Basically if you live in the U.S., your parents are married, you have a college degree and you are 26, your chance of divorce is actually pretty slim.

Still scared?  Well then be an active follower of Jesus.  One of the completely false ideas is that Christians divorce at the same rate as everyone else.  I’ve always balked at this stat – even though it makes for a really dramatic sermon.  But when you dig behind the numbers you get a completely different idea.

This is why the word Christian can be such a mess.  Think about online dating for a second.  When you join a site like Match.com, you have to pick a religion.  A lot of people will pick “Christian Other” for example.  What does that even mean?  This is why when I was online dating I put Jesus in my profile, because I knew just saying Christian didn’t mean anything.

Here are some real numbers to encourage you.  An active Conservative Protestant has a 35% less chance of divorce.  An active Catholic has a 31% less chance.  (Interestingly a nominal Catholic has a 5% less chance while a nominal Protestant has a 20% higher rate of divorce than a non-relgious person).

Here are a couple of other random statistics to keep in mind that may mess with your head.

  • In the past, men cheated more than women.  But in recent years that has changed.  In one study 23% of men and 19% of women had “cheated”
  • Men might need to be more afraid than women.  Women file 2/3s of all divorces.  In some no fault divorce states that number rises to 70% and among college educated couples in those states women file 90% of the time.
  • If you think practice makes perfect, think again.  Living together can increase the chance of divorce by as much as 40%.  More sexual partners (especially for the woman) greatly increases the chance of divorce.

So what the heck does all of this mean? 

First and foremost fear of divorce should not drive us as Christians.  It’s not that it can’t happen to us or that we should take it lightly.  But we need to understand that the odds shift dramatically in our favor.

Secondly, and maybe more importantly, we have the chance to set ourselves up to not get divorced.  Now am I saying that you should only marry a person that comes from a two parent home, is over 25, has a college degree and has never slept with anyone?  No that’s not really what I’m saying.  What I’m saying is that we can do things ourselves and make choices that matter.

The person you control is you.  You choose who to marry (I have a blog coming on some of the important things to look for in that choice).  You also choose how you live your life both now and when you get married.  You have the choice once you are married to stay married.

Even if you’ve already messed up some of the above examples you can repent and change.  You are for sure not disqualified from having a great marriage because of any of that.  God’s grace is bigger than that.  But it would make sense if you are on any of those bad paths to do an about face if you want to end up in a Godly, stable marriage.

How afraid of divorce are you?  What is that based on?  Are you setting yourself up to be in a good situation?

Links to Stats from this post 

Overall divorce stats

“Christian” divorce stats

Women Divorce Stats

Cheating Study

Sexual partner divorce stats