Wednesday, May 29, 2013

More 2nd and 3rd marriages end in divorce

What is the divorce rate in the United States? Most of us have heard that half of all marriages end in divorce. In Do 50% of Marriages Really End in Divorce? Ashleigh Schmitz writes, "To say right now that 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce is an uninformed statement." Why do we believe this? From whence this number? Schmitz tell us "The vague 50 percent acknowledges that in one year, there are twice as many marriages as there are divorces." For example, a CDC report I accessed May 28, 2013 gives the marriage rate as 6.8 per 1,000 total population and the divorce rate as 3.6 per 1,000 population. That's over half, right? Yes. And no. What this number tells us is that in a given year, there are approximately twice as many marriages as divorces. What it doesn't tell us is what percentage of divorces there are for the total number of marriages that exist. Very few of the divorces in a given year are from the marriages consummated in that same year, and such "lazy math" doesn't take into account maybe 50-something million marriages that already existed before that year. The actual divorce rate is much more difficult to figure that simply comparing the number of marriages and the number of divorces in a given year. Some suggest it is closer to 30%, but I'm not sure how they arrive at that number either.

I looked at this number because I wanted to understand how the rate of divorce from second and third marriages compares to the rate of divorce from first marriages. At Divorce Rate.Org I found the following:
50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.
According to Enrichment Journal on the divorce rate in America: The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%
I am somewhat skeptical of all of these numbers, since they use the unreliable 50% for first marriages. Nevertheless, for all I was able to find and read it seems that the basic fact is reliable -- that the divorce rate for second marriages is greater than for first marriages, and the divorce rate for third marriages is even higher. This dispels the myth that second marriages are more likely to succeed than first marriages.

One might think that it stands to reason that second marriages would fare better than first marriages. First, you would be more cautious and thoughtful before entering into a second marriage. Second, you would have learned from your mistakes in a first marriage things that you can apply to bettering a second marriage. Third (and related to the first two), you would be older and wiser. But what "stands to reason" falls before what really happens.

If you aren't committed to marriage, then divorce is always an easy out. If you aren't willing to work to fix what could have been fixed in the first marriage, you probably won't commit to fix it in the second marriage. If you do make a second marriage work, you probably could have made the first marriage work by doing those same things. What we need is not second and third marriages to try to improve on what we did wrong in the first one, but a belief and commitment that marriage will work if we work at it. And try to make the first one work! George Santayana said, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." This failure to learn certainly repeats itself in marriage and divorce, again and again. 

God says, "A man shall cleave unto his wife." He didn't say it would be easy, but He did say it and it is right. For better or worse, stay together. Against all odds, stay together. By God's grace, stay together. If those looking at the grass on the other side of the fence would maintain their own yards, marriages would prosper rather than languish.

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