We have been looking at The Good News About Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn and finding that there is a lot of misinformation out there about actual divorce rates. We have already seen that the widely reported 1 out of every 2 marriages end in divorce statistic in reality is more like 1 out of every 4 marriages that will end in divorce. The other commonly heard misinformation when it comes to marriages is the divorce rate for second and third marriages which has been widely reported to be 60% and 73%, respectively. Today we will see why this information is wrong and there is hope for remarriages.
While I discussed earlier that Shaunti Feldhahn stated that solid data on marriages is hard to find and get a handle on, the data on remarriages, because remarriages account for a much smaller subset, is even harder to come by. In 2009, a US Census Bureau finding reported that second and third marriages (or more) make up about 15.8% and 3.8%, respectively, of marriages.
Where did the high divorce rate numbers come from that are often published? Shaunti Feldhahn researched through many publications that had used the high rates and found in each case that the publications cited sources or other articles that wound up not citing an actual source or data set that existed. She found numerous publications that had cited a psychology professor in Missouri as the source only to find after contacting the professor that she had not published any such findings. Other publications referenced a 2006 Census Bureau report which didn’t contain the findings. Another common reference she found was for a US Bureau of Statistics report except that there is no US Bureau of Statistics.
Now that we see that the data that has been widely reported is not really there let’s look at some studies that may help define the real statistics on remarriages.
- A 2009 US Census Bureau SIPP survey found that 65% of women in their second marriages are still married to that spouse (71% for first marriages). Of the remaining 35% who aren’t still married to that spouse, the number is made up of marriages that ended with the death of a spouse which is likely significant among remarriages. There are similar findings for third marriages where we find that 59% of women on their third marriages are still married to that spouse.
- A Bureau of Labor Statistics study studied second marriage divorce rates of people born between 1957 and 1964 and found that 62% of second marriages are still intact. This study of this high risk group also found that 36% of the second marriages that ended were from divorce.
- A 2002 CDC study entitled National Survey of Family Growth found that among women who divorced within 10 years of getting married, the second marriage divorce rate was only 6% higher than that of first marriages. The study also showed that the greatest divorce risk for remarriages came in the first five years.
- A National Center for Family and Marriage Research study found that the divorce rate for first marriages is 35 % lower than for all remarriages. This projects out to be about 33% of remarriages will end in divorce.
I think one of the surprising things in looking at all of the marriage data has been how important the first five years of a marriage are. The data shows over and over that the percentages for a marriage lasting a lifetime go up exponentially if the marriage lasts five years. For remarriages, the following quote from Shaunti Feldhahn’s book from one of her friends I think expresses some reasons why it is so important.
“This is so personal for me coming into a remarriage that I truly hope will be a blessed and happy marriage. I find that I have this subconscious fear, especially when there is conflict and things aren’t going well. Fear that I am responsible. Fear that I will make a mistake. Fear that I need a backup plan, that I must protect my kids if something goes wrong. Maybe all that fades after the first five years and you don’t worry about all the “what ifs” each time. But that is where communication, trust, and prayer play such a large role in remarriage. You come into it already damaged once. I realize I have to work constantly to make sure I stay open to my husband and do not slide into protective mode when I am worried, hurt, upset, or tired. To me, the hopeful message of the book is something that will help so much. This hope will be one of the things I look toward when I am sliding toward protecting myself or my kids; it will help me to stop that trend and instead lean into my marriage and husband in the way we deserve.”
I think it is safe to say that a majority of remarriages last. While data on remarriages is hard to find and probably harder to fully evaluate, most studies seem to show that at least 65 percent will last a lifetime. Because many remarriages occur at an older age that number could be a substantially low number. I hope those in these categories have been able to find some hope from this data.