With the exception of the loss of a child, nothing takes an emotional toll on a family quite like the devastation rendered by divorce.
In fact, since Focus on the Family’s inception in 1977, the preservation and promotion of marriage has been at the forefront of our ministry’s efforts. From our broadcasts to our books, programs, articles and numerous other forms of media, championing the marital union and preventing divorce has been one of our top priorities.
The late novelist Pat Conroy once poignantly observed, “Each divorce is the death of a small civilization.”
Sadly, he is correct.
As such, it gives me great pleasure to share the news with you that the United States divorce rate has just hit its lowest point since 1970.
In an era and season of great challenges, from the COVID-19 global pandemic to racial tensions and political strife, this is a terrific development.
In fact, divorce has dropped significantly since just last year.
Married couples age 18-55 who said their marriage was in trouble declined markedly from 40% in 2019 down to 29% in 2020, according to Brigham Young University’s American Family Survey.
There are several leading theories. We know from our surveying that Focus on the Family helps hundreds of thousands of families strengthen their marriages and keep the wolf of divorce far away from the door. I’m proud that our team is part of the solution. But let’s consider some broader trends that have likely contributed to the reduction.
First, the divorce rate has been declining markedly among younger couples because, when compared to previous generations, they are marrying later in life, are more affluent when they do marry, are more selective in choosing a mate and are more likely to be religious than the general population.
These are all significant factors contributing to marital longevity.
As an aside, unfortunately, the divorce rate is still dramatically high among older, greying couples. Tragically, we all know couples who slowly grow apart but decide to stick together for the sake of the children. Once Junior is out of the house, so is the husband or the wife.
As for explaining the statistically significant drop in divorce over the last twelve months, scholars are not precisely sure why people are reporting less trouble in their marriages this year.
Might it be related to the pandemic – specifically, that couples are spending more time together in quarantine, and are just pushing through issues they may otherwise have ignored?
Or could it be that the pandemic has made it more difficult to access divorce lawyers and get your day in court to formally file papers for marital termination?
It’s too soon to know for sure.
Marriage scholar Dr. Brad Wilcox wrote in the Washington Post that the divorce rate fell more than 20% during the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and that he expects similar declines through this current crisis.
Dr. Wilcox sees it more in the social psychology that people tend to cling more to those close to them during trying times. He explained, quite optimistically:
“One silver lining in an otherwise dark year is that most couples seem to be emerging from the crucible of covid-19 not with weaker unions, but stronger ones — and dreams for a stronger family future in the undoubtedly difficult days ahead.”
Focus on the Family exists, in large part, to help husbands and wives pursue those dreams for a thriving family.
If you find yourself in a difficult marriage, we are here to help. Thanks to the generosity of our friends who support our work, we have an array of resources designed to minister to your needs – including our Hope Restored marriage retreat centers in Branson, Missouri, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Rome, Georgia.
Please click here to learn more and let us know how we may be of assistance to you.
Jim Daly with Paul Batura
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