Long-lasting marriages are NOT extinct

Here’s a bit of good news! According to an article in today’s Washington Post, “[The] Number of long-lasting marriages in U.S. has risen, Census Bureau reports.”

We’ve been told forever that half of all marriages end in divorce. This is still sadly true for black women, half of whose first marriages end in divorce.

But three in four couples overall who married after 1990 stayed together for at least 10 years, according to the WaPo story.

And while college women might feel that their chances of getting married have declined, once they do get married, they’re three times more likely to stay married than couples without college degrees. That’s one point in favor of the “Lady College Grads” that Sarah is writing about!

Of course, staying married is not just a matter of the odds. No human being has a boundless supply of love . . . that’s why we all should occasionally pray for MORE love for our spouses, kids, neighbors, and so on.

It also helps if we know what our part is in the marriage – our own distinct role. Most marriages today end because fussing, fuming wives decide to flounce off, knowing the government will require their husbands to keep paying, and that the government itself will pay the freight for single moms, in many cases. Read Stephen Baskerville’s book Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage, and the Family for all the shocking facts. (Dr. Baskerville is an Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College, BTW, so he writes from the point of view of a serious researcher, though his book is VERY readable.)

Part of the solution has to be knowing the purpose of marriage and what each of us is supposed to do. A lot of the answers for women can be found in The Way Home, because the book is all about what the Bible says to married Christian women. Bill says it wouldn’t hurt for their husbands to read it, too!

If we all understood how important marriage is to God’s plan, we’d all do more to make sure our marriages last.

18 Responses

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  • EMBG says:

    Do MOST marriages really end because women don’t follow their role? because “because fussing, fuming wives decide to flounce off”?

    • Mary Pride says:

      Sadly, yes, that is the case. From page 38 of Baskerville’s book: “The proportion of divorces initiated by women ranged around 60 percent for most of the 20th century and climbed to more than 70 percent in the last 1960s . . . These are cautious, scholarly estimates. . . Shere Hite, the feminist popular researcher on female sexuality, found ’91 percent of women who have divorced say they made the decision to divorce, not their husbands.’ . . . Author Robert Seidenberg reports that ‘all the domestic relations lawyers I spoke with concurred that in disputes involving child custody, women initiate divorce ‘almost all the time.’” Really, read Baskerville’s book – it’s loaded with surprising facts we all should know.

      • Holly says:

        Even if women were making the decision to initiate divorce proceedings, how has Baskerville or any other researcher established that they are the party at fault? That seems to me to be difficult to establish. Afterall, lots of men have affairs (not that women don’t), but don’t want to end their marriages. In those cases, the woman may well file for divorce, but is only doing so because the man broke the marriage covenant. I am not at all certain that filings prove the statement, “Most marriages today end because fussing, fuming wives decide to flounce off.” I have not known any marriage within my circle of friends to have ended without adultery involved. My anecdotal evidence may not be borne out by statistical research though. How does the author correlate filings with actual casuality of what caused the marriage’s death? Another example that springs to mind is a beaten woman who files for divorce. Sure, she filed, but who created the circumstances for that? I’d argue that it’s the man who beat her up. How does Baskerville handle this obvious problem between filings and actual fault?

        • Mary Pride says:

          From Baskerville’s book: “‘That women perpetrate domestic violence, including severe violence, as much as men has been established by so many studies as to require no further treatment here.” [The footnote then lists a boatload of studies.] The “adultery” question is a whole other kettle of fish. Did you know the Christian church (aside from maybe some tiny fringe groups) never taught that adultery was grounds for divorce and remarriage before the time of Henry VIII?

          I can’t type Baskerville’s entire book here – I’m just saying that he thoroughly researches and presents the facts, and that today, when it comes to marriage, “the foolish woman tears it [her home] down with her own hands.”

          • EMBG says:

            I oppose no fault divorce, esp. in situations where there are minor children.

            I also agree with Baskerville and many Father’s rights advocates that the family law system often puts dads who want to maintain a relationship with their children after divorce at a serious disadvantage. I have worked legislatively with fathers rights groups and I understand their concerns and their apprehension of the statistics.

            However, the statistics I’ve heard cited by Father’s rights advocates (as well as the anecdotal evidence many of them use) does not tell the whole story – not by a long shot. Divorce is brutal. It really is. And I can understand the bitterness I hear but many of these stories are very two sided.

            Any assertion that casts most blame on one-sex over the other distorts reality, from what I’ve seen. As Holly says, who breaks the marriage covenant and who files for divorce are often very different things. The theological issue of whether adultery is grounds for divorce is important but regardless of ones take on that, adultery does break the marriage covenant and divorce is in some cases, how society recognizes that that covenant has already been broken. From what I’ve seen, some father’s rights advocates do not WANT to deal with the adultery issue because it doesn’t necessarily support their thesis.

            Women do perpetrate domestic violence. Undoubtedly. Whether it is “as much” is actually very disputable though, regardless of Baskerville’s assertion. I’ve researched the stats on that myself for professional reasons (a few years ago). What is not disputable is that in most cases of domestic violence that result in injury / emergency room visits, the perpetrator is male. That’s not because men are worse people than women. Men, in general, simply have superior strength and so do worse damage. A woman slapping her husband may succeed in leaving a hand print. A man twisting his wife’s arm can break it.

            Anecdotally, the bitterness and hard-heartedness I’ve seen cut both ways too. For every woman I’ve heard whose out to soak her **** ex for every dime she can, I’ve heard a man brag about he could get a better paying job but there’s no way he’s going to let that **** of an ex of his get hold of any of his money. He’ll work under the table and even put college money away for the kids but refuse to pay child support. I’ve seen both stories play out enough times to find ample confirmation that men and women are sinners and divorce is a horrific stage for them to sin against each other.

        • Mary Pride says:

          Not that women are ALWAYS at fault, by any means. But the picture of the poor faithful wife and the deadbeat dad who abandons her and the children is seriously wrong in the majority of cases.

          • Holly says:

            I’d argue that *any* simplification is probably wrong in the majority of cases. But that still doesn’t get around the problem of equating filings with fault. How does Baskerville or other researchers address this, particularly in this age of no fault divorce?

          • Mary Pride says:

            Instead of going through Baskerville’s book page by page, how about taking a look at this article of his:


            It includes this choice paragraph (about 4/5 of the way down):

            “These questions are red herrings. Divorce today does not necessarily indicate marital conflict and is less likely to be the last resort for a troubled marriage than a sudden power grab. Most divorces are initiated with little warning and often involve child snatchings. In 25 percent of marriage breakdowns, writes Margaret Brinig of Iowa State University, the man has ‘no clue’ there is a problem until the woman says she wants out. A University of Exeter study found that in over half the cases there was no recollection of major conflict before the separation. ‘The assumption that parental conflict will cease at divorce is not only invalid,’ writes Patricia Morgan; ‘divorce itself instigates conflict which continues into the post-divorce period.’”

            Clearly if the man had “no clue” there was a problem – until he was blindsided with a divorce demand – and if in over half the cases nobody remembered any major conflict before the separation, then the majority of female filings – which are in turn the vast majority of filings – are NOT based on beat-downs, conflicts, or cheating husbands (husbands who cheat do have a clue there might be a problem!).

    • Alisha says:

      Out of all (and there are a LOT!) of the friends who have divorced, only 1 was the man leaving. I have taken it to heart, when feeling unappreciated and grumpy. ( we have had some hard times over the last 18+ years) To look at the lives those friends now and the lives they are living, life doesn’t look so bad after that. ;-)

  • Sally says:

    After reading the article for myself, it seems like the reason that there is a larger percentage staying together is because an even larger number aren’t even getting married; they are just living together, or getting their sexual appetite filled from casual dating. I’m all for rejoicing when good things happen, but when publishing any sort of response like this, it’s important to keep credibility by looking at the whole picture, not just one statistic.

    • Mary Pride says:

      You are right, Sally, that marriage itself is on the decline. However, those who DO get married are taking it more seriously. Which is a good thing. :)

  • Holly says:

    I still have a problem with some of your reasoning, which I’ll explain in a moment. But first, to back up, I should say that I’m an at home, home educating mom to 5 kids, a conservative evangelical believer, am against no fault divorces and think divorce devastates kids. In short, I think a lot like you do about divorce.

    To address the reasoning that one study reports 25% of men are clueless until their wife leaves, your reasoning assumes a lot of things I don’t think are established. For one, it assumes that the men aren’t lying. Not all men would be, of course, but I don’t think it’s a far stretch for an adulterer to say, “no, I had no idea what happened” to a researcher asking questions (yes, even on an anonymous survey. Would it be a surprise to anyone to learn that an adulterer also lies?). Second, it assumes that if a man didn’t have a clue, he is innocent or not at fault. I don’t know that that can be assumed. Workaholics (or any aholic) are so consumed with career that they ignore/minimize the concerns of those around them. “But I provided them a great life!” one of those types might shout, not realizing that the material doesn’t make up for the loneliness and lack of presence.

    Now, these are just speculations on my part, but they are no more or less speculations than the assumption you bring to the table that these men are truthful and/or the thinking that if they had no clue that was because there was no clue to be had rather than them being obtuse as to the emotional distress of their spouse.

    Be that as it may, there’s still the original problem of filings=fault, which I just don’t think any researcher can reliably show in this era of no-fault divorce.

    But finally, I think what really got me is that your sentence of fuming and flouncing women, while wonderfully alliterative, struck me as very callous to what folks going through a divorce feel. I get that–it is maddening to see what divorce does to kids and it makes me angry. But to discount the pain of those in the midst of such a maelstrom, whether they are to “blame” or not, seems to me most likely to shut down any honest and true communication you may be seeking to have with the folks in that situation.

    • Mary Pride says:

      Holly, I hear what you are saying, but some things are getting mixed together.

      A man can’t be at fault for ending a marriage if he didn’t initiate the divorce, didn’t abuse anyone, and didn’t even know there was a problem. “Emotional distress” is not grounds for divorce (biblically speaking). And if the man doesn’t even KNOW the wife is distressed (“no clue”) until she dramatically up and leaves, clearly SHE is the initiator in every sense of the word. In such circumstances, we’re not talking about broken-hearted women who tried everything to save their marriages. In these cases, it’s “my way or the highway,” knowing full well courts overwhelmingly favor the mother (for custody) and insist on payment from the husband (regardless of the wife’s behavior before or after the divorce).

      Someone who literally dumps her husband, taking the kids (if any), and expecting a lifetime of support would fairly well fit the “fuming” and “flouncing” metaphor I employed. It is pretty amazingly callous to inflict such pain on a man who wants to stay married.

      This is, in fact, why men today have become so leery of commitment and marriage – because no-fault divorce and the domestic abuse industry (again, see Baskerville’s book) literally unman them. Under no-fault, the person who cares the least about the marriage has all the leverage in the relationship. And since the vast majority of filers are women, this shows something has gone RADICALLY wrong with the way today’s women regard marriage.

      Get some more men onto this blog and see what they have to say, based on their own and their friends’ life experiences, and you’ll see what I mean!

  • Holly says:

    Sure, but your three “if”s (didn’t initiate, no abuse, no knowledge or problem) don’t add up to “most” assertion of your flouncing and fuming sentence. According to what you’ve cited, 30-40% of filers are men, so they are out of the “three if” category. Some portion of the 25% of men who are totally surprised by the wife filing are undoubtably either liars or fools (or both). That leaves 35-45% of cases where even if the woman filed, the man was aware of problems. So, you’re right back at your main problem of equating filings to fault in order to get to a “most” assertion.

    Put it this way: If Maria Shriver does divorce Arnold, she’ll probably be the one to file. Would anyone hold her at fault though? (I’m not claiming to know any of their particulars, just assuming the broadstrokes of the situation are true for purposes of this example).

    But, let’s assume for argument’s sake that filing does equate fault. Your flouncing and fuming statement goes well beyond fault to asserting knowledge of mindset. “Flouncing” and “fuming” is a far different picture than “Feeling like they are gnawing off their own leg,” many women reluctantly file. Now, I can’t prove my assertion other than by limited anecdotal evidence in my circle of college educated friends. But neither, I am pretty certain, can you prove yours.

    It seems a particularly harsh and uncharitable assessment toward the “most” of women filers even as I am sure there are no few number of men and women who do fall in that type of category in divorce situations.

    You are, of course, entitled to your opinion (it’s your blog afterall!), but I don’t think it’s one that research supports. If there is a study of women’s mindset at the moment of filing, I’d be interested in reading it. If, as something you cited argues, contention develops after divorce and as a result of divorce, then it seems reasonable to assume many women would be motivated by sadness or hopelessness as by anger at the moment of filing.

    • EMBG says:

      Pretty much what Holly says. Even given the accuracy of the statistics you cited, your “MOST” assertion is not proven.

      I’m sure you are right in some cases. The observations you have may be helpful for some women. But the “most” assertion pretty much sounds like you are (a) conflating “no fault” divorce with all divorce, and (b) assuming that most divorced women you run into got themselves into the situation by being the fussy, fuming sorts who decided to flounce off.

      I have a friend – a homemaker, homeschooling mom – whose husband left her for another woman. After years of separation and getting agonizing counsel from pastors, she ended up filing for divorce. She couldn’t find a job and was losing their modest home because he was gone and no longer supporting her. Getting the divorce was only a legal recognition of the reality that he had ended their marriage. Life is still very difficult for her as now, with their children grown, she still has no way of consistently supporting herself and no income stream.

      According to the stats, she ended the marriage but that hardly tells the whole story.

      I could also tell you of a friend whose story is different. A homeschool mom who left her husband and went to live with her mother in another state. The marriage was over and while he wasn’t perfect, he didn’t see it coming, had been faithful, wasn’t abusive and didn’t want the divorce. Seven years later, he’s finally gained custody of the children and is rebuilding life with them but it has been a nightmare for him and them too.

      In my circle of acquaintances and in the time I worked at a law practice that did a limited amount of family law (they would only take “fault” cases and few of them), I have seen both men and women sin against each other in grievous ways. Neither experience nor the statistics I’ve read reliably support one sex being more sinful than the other when it comes to ending marriage.

      • Mary Pride says:

        OK, guys! It seems that we are talking on and on about the word “most.” I am fine with rewording that as “many” or even “some” women flounce and fume. I never said ALL women do this, so nobody needs to feel I was talking about any particular sad case in an uncaring fashion.

        And yes, men can also be grievous sinners in this area. Though the amount of flak men take as a whole during divorce and custody is WAY out of bounds. For the last time, please read Baskerville’s book!

        The point I was trying to make is that understanding what marriage is about will help prevent emotional overreactions leading to divorce. And I think we’ve gone about as far as we can with this thread without repeating ourselves, so I’ll try to blog something new this weekend.

  • Terri says:

    I think a blog written by women and, primarily, for women does well to speak to the issues where women can DO something. There is very little that we, as wives, can do to totally prevent our husbands from acting like evil chumps, dumping us and the kids and moving on with someone else. But there is plenty we can do to make our marriages better, to make our husbands want to come home, and to bring our thoughts into captivity such that we aren’t tempted to punish our husbands with divorce for perceived offenses and turn to the government as our new provider and protector. This would be true even if only 20% of divorces were initiated by women for selfish reasons.

    No-fault divorce is the ONLY type of divorce in a majority of states in the U.S. That is, “fault divorce” has been completely eliminated from the statutes such that no blame can be listed on a divorce petition and fault cannot be used as a basis for determining alimony or child support. As Mary stated, and I’m paraphrasing, no-fault divorce gives all the power to the one who is less committed to the marriage. God forbid that any wife should take advantage of that fact.

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