George Barna, who directed a divorce study, noted that Americans have grown comfortable with divorce as a natural part of life.
There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage, the researcher indicated. Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility. There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life.”
People marry today with an exit strategy in place. Consider the following statistics concerning prenuptial agreements:
73% of divorce attorneys cited an increase in prenuptial agreements during the past five years
52% have noted an increase in women initiating the requests, while 36% of those surveyed cited a rise in pension and retirement benefits being included under prenuptial agreements.
People are quickly losing confidence in the marital covenant and making preparation for the failure of the relationship with an exit strategy. Some people have actually considered the same sex as an alternative to heterosexual relationship. But not only are heterosexual relationship complex, people who are choosing the gay and lesbian lifestyles have challenges of their own. Consider the following:
Homosexual activists often argue that high divorce rates demonstrate traditional marriages fare no better than same-sex relationships in duration. The research, however, indicates that male homosexual relationships last only a fraction of the length of most marriages.
A Canadian study of homosexual men, who had been in committed relationships lasting longer than one year, found that only 25 percent of those interviewed reported being monogamous.
In one study of 156 males in homosexual relationships lasting from one to 37 years, only seven couples had a totally exclusive sexual relationship, and these men all had been together for less than five years.
In their classic 1978 study, published as “Homosexuality: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women,” researchers Bell and Weinberg found that 43% percent of white male homosexuals had sex with 500 or more partners, with 28% percent having one thousand or more sex partners.
In 1991, the Journal of Social Service Research published a survey of 1,099 lesbians in which slightly more than half of the lesbians said they had been abused by a female lover/partner.
A survey sponsored by the National Institute of Justice found that same-sex couples reported significantly more violence from their partners than did traditional couples. Noted the report, “Thirty-nine percent of the same-sex cohabitants reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked by a marital/cohabitating partner at some time in their lifetimes.”
Not only are people considering same sex relationships as an alternative to traditional marriages and its problems, they are now entering into test drive marriages. This was traditionally called “shacking” and was negative, but many today believe that if they can enter into this type of arrangement as a trial, then they can see if they can make it as a couple. Let’s consider these statistics:
Living Together before Marriage Statistics
Statistically speaking, living together is not a trial of marriage, but rather a training for divorce (from Michael McManus, author of the book Marriage Savers).
The number of unmarried couples living together soared 12-fold from 430,000 in 1960 to 5.4 million in 2005.
More than eight out of ten couples, who live together, will break up either before the wedding or afterwards in divorce.
About 45 percent, of those who begin cohabiting, do not marry. Another 5-10 percent continue living together and do not marry.
Couples, who do marry after living together, are 50% more likely to divorce than those who did not.
Only 12% of couples, who have begun their relationship with cohabitation, end up with a marriage lasting 10 years or more.
A Penn State study reports that even a month’s cohabitation decreases the quality of the couple’s relationship.
The reality is divorce is inevitable if we don’t make some drastic changes in how we approach relationships from a healthy perspective! Even after we have experienced what marriage is all about and re-enter into a marital relationship, the statistics get worse. Consider the following research:
Divorce Among Adults Who Have Been Married
(Base: 3792 adults)
Have Been Divorced
No. of Interviews
Non-evangelical born again Christians
Associated with non-Christian faith
Atheist or agnostic
All born again Christians
All who were not born again Christians
(Source: The Barna Group, Ventura, CA)
Reflections on Marriage and Divorce
As you can tell, marriage is having a very difficult time, and people are opting out at alarming rates. Forgiveness, humility, conflict resolution, and communication are fundamental factors in making relationships work. The emotions of anger, violence, and fear kill all relationships. However, people are leaning towards the lower level emotions and ultimately divorcing. How is this happening? How is there such a thin line between love and hate? Of course, I could state the obvious that we have discussed in previous chapters from the impact of intoxicating dating to the lack of understanding of gender issues. The attitudinal king in an unhealthy relationship is pride, not humility; thus, forgiveness is impossible. And we cannot forget the absence of a marital skill set for conflict resolution and communication skills. These things are not as apparent and as obvious as they may seem. Divorce takes place over time, and most times unconsciously, and the lack of the above-mentioned factors simply accent the complexities of one of the most difficult relationships on the planet. The following is some data that provides some additional factors that increase the probabilities of divorce.
6 Factors That Characterize Couples Who Are Prone to Divorce
Backgrounds of the two partners are too different.
Family of at least one member of the couple has divorce in their history.
Couple was acquainted a short period before they were married.
Couple has always had opposing views of the roles of men and women in relationships.
Family and friends disapprove of the marriage.
Couple has no formal membership in a religious group.
Exercise: Are you closely familiar with any couples who have divorced recently or who are considering divorce (or if you have considered divorce, use your own relational situation)? If so, which of the above characteristics are present in their relationship? How do you feel their relationship has been adversely affected by these characteristics?
How does a couple goes through the process of being in love to being in hate, or “strong dislike?” This is not a one-day decision, but is the result of a progression of negative behavior and practices over time. According to John Gottman, the four attitudes that most predict the dissolution of a relationship, especially in combination, are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Dr. John Gottman, is a psychologist at the University of Washington conducted a study with more than 2,000 married couples over two decades. Prior to this study, the school of behavioral science had a void concerning marriage data. He discovered patterns about how partners relate to each other, which can be used to predict – with 94% accuracy – which marriages will succeed and which will fail. Gottman refers to these four damaging attitudes as the four horseman of the apocalypse, and states that each horseman paves the way for the next.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse are destructive relational conflict patterns. The four stages are listed in order of progression that will work its way up to the apex of marital conflict and divorce.
The first horseman is Criticism. You become critical of one another. There is a difference between a criticism and a complaint. A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction (“I feel hurt”). A criticism is an attack on the other person’s personality, character ,or motivation (“You hurt me”) with the intent of making someone right or wrong. In this stage of the relationship negative generalizations are made, like “You always…” “You neverâ€¦” “You are the kind of person whoâ€¦” “Why are you soâ€¦?”
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The second horseman is Contempt. Disrespect rules. Name-calling begins, and you begin to categorize each other negatively. This is the attack of your spouse’s sense of self with the intention of causing emotional pain. This stage is marked by derogatory name-calling, like ugly, fat, stupid, etc. Also, it is marked by hostile humor and sarcasm or mockery. Negative body language is common in this stage of conflict.
The third horseman is Defensiveness. Every time you talk, you are defensive. Every time something is said, each partner is trying to find the other’s angle. This stage is marked by seeing yourself as the victim, trying to protect yourself from perceived attacks. This stage is marked by excuses for behavior, claiming that external factors caused you to have to react that way. This stage is a cross-complaining stage, where a partner’s complaint is met with a complaint of your own while ignoring your partner’s complaint. Thus conflict is characterized by: disagreeing and then cross-complaining “That’s not true, you’re the one who…”; ‘yes-butting’, starting off in agreement but then disagreement; repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying. It is the nadir of a lack of communication.
The fourth horseman is Stonewalling. You begin to cast the person’s identity and behavior in stone and are unable to see the person outside of this identity. As a result, the person develops a need to enter into autonomy (feels the need to get away and distance him/herself from the relationship), which leads to an unfulfilled marriage, which in turn, leads to divorce. This stage involves withdrawing from the relationship to avoid conflict. Partners may think that they are attempting to be neutral, but stonewalling conveys disapproval and rejection. Stonewalling produces a coldness, distance, disconnection, and smugness. People tend to be callously silent, muttering, changing the subject, and removing themselves physically.
Exercise: Describe which horseman has entered the following situation? Comment on this interaction between husband and wife.
Adrienne: “I need you to understand me. I feel that all we do is argue and fight, and we never work anything out. I love you, and I just want to be happy and to live in peace.”
Vernell: “Understand you? You don’t really feel that way! You’re just saying that trying to get some sympathy out of me. You think that using those flowery words is going to get me to change my mind? They’re not!”
Adrian: “I’m not just saying things – I’m speaking from my heart. I love you and everything about you. You eyes, your mouth, your hairâ€¦”
Vernell: “My hair? Now I know that you’re just trying to get something out of me. I can’t believe a word that you say! Just come out and say what you want, because I know that you want something!”
You must go on the attack against these four horsemen before your marriage reaches the point of no return and dies a natural death. Now is the time to access the many tools and methods that you have learned in this book. Ask yourself, “Do I really want this marriage? Is it worth fighting for?”
You must be intentional about taking immediate steps to counter the carnage being wrought by the four horsemen. For example, make specific complaints and requests (when X happened, I felt Y, I want Z) and avoid criticism at all cost. Make a decision to listen generously. Listen for accuracy, for the core emotions your partner is expressing and for what your partner really wants. Listen to the voice behind the words; there lays the sincere truth. In addition, you must heed and practice the following:
Validate your partner (let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying; let them know you understand what they are feeling, and what they want; see through their eyes)
Shift to appreciation (five positive interactions are necessary to compensate for one negative interaction) Be very intentional about creating good feelings and experiences.
Be responsible: “What can I learn from this?” and “What can I do about it?” and “How do I not allow this to happen again?”
Rewrite your inner script (notice when you are thinking critical, contemptuous or defensive thoughts; replace thoughts of righteous indignation or innocent victimization with thoughts of appreciation and responsibility that are soothing and validating).
Practice getting vulnerable again (allow your partner’s utterances to be what they really are: just thoughts and puffs of air) and let go of the stories that you are making up. In essence, you must stop interpreting and hearing in offense.
Watch all name-calling, use words that edify, not denigrate.
If you have found your marriage has allowed the four horsemen to invade it, you must reverse it before they prevail. Start where you are whether it be defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, or contempt. Begin reversing the horsemen and put them out of the relationship. You can turn it around! Begin by studying the behavior of each stage; since they are progressive stages, start practicing opposite behavior in each stage. Read this segment with your spouse and discuss each stage and the behavior and ask for forgiveness for the improper behavior and asked them to pray with you as you attempt to reverse this behavior. Start creating good feelings and do things that make each other smile.
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