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The Good News About Marriage

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Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce

Written by Shaunti FeldhahnAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Shaunti Feldhahn
As told to Tally WhiteheadAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Tally Whitehead
Foreword by Andy StanleyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Andy Stanley

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List Price: $9.99

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On Sale: May 06, 2014
Pages: 192 | ISBN: 978-1-60142-563-8
Published by : Multnomah Books WaterBrook Multnomah/Image
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Synopsis

Divorce is not the biggest threat to marriage. Discouragement is.

You’ve probably heard the grim facts: Half of all marriages end in divorce. The divorce rate inside the church is the same as outside. Most marriages are just holding on. But what if these “facts” are actually myths?

In The Good News About Marriage, best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn presents groundbreaking research that reveals the shocking, incredibly inspiring truth:

· The actual divorce rate has never gotten close to 50 percent.

· Those who attend church regularly have a significantly lower divorce rate than those who don’t.

· Most marriages are happy.

· Simple changes make a big difference in most marriage problems.

· Most remarriages succeed.

For too long, our confidence in marriage has been undermined by persistent misunderstandings and imperfect data. This landmark book will radically change how we think and talk about marriage—and what we can dare to hope from it.

“Shaunti takes aim at marriage myths that have spread like a cancer through our culture–myths that have become self-fulfilling prophecies. This book is packed with game-changing revelations. Like this one: Not only are most people staying married, they are happy in their marriages!” –Emerson Eggerichs, best-selling author of Love and Respect

Excerpt

What Most People Don’t Know…but Need To

In 2006 I was writing one of my newspaper opinion columns and referencing the high prevalence of divorce. I wanted to correctly cite the most recent divorce rate but was confused by conflicting sources and articles. After trying to figure it out for two or three hours (a lifetime in the newspaper business), I tossed it to my then research assistant (now senior researcher) Tally Whitehead, so I could keep working on the column. But after several more hours, Tally came back even more perplexed than when we started.

It can’t be this difficult, I thought. We quickly called a respected expert on marriage and divorce and asked, “What’s the exact divorce rate?”

Her unexpected answer: “No one knows.”

Huh? Before I could say anything, she continued, “And it depends on what you mean by the ‘divorce rate.’ There are many different types of divorce rates. There are also many different surveys, of different groups of people; there are different ways of tracking the rate of divorce today and projecting it in the future. They all say different things. There’s no way to know one ‘exact’ rate.”

“Well…” I tried to gather my flustered thoughts. “Just an estimate, then. Roughly what percentage of marriages will end in divorce? Like, what does the Census Bureau say?”

“The Census Bureau stopped projecting divorce rates in 1996. And even those projections were based on divorce increasing, and it’s decreased instead. That won’t help you.”

“The divorce rate has decreased? Really? But it is still around 50 percent, right?” After all, I’d heard for years that half of all marriages end in divorce.

“Actually, the divorce rate has never hit 50 percent. It has never even gotten close. Again, it depends on what you mean by the divorce rate, but no matter what definition you use, we’re significantly below 50 percent right now. It is maybe closer to 30 to 40 percent, but again, no one knows.”

My first thought was Nuts! I’m going to have to edit my column.

My second thought was But wait a minute. What? The divorce rate has never gotten close to 50 percent? Why haven’t we heard this before? That’s a really big deal!

That was eight years ago. And only gradually over the next few years did I begin to realize what a big deal the truth actually was—not only about that, but about several other marriage and divorce myths. Myths that are very discouraging…and very common.

Why It Matters That We Get to the Truth

As part of the relationship research that my husband, Jeff, and I have done over the past twelve years, we have interviewed and surveyed thousands of people about their innermost thoughts, needs, and fears. Early on, we began to get a clear window not only into their needs as men and women, which was what we were primarily trying to study, but also into how their relationships worked, what inspired and discouraged them, what they believed about marriage, parenting, the workplace, and culture. Eventually it was clear that there was one common denominator among marriages that survived versus those that failed: hope. There were many different factors that led to either outcome,
of course. But underneath it all was this bottom line: Did the couple have a sense of hope…or a sense of futility?

A couple could go through a terrible period, but if they felt certain they would make it, they usually did. Even if a couple lacked that certainty, the hope that things could get better was often enough to keep them going. With a feeling of We can get through this, they would do what was needed to right the ship, patch the holes, and keep sailing.

But if a couple instead thought This is never going to get better or We’re not going to make it, they usually seemed to have a different outcome. A sneaking feeling of futility took over and with it a sense of inevitability. They assumed things would never change, even if they wanted them to. Instead of motivating the couple to fight harder for their marriage, their belief in approaching doom had the opposite effect. After all, if the ship is going to sink anyway, why bother working so hard to bail it out? Far better, they think, to work on escaping the wreck intact.

In other words, a couple’s futile feeling We aren’t going to make it ends up being one of the main reasons they don’t make it. Those who work directly with troubled couples—counselors, therapists, clergy, and marriage mentors—told me they generally agree. If even one spouse has a sense of hope that things can change, or simply a vision to keep going no matter what, it is amazing how often that one-sided commitment keeps the marriage afloat long enough to get it sailing again. But it is tough to overcome both spouses having a sense of futility.

The Big Cultural Problem

The problem is that we have a culture-wide sense of futility when it comes to marriage, a feeling that, as you will see in the following chapters, is based on conventional wisdom that simply isn’t true! I hear it everywhere. A sense of discouragement about marriage, and the evidence that seems to justify it, saturates our culture. The idea that half of all marriages end in divorce, for example, is accepted as fact.

For years, and with all good intentions, we have been thinking and talking about marriage as being in trouble. We comment on the “unhealthy” state of our unions and the “skyrocketing rate of divorce.” I cannot count the number of times I myself have referenced the 50 percent divorce rate from the stage in my marriage conferences! Many books, TV shows, radio programs, speeches, and sermons also discuss just how often happiness fades in marriage. Married couples talk about beating the odds, while live-in couples ponder, Why should we bother getting married? And in the process we are absorbing a vastly inflated sense of futility. Because although there are indeed plenty of legitimate concerns about marriage, there are others—a lot of others!—that are closer to myth than reality.

I am guilty of spreading every one of those myths myself. But not anymore. After an eight-year investigative study, I now know that although there are plenty of challenges, most marriages are still far stronger, happier, and longer lasting than most of us realize. It is so important for us to get that truth out there because, as mentioned earlier, the belief otherwise can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Another consequence of our cultural discouragement is that many couples avoid marriage altogether for the same reason. I recently read an excerpt of a popular book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, in which the author explained why she avoided marrying her boyfriend for eleven years: “By not marrying Karl, we could never get divorced. By not marrying him, he would never be lost to me.”1

After years of interviews and surveys, I have heard this type of fatalistic reasoning more times than I can count, and it is undoubtedly one reason for some of the cultural concerns that are accurate and that worry those who care about marriage. For example, more people today are living together as their first step, instead of or before marrying.2 More than four in ten children are being born to unmarried women.3 And one reason for these trends is the sheer number of people who think getting married is futile.

Those who work directly with couples are just as concerned as the couples themselves. I know I sure used to be, as I would speak at a marriage conference, look out over the audience, and wonder how many of them would be divorced in a few years. And in the church community where I often do those marriage conferences, I find that pastors, priests, and counselors are even more discouraged. They, after all, are often the ones most likely to be contacted when a marriage goes wrong. I can no longer count the number of pastors who have expressed, “It is so discouraging to marry a young couple and know that they have only a one in two chance of making it.”

And it’s not just in the Judeo-Christian world that clerics are troubled. After seeing in a church conference advertisement that I would be sharing my research about the small things that make a big difference in marriages, a local Muslim imam came for the day to take notes. Afterward, we spent some time talking, and he explained his concerns for those he ministers to:

In my community, we have a lower divorce rate, I think. But that doesn’t mean we have a better feeling about
marriage. It doesn’t mean we have figured out how to do marriage well. We have many couples from other countries;
some are in arranged marriages. Traditionally, a couple gets married expecting to be together for life, whether or not they are happy. But now, here [in America], that isn’t enough. Usually a family is here because they want the American pursuit of happiness. They see it on TV and they want that great life, that good marriage, but don’t always know how. And they don’t always have the structure around them to help—the grandparents or the friends. And when one person in our community gets divorced, they worry that they will be next. They need this encouragement that they can make it.
Shaunti Feldhahn|Andy Stanley

About Shaunti Feldhahn

Shaunti Feldhahn - The Good News About Marriage

Photo © Judith Brock Photography

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of For Women Only and other books with sales of more than two million copies in 22 languages. With a master’s degree from Harvard, Shaunti uses her analytical skills to uncover life-changing surprises about our most important relationships. Her research has been featured on The Today Show, Focus on the Family radio, in Cosmopolitan magazine, and in the New York Times. She and her husband, Jeff, have two children and live in Atlanta.

About Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley - The Good News About Marriage
Andy Stanley is a pastor, communicator, author, and the founder of North Point Ministries, Inc. (NPM). Since its inception in 1995, North Point Ministries has grown from one campus to five in the Atlanta area and has developed a global network of more than 30 strategic partner churches.
 
Each Sunday, more than 30,000 people attend worship services at one of NPM’s five campuses: Browns Bridge Community Church, Buckhead Church, Gwinnett Church, North Point Community Church, and Watermarke Church.
 
Andy’s books include the recently re-released When Work and Family Collide, as well as Enemies of the Heart, The Grace of God, Next Generation Leader, and How Good Is Good Enough? Andy and his wife, Sandra, live in Alpharetta, Georgia, and have three teenagers.
 
For more information about Andy Stanley and North Point Ministries, visit www.northpointministries.org.
Praise

Praise

Praise for The Good News About Marriage

“In the thirty-two years I have been deeply immersed in the world of marriage ministry, I have been demoralized at times by the negative statistics quoted. And now I am ecstatic as I read the truth in this incredible book. Thank you, Shaunti, for doing the hard work necessary to expose the myths and lies and for finally revealing the facts about marriage. This book and the undeniable research in it is a game changer!”
—Jimmy Evans, founder and CEO of MarriageToday, senior pastor of Trinity Fellowship

“This is an important book. Shaunti and Tally do an impressive job of showing that there is room for different viewpoints on divorce statistics and room for optimism about marriage. I believe that people make higher-risk choices partly because they have lost hope in marriage, and this book presents a basis for real hope.”
—Dr. Scott Stanley, coauthor of A Lasting Promise, research professor at the University of Denver

“Lamenting the demise of the family has almost become a cottage industry. There’s a lot of legitimate bad news out there, but Shaunti reminds readers that the situation might not be nearly as dire as we think—in fact, there are encouraging signs of hope. That’s a welcome message!”
—Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family

“There are many bad stats out there about marriage, but Shaunti debunks those myths and provides clarity about marriage in general and how to strengthen your own marriage. The Good News About Marriage is well worth your time.”
—Ed Stetzer, PhD, president of LifeWay Research

“Every Christian leader in America needs to read the groundbreaking, hope-filled research in this book. Then they need to recommend that everyone in their sphere of influence read it as well! This is one of the most important marriage books I’ve ever read, and it will change how all of us think and talk about marriage
and divorce.”
—Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times best-selling author, president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

“This book is great news about marriage! Every pastor, coach, or counselor will find a new zeal for working with marriages after learning the truth about the state of marriage today. I cannot wait to have Shaunti share these truths with the Catalyst audience.”
—Tyler Reagin, executive director of Catalyst

The Good News About Marriage offers an important word of encouragement to believers who wonder if faith makes a difference in modern married life. Believers who put their faith into practice—who worship together and pray together—are much more likely to enjoy stable and happy marriages. This is good news indeed.”
—W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia

“Academically rigorous, honest, and refreshingly bold, this book will make you question what you’ve always heard about the bad news of marriage. A seminal work, this book could change the social narrative about marriage for generations. This is a mustread for academics, marriage educators, and couples alike.”
—Ron L. Deal, director of FamilyLife Blended, best-selling author of The Smart Stepfamily

“This groundbreaking research gives us a whole different framework to think about marriage, divorce, and relationships. This is fantastic material that provides powerful tools to help us improve our personal relationships and those in our communities.”
—Jud Wilhite, author of The God of Yes, pastor of Central Christian Church

“Shaunti’s thoroughly researched book will inject life and hope, not only into our national consciousness about marriage, but also into every individual marriage in the country.”
—Dr. Tim Clinton, president of American Association of Christian Counselors, executive director of Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University

“Shaunti takes aim at marriage myths that have spread like cancer through our culture—myths that have become self-fulfilling prophecies. This book is packed with game-changing revelations! Bravo to Shaunti for her outstanding research.”
—Emerson Eggerichs, best-selling author of Love and Respect

“This is some of the most important information on marriage for this generation, and Shaunti brings practical inspiration on every page. This is the new go-to book for facts on marriages in America—and it’s much better news than we often hear.”
—Dr. Jim Burns, president of HomeWord, author of Creating an Intimate Marriage and Closer

“You’ve read the bad news about marriage—the cohabiting couples, extramarital affairs, and soaring divorce rates. But this book shows there’s a lot of good news about marriage today, and it’s about time someone said so!”
—Bob Lepine, co-host of FamilyLife Today

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of these findings. Our beliefs directly influence our actions, and our beliefs about marriage have been wrong. Shaunti and Tally provide genuine hope that is based on truth. This book changes everything.”
—Christopher McCluskey, best-selling author, president of Professional Christian Coaching Institute

“Shaunti Feldhahn presents profound truth in the most relatable way. We have consistently used her books to help lay foundations for strong marriages in our church and to gain tremendous perspective about our own relationship. Now, in The Good News About Marriage, Shaunti gives us the gifts of a positive perspective and a practical strategy to make the most of our marriages.”
—Steven and Holly Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church, author of the New York Times bestseller Greater

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