My friend “Stacy” is a licensed professional counselor. She is also a Christian who was abused. She says, “if the higher divorce rate today means that many of us abused women are getting out, when our mothers and grandmothers stayed in abusive marriages, this is good”.
I think everyone can agree that the divorce rate in the U.S. is high. I spent two hours searching the Internet today so I could give you an accurate divorce rate statistic. But I can’t. Why not? Statistics are very hard to interpret. One divorce rate statistic that we often hear is, “half of all marriages will end in divorce”. This statistic came about by using this type of thinking: One year in a certain region there were 2000 marriages. In that same region there were also 1000 divorces. Hence, someone did the math and said, “1000 is half of the 2000 marriages occurring that year, so half of all the marriages will end in divorce.”
OK, anyone can see the flaw in this logic. What about the 100,000 existing marriages that had taken place in that region in previous years?
“A better way, researchers suggest, calculates how many people who ever married subsequently divorced. Counted this way, the divorce rate has never exceeded 41 percent and is even now edging down. “This highest rate of divorce in the 2001 survey [of the Fertility and Family Branch of the Census Bureau] was 41 percent for men who were then between the ages of 50 and 59, and 39 percent for women in the same age group.” [i]
The Barna Group claims that the U.S. divorce rate is 33%. According to Barna, the statistics in the Christian community are not much different. They say the divorce rate for born again Christians is the same 33%.[ii]
I don’t think anyone would say that divorce in and of itself is a good thing. It causes heartbreak for all involved, especially the children. It often puts women and children in poverty. And it certainly was not God’s original design for marriage. Jesus said in Matthew 19:4-6:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
That was God’s ideal, original plan for marriage. Of course, sin entered the world, and we do not live in an ideal world. Jesus goes on to say that Moses allowed men to divorce their wives because their hearts were hard, (hard-hearted being a good description of an abusive man).
So, back to my counselor friend Stacy’s statement. Stacy says that almost everyone she sees who is getting a divorce, or has gotten a divorce was married to an abuser! She says she hardly ever sees a client who gets divorced because they “fall out of love” with their partner, or they are “bored”.
Of course, there are some people in the U.S. who divorce for these reasons, and I realize that one counselor’s client base is not a statistical sampling. I only bring up Stacy’s opinion as food for thought/discussion. Some pastors and well-known Christians would have us believe that all or most divorces are wrong and evil. They say that those who get divorced do so out of selfishness, ignorance or an unwillingness to “stick-it-out”.
It has been my experience that most abused women don’t give up on their marriages easily. On the contrary, the average number of times an abused woman will leave her abuser is seven. This means that she goes back to him six times before she leaves him for good. In my own case, I waited through twenty years of marriage, and five years of intense abuse before I finally sought a separation.
One in four women will be in an abusive intimate relationship in her lifetime. That is a lot of women. So, one possible reason that the divorce rate has increased over the last 50 years is that our society has made it easier and more acceptable for abused women to leave their abusive husbands.
Stacy says that forty years ago, our mothers and grandmothers would have stayed married to their abusive husbands no matter what. The fact that women these days are divorcing their abusers is a good thing. Once they are out of the marriage, they can get healing for themselves and their children. Then the cycle of abuse might not be passed down to the next generation.
AND if we stop passing down the tendency to become abusive to our sons, could it be possible that the divorce rate will be lower in thirty years?
Lord, I pray that you will be with our sisters who are currently suffering in unhappy marriages to abusive husbands. Lord, we know that you can change the hearts of these men. We also know that these men must be willing to admit that they have been abusive, and do hard work to change their behavior before any significant changes will occur.
For those women who determine that their lives and the lives of their children would be safer lived apart from their abusive husbands, we ask for your grace, mercy and peace.[i] http://www.divorcesource.com/ds/main/u-s-divorce-rates-and-statistics-1037.shtml