Thursday, June 5, 2014

"The Good News About Marriage" by Shaunti Feldhahn
I confess I read very little nonfiction, unless there is a specific subject I am looking up, and then I feel no obligation to read any more than what is pertinent to the subject of my research.  However, since my husband and I had read For Men Only and For Women Only back in courting days, I recognized the author and decided to give this book a shot.  Feldhahn's books are not based on theology or what people should do and think, but are instead a compilation of the findings of extensive surveys and research on what people actually do and think. 

Shaunti Feldhahn (with the help of Tally Whitehead) has devoted a book to the surprising news that marriage is not doomed, dividing her findings into five main points.  Based on numerous studies and surveys, Feldhahn debunks the "well-known fact" that 50% of marriages end in divorce (in reality, the highest it has ever been was around the year 1980, and divorce rates have been slowly decreasing since to about 31%); that most marriages are so-so or unhappy (her findings show that most marriages are happy to very happy); that divorce is just as common inside the church as outside (the myth is a result of misinterpreted data; divorce rates are significantly lower in the church); that remarriages are doomed (the majority of remarriages thrive), and that marriage problems result from major issues (when most unhappy marriages stem from day-to-day misunderstandings and unintended hurt, and simple changes can make a big difference). 

If you cannot handle numbers or statistics, then this book is not for you.  The author cites studies by reputable (and often misquoted) sources, as well as her own in her extensive research on marriage in the United States.  However, if numbers do not scare you, this is a good book to read and share - she does a good job clarifying what the studies specifically looked at and therefore what the numbers mean, especially in cases where her findings differ so greatly from the norm.

The statistics published in this book make sense to me, based on marriages of people I know - among my parents' siblings and my first cousins who are married, roughly 1 in 8 are divorced - that's 12.5% - nothing remotely near the popular 50% (or even the author's figure of 31%).  And that ratio holds pretty true for my friends and their parents. 

This book by no means states that the state of marriage is perfect or even near where it should be, but it clarifies common misconceptions that have created an extremely discouraging view of marriage - the truth is, things are not nearly as bad as people think, and there is a lot of optimism for marriage.  While it does not have much applicable insight (such as how to make a marriage happier or prevent divorce), it conveys hope in an area that has long been struggling, and that hope in and of itself may be enough to tip a marriage toward success rather than failure.  So while I would not recommend that everyone go out and buy their own copy, I do recommend reading it and sharing it - this is a great book to pass around to get the word out there of the good news about marriage. 

It is so vital for us to affirm that although there are many marriages that are hard or go through hard times, that most of the time, marriage is delightful - that it's okay to hope and work for that type of marriage, even as we emphasize that not having it is never an excuse to give up.

Because the good-news truth is that in most cases, marriage is the most amazing, delightful, and profound earthly relationship that any of us will ever know. The truth is that although most couples have to work at marriage, and some will go through very hard times, most come out the other side and enjoy each other for a lifetime. The truth is, although we can never look to marriage to make us happy, we need to trumpet the fact that when a couple chooses wisely and then takes the scary but wonderful step of commitment for life, they are much more likely to have that abundant relationship they are hoping for. (60)

I received a free copy of this book from  Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own. 

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