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NFI Releases Report on National Marriage Survey (page 2)

By — National Fatherhood Initiative
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

Why do people really get divorced?

The conventional wisdom on divorce is that it only happens after both parties have tried their hardest for a long period of time to save their marriage. But the findings of this survey suggest that this may not be true, in many cases. When asked the questions, “do you wish you had worked harder to save the marriage?” and “do you wish your ex-spouse had worked harder to save the marriage?” only a third of respondents answered “no.” Also, 62% of ex-wives and exhusbands answered “yes” to the question, “do you wish your ex-spouse had worked harder to save the marriage?” These findings (along with “lack of commitment” being the number one reason given for divorce) run counter to the conventional wisdom that most divorces only happen after both spouses have done their best to save the marriage.

There is additional hope in these findings, because the most common reasons given for divorce are preventable. The top three reasons given by ex-husbands and ex-wives were “lack of commitment,” “too much conflict and arguing,” and “infidelity” – reasons that can be addressed by the counseling and interventions included in various healthy marriage initiatives.

Would people support government intervention in marriage?

There has been a lot of talk about the government “getting involved” in promoting marriage. The most common objection to this idea is that people do not want the government to interfere in such a private matter. However, the findings of this survey provide preliminary evidence that there is a base of support for the provision of premarital counseling for couples considering marriage, which is often the main objective of government marriage initiatives. In fact, 86% of respondents agreed that all couples considering marriage should be encouraged to get premarital counseling and almost half (47%) agreed that all couples should be required by law to have premarital counseling.

Does living together before getting married help produce a better marriage?

It is often said that living together before marriage – known as cohabitation – is a helpful and harmless way of testing compatibility before marriage and figuring out if couples are right for one another. At worst it shows a couple that they are not right for each other, causing a break-up, and at best it allows a couple to prepare for marriage. While there is no data showing how many marriages are avoided as a result of a bad cohabitation experience, this survey and many other studies provide evidence that cohabitation does not produce better marriages. In terms of both divorce and marital happiness, marriages that were preceded by cohabitation are less successful than those that were not.

What do Americans think of fathers?

This is another question that will yield a very negative response if the answer is sought on primetime television, where most fathers are portrayed as dumb, dangerous, and disaffected. By contrast, this survey provides extremely encouraging support for the institution of fatherhood. Namely, 97% of respondents agreed that fathers are just as important as mothers for the proper development of children. Also, 89% agreed that all things being equal, it is better for a child to be raised in a household with a married mother and father.

Conclusion

There is little doubt that marriage is one of the most venerable and significant institutions in American culture. Also, it is arguably society’s best “glue” to connect fathers to their children, heart to heart. The National Fatherhood Initiative National Marriage Survey provides a wealth of data that can help us answer the above questions, and many more, as we work to provide the best opportunities for children to thrive.

To see all of the National Fatherhood Initiative's quarterly newsletters, go to https://www.fatherhood.org/ftnewsletter.asp.

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