Written by Krsnanandini Devi Dasi & Tariq Saleem Ziyad
A Little Trouble with Statistics:
If you’re like us, you’re always a little wary of statistics. You know that they have to exist. Products and research get funded or not funded, accepted or rejected by such diverse groups as scientists, universities, food conglomerates and advertising companies, based on statistics. They serve a good purpose but the trouble with statistics is that in certain cases they can be general, may be confusing, can sometimes be utilized to prove two or more very different theories and don’t seem so personal. It’s the last one that gets to us the most because we all look at how things affect us.
So when it comes to divorce rates, the same applies. Some statistics say the divorce rate in America is going down. As marriage and family educators, we would be happy to accept these statistics. When we look carefully however, we realize that this finding does not necessarily reflect the good news it purports to. That’s because it must be tempered with the fact that well, there just aren’t as many people getting married as say 20 –30 years ago. People are cohabitating more and staying single longer.
The Personal Connection:
What we do know though, as we look around, is that our sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles and aunts are not as married as often as they were when we were growing up. For example, in our family, out of 20 immediate (very close) adult women relatives, only four are married. Sixteen are mothers, ten are divorced and eleven are single mothers. Now these are personal statistics we can easily relate to. We get the calls in the middle of the night for help that we wouldn’t get but for the fact of divorce and single parenting; we see the difference when there are two people, a husband and wife working together as a team to sort through some of the challenges of parenting and cooperating to manage a household in today’s world. Statistics make more sense when you can personalize them so it’s a good idea to assess your own environment and see what is going on in terms of divorce and marriage.
Hope on the Horizon:
There is good news though. We’re getting more and more calls for premarital education and marriage enrichment. Our family members are clearly re-examining their ideas about marriage and encouraging young people to make better choices. We know this because they are asking for help and having family meetings about marital and family decisions. For example, one of our nieces postponed her wedding so that she and her fiancé could take some relationship classes. A cousin and his wife, on the brink of divorce, decided to get marriage education to see if they could save their marriage. A marriage day event we coordinated earlier this year brought out scores of couples and many favorable community folk.
This summer, we’ve already been invited to five weddings. This number is three more than last year around the same time. So personally, we’re seeing an increase in people taking marriage more seriously, especially if they want to have children or already have them. At least two of these newly married couples from last year spent a lot of time learning healthy relationship skills, better tools to communicate, analyzing values that were important and discussing quite in depth their financial realities, goals and expectations. They also took premarital inventories to get a good sense of their relationship strengths and challenges.
So, we’re personally seeing more serious commitments to marriage which should result in fewer divorces. For us, these are good signs. We’d like to see marriage across the board be valued as a unique and special institution for human beings who want to keep progressing as families and societies. We’d like to see more happier, intact families with mothers and fathers working together to raise caring, conscientious, productive children. We think it can happen if we focus on teaching healthy relationship skills and character building, encourage people to get premarital education before they get married and promote the value of faithful marriage as a thing of great benefit to society.