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Love and Marriage Article
Looking for Love in All the Right Places

by Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

You often hear that 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce.  While technically correct, that number does not tell the whole story.  As a professor friend of ours used to say, “Statistics are for liars and damn liars!”  The harsh reality is, people can take the same numbers and draw different meanings.  Let’s take a deeper look at this phenomenon and try to determine a number that is probably more accurate – one that more honestly reflects the real truth about marriage for most people.

The first simple truth is that there are a lot of people who get married multiple times.  The record shows that there are people who have actually been married six or more times.  Just imagine, being married six or more times!  We suspect that this is because they are, in part, looking for love in all the wrong places.  We will come back to this notion a little later.

Simple truth number two is this, for a typical year in the world as a whole, the number of people getting married is approximately FIVE times the number of people getting divorced.  Of course, there are different cultural and religious traditions as you move from country to country, but worldwide, five times as many people get married versus getting divorced.  We suspect that the ratio in the United States is less than 5 to 1 but certainly greater than 2 to 1.  The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

The third simple truth is that somewhere between 40% and 50% of first marriages end in divorce.  Our review of the numbers suggests it is closer to 40%. But here is where it gets interesting -- those getting divorced from their first marriage who remarry are much more likely to get divorced a second time.  The USA divorce rate after the second marriage ranges from 60% to 67%, depending on whose numbers you believe.  But the real eye-opening number is that nearly 75% of third marriages end in divorce!

So, what does one conclude from all this?  First, the divorce rate in the USA impacts far fewer individuals that you have probably been led to believe by the popular media.  For example, if a certain group of individuals get married multiple times the number of divorces gets skewed upward.  It is hard to miss the logic here.  It seems clear that the oft quoted divorce rate of 50% in the USA includes individuals who have been divorced more that once; hence, the actual number of people divorces effect is probably much lower than 50% if you remove from the equation those who have been divorced more than once.

We might also add, our read of the numbers suggests that the divorce rate in the USA is dropping.  Over the past 3-4 years we think it has dropped some 4-7%, and that’s good news.  Let’s hope the trend continues.

Now, let’s get back to the main point of this article.  We believe we have established the fact that divorce in the USA impacts far fewer actual people than many have been led to believe.  Further, there does appear to be a downward trend in the divorce rate over the past several years.  But what is up with the high number of people getting married and divorced multiple times?  They skew the numbers and give an impression of marriage that is misleading. 

We believe that many folks are afraid of marriage and relationships because they read the headlines in the newspapers and magazines, and because they watch way too much television where the focus is, more often than not, on glorifying divorce and separation, on belittling the value and sanctity of marriage.  It’s a shame really and it has caused people desperate for love to look for love in all the wrong places.  Here’s what we mean.

There is science involved with understanding why so many marriages beyond the first one fail.  People desperate for love go to singles bars, nightclubs, use dating services, log on to and, to name a few.  Now ask yourself this very honest and forthright question – do you really expect to find Mr. Right or Ms. Right through one of these venues?  That is not to say that it doesn’t happen from time to time, but we suspect that people looking for true and lasting love in these places rarely find it.  This is not meant as a criticism of these venues so much as our attempt to open your eyes to the chances of finding someone to spend your life with in places like this. 

Frankly, the high multiple divorce rate phenomenon that affects a lot of folks is sad, really.  Most people we know and have interviewed over the years really want to find true and lasting love.  But our advice to them is go to places where you are more likely to find another person looking for true and lasting love – at church or the synagogue, Thanksgiving Dinner at a friend’s house, over a cup of coffee while you study in the dining area at the university, at volunteer opportunities, by belonging to social organizations like dance clubs, at interest oriented meetings such as book clubs or community action groups, and at work (this gets a little complicated at times!), to name a few. 

In our judgment the principle cause for multiple divorce is because people in search of love look for it in all the wrong places.  Start looking for love in the right places and we are confident you will find the one you want to celebrate your golden anniversary with.  And if more people took this strategy, the reported divorce rate would go down dramatically and people would give marriage the chance it deserves instead of being scared away by the oft-reported negative numbers.

Love well!

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