Shaunti Feldhahn is an author, speaker and social researcher. She and her husband Jeff are co-authors of books such as “For Women Only” and “For Men Only,” which have sold more than 3 million copies. Feldhahn has a graduate degree from Harvard University. The Feldhahns have two teenage children and live in Atlanta.
Why do you think Valentine’s Day is such a popular holiday in Western culture?
While opinions about this romantic day vary, Feldhahn said it is popular because love is a universal language.
“People love ‘love,’” Feldhahn said. “Love is this deep desire in everyone, so we celebrate that it exists. There are so many benefits to having a lifelong companion. The research shows you have better health, a better life and greater happiness.”
Can you debunk some of the marriage and divorce stats floating around?
Feldhahn said fabricated stats about marriage and divorce have become accepted in our thinking and in our churches, and she shared facts to debunk those myths.
>The divorce rate is not 50% for first marriages.
The undue pressure to find that “one” lifelong companion with which you will spend the rest of your life is scary enough.
Feldhahn said it only magnifies when you enter into marriage with the expectation that you have a 50-50 shot at making it.
“All of those stats are urban legend,” Feldhahn said. “We traced those studies for three years back to its source and it was a rabbit trail. If you believe the divorce rate is the flip of the coin or worse, it creates a sense of futility.”
Feldhahn said the divorce rate actually hovers around 25% for first marriages.
“People today have an unjustified view of marriage being bad and have bought into an unconventional view that we’ve somehow broken it,” Feldhahn added. “We’re trying to get this message back out there that marriage still works.”
>The divorce rate is not significantly higher for second or third marriages.
Those who remarry after a divorce see research with divorce numbers around 60% for a second marriage and 73% for a third marriage, which leads to feelings that are paralyzing.
“People who get remarried enter the relationship thinking they have a high chance of not making it, but it’s not true,” she said. “It’s maybe 30% to 35%, but no one knows, and it could actually be lower than that.”
>The divorce rate is not the same inside and outside the church.
Claims that church-going Christians—with their emphasis on moral values—get divorced as much as nonbelievers are not true.
“The rate of divorce is not the same inside the church,” Feldhahn said. “Every demographer believes that. In one study, we partnered with the Barna Group and found that if you are regular church attenders, the divorce rate plummets by 25% to 30%. A recent study from Harvard found that just by attending church, the divorce rate drops 47%.”
>The highest divorce rate is for those who marry young.
The overall trend is that people are waiting to marry, and Feldhahn said that can be a good thing.
“Some reasons for delaying marriage are good,” Feldhahn added. “The only group with a high divorce rate is those who marry before the age of 21. After 25, the divorce rate lowers. Age matters because when you are young, you don’t really know yourself, let alone your spouse. For example, a lot of the time you don’t know what your angry about, so how can you help your spouse understand? You’re not emotionally ready to make a lifelong commitment.”
What marriage milestones are typically the hardest seasons for couples?
Every marriage has its ups and downs.
Feldhahn said to survive the demanding seasons comes down to one thing.
“It’s any transition, whether it’s having a child, changing jobs, when your kids leave home and you’re now an empty nester, one spouse’s health declines or a tragedy happens, like losing a family member,” Feldhahn said. “If you have a tight friendship with each other, you can weather the storms in most cases.”
Talk about your upcoming book, “Thriving in Love & Money.”
The Feldhahns’ new book releases March 3, but it’s not about budgeting, getting out of debt or financial planning.
While all couples deal with money, Feldhahn found that many avoid talking about it at all costs.
“We were studying about why we get tense about money, and we found it has nothing to do with money, but how it makes us feel in terms of our underlying fears and worries,” Feldhahn said. “One, money helps us to understand ourselves. For example, suppose I call Jeff on the way home from a tiring day of meetings to suggest I get Chinese takeout. He says, ‘I’ve got some chicken breasts from Costco in the fridge that I can grill instead. It’d be cheaper to just do that.’ Why does that bug me or him? We need to realize every conversation about money can lead to either conflict or connection with our spouse.”