Why Are These Marriages So Happy?
The average divorce rate for first marriages in the US is 50%. Yet the average divorce rate amongst those who pray together daily is only 1%. One cannot but ask what is it about praying together daily that leads to such a low divorce rate.
As we seek to find answers to this question, it is good to look at some other statistics.
The divorce rate amongst couples who remarry after divorce is 78%.
Couples who live together before marriage are 33% more likely to divorce
than couples who don't live together before marriage.
Couples who 'save themselves' for marriage, that is are virgins at the time
of the marriage, are considerably less likely to divorce than those who have
been sexually active.
If even the woman has 'saved herself' for marriage, the divorce rate is
lower than where the woman has been sexually active before marriage.
Couples who share the same faith, and who regularly attend church services
together have a lower than average divorce rate, and also a significantly
higher marriage satisfaction rate.
But far more important than attending Church together is where this is combined with praying together and reading the Bible together at home.
The divorce rate for those who pray and read the Bible together daily is just 1%..
Unfortunately, not very many Christian couples read the Bible together or pray together. Only about 4% of Christian couples pray together on a daily basis.
Meanwhile couples who practise natural family planning also greatly buck the
trend towards divorce with just a 5% divorce rate. See below for analysis of this.
As we seek to understand the factors behind these different statistics, it is good to remember that there are both human factors and divine factors at work.
Very few commentators seek to take account of the divine factors. The
divine factors are where one's life and actions leave one more open to the
guidance of the Holy Spirit and more open to God's anointing.
The opposite to that, is where one's life and one's actions greatly reduces one's openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to God's blessing and anointing.
The human factors and the divine factors intertwine.
Take the fact that those who live together before marriage are 33% more
likely to divorce than those who don't live together before marriage.
Firstly there are the human factors. They may have rushed into a sexual
relationship before giving themselves real time to get to know each other.
They may have shortened the courtship phase of their relationship where
couples not merely spend time getting to know each other, but also spend
time developing common interests.
Couples who are not living together usually develop habits of making time
for each other by doing things together, whereas living together is the lazy
way of spending time together which can lead quickly to taking one another
On top of that, they have made a decision to ignore God's teaching and to do
things their way instead of seeking to do them God's way. When difficulties
arise in their relationship, they are likely to again ignore God's teaching
and to do things their own way.
Then there are the divine factors which have roots in these human factors.
Their rejection of God's teaching leaves them less open to the guidance of
the Holy Spirit, and less open to God's blessing and anointing.
Thus when problems arise, they are very dependent on their own thinking, and
lack the capacity to be guided by the Holy Spirit towards the steps to
reconciliation and the acceptance of one another's weaknesses.
Even in their good times, they are less open to the Holy Spirit leading them
into love and appreciation of one another.
Compare that to couples who develop the habit of praying and reading the
Instead of the 50% average divorce rate, and the much greater divorce rate
amongst those who live together before marriage, those didn't live together
before marriage and who pray together daily have just a 1% divorce rate. Why
Their willingness to pray together is an indication of their desire to put
God at the centre of their homes and to do things His way.
Their praying together will facilitate a bonding at the deeper level of their being. It is also an indication of their willingness to have time for one another.
When difficulties arise, they are more likely to try to handle them God's
way by working through them.
The Divine Factors that build on the human factors
Praying together leaves them more open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Depending on the method of praying used, it should also lead to ongoing
spiritual growth, to an increased ability to love, and to ongoing inner healing.
When challenges arise, they are more likely to be open to the guidance of
the Holy Spirit in overcoming them.
Should one of them develop a serious personal problem, it at least increases
the chances that he or she will be able to deal with it.
From that it seems to me that the best pre-marriage course we could offer couples is a crash course in how to pray TOGETHER.
But it isn't as simple as giving them prayers to recite. Sometimes people
can say or recite prayers without it really touching their hearts.
The prayer methods that are most effective are those which lead them to having
1. An increased openness to Jesus living within them.
2. An increased ability to draw strength from Jesus.
3. An increased openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
4. An increased ability to lovingly accept others.
5. An increased ability to face the trials of life.
6. An increased ability to face the truth about their own selfish tendencies.
"The Spirit Powered Life" method of prayer focuses on all these.
"The Young Person's Spirit Powered Life" is ideal for family prayer where there are children aged 7 upwards.
But while the photos and layout have children in mind, the key prayer thoughts and prayers are powerful for all ages.
"The Spirit Powered Life" and "The Young Person's Spirit Powered Life" are on sale in God's Cottage for 0.60 each. By Post from the Diary Office 1.60 euro each or GB £2.20; any 5 for 5.50 euro (GB £8; any 11 for c10 (GB 12)
CD of workshop on Spirit Power Life by post 7.5euro (GB £7.50); CD plus 1
booklet 8.50 euro (GB £9.50); CD plus any 2 booklets 9.50 euro GB £11
Humanae Vitae - Never Explained and why couples who use natural family planning are so stable
The impact that contraception would have on young people's attitudes to sex
weighed heavily on Pope Paul V1 and influenced how he presented Humanae
Vitae exactly 50 years ago.
He warned that contraception "could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings - and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation - need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law."
Sadly his concerns have been proved totally correct.
With contraception, sex has moved from being seen as an expression of love
and faithfulness to being seen as a recreational activity.
A. This has impacted on people's relationship with God.
B. It has led to soaring levels of STDs.
C. It has led to increased divorce and family break-ups.
D. It has led indirectly to wholesale abortion.
Pope Paul continued, "Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a
man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the
reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional
equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of
his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should
surround with care and affection."
In this too he has sadly been proved correct, though it often isn't just men
who have lost reverence.
Following the publication of Humanae Vitae, the Church divided into two main
groups:- those who rebelled against it and those who insisted that any
breach of it was a mortal sin. The one Irish theologian to hold forth a middle ground was Professor Kevin McNamara, later Archbishop of Dublin.
He rightly focused on the paragraph,
"Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral
evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good,
'it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may
come of it'.
What is the difference between TOLERATING a lesser evil and DOING evil that good may come of it?
To the best of my knowledge Professor (later Archbishop) Kevin McNamara is
the only church leader in Ireland who has made a realistic attempt to
explain this most important difference in the last 50 years. Very sad
Take the case of a married man who finds himself gripped with temptation to
commit adultery or go with a prostitute.
Suppose he knows that if he masturbates, it will break the power of the
temptation. He doesn't wish to masturbate, but he knows it will break the
temptation, and so he "tolerates" doing so, to both "prevent a greater evil
and promote a greater good". He is still not in a right position before
God, but neither is he in mortal sin. He still needs healing and
deliverance, but for the moment, it is the best that he can do - and Jesus
loves him as he is.
The target, of course, is to come to so love God, that day by day, one will
be able to starve all temptations until one is truly free of sexual
Family planning is more complex as it involves two people. But a person may
have a genuine desire to abide by Church teaching, but there may be factors
which, for the moment, make it impossible for him or her to do so. He or
she may accept that natural family planning is Gods way, but he or she is
forced to "tolerate" a lesser method for the moment.
Meanwhile in the US, those who practise natural family planning have just a 5% divorce rate whereas the average is 50%. Why is this?
Firstly take the human factors.
A couple who practises natural family planning are likely doing so out of a
desire to do things God's way. To a greater or lesser extent, God is likely
at the centre of their home.
Their embracing of natural family planning also shows a willingness to
exercise self control and to work together for the good of their marriage.
Cooperating together on the workings of natural family planning often
increases a couple's level of intimacy and bonding, and may lead to the wife
feeling cherished and loved.
They are likely also attending Church together, and while they may not be
praying together daily, it is likely that there is prayer in their lives and
also some knowledge of the Bible.
Then there are the divine factors which build on the human factors.
All this leave them far more open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and
also far more open to God's blessing. Thus the Holy Spirit is able to guide
them and prompt them both in the good times and when difficulties arise.
In the good times, the Holy Spirit can put into their hearts a deeper love
and appreciation for one another, plus a sense of awe and sacredness at
being loved by and loving another human being with an eternal soul.
This love and appreciation of another's goodness, then makes them more
accepting of one another's imperfections. This in turn, will increase the
chances that they will find a way to work through their difficulties.
Meanwhile we can only bemoan the fact Humane Vitae was never presented to
God's people in a compassionate caring way; holding before them the
advantages of Natural Family Planning, while yet showing compassion to those
who were forced to "tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater
evil (and) in order to promote a greater good."
Finding ways to cope in a 'destructive'
The following is an
extract from one of many letters I have received on this
subject and my answer to it. While situations differ,
anyone in a 'destructive' marriage could gain from
following the suggestions I have made.
Dear Fr. Thady,
It is the most painfully destructive experience to live
in a marriage when a person is unwilling to share or even
meet halfway or quarter-way. Don't know why I continue on
- fear of not being able to cope - of making the break -
commitment to duty - children, grandchildren - of wagging
tongues - no where to go, and not enough money to live on
Have I been cowardly? Why does God not help me? I'm
involved in community and parish over the years. I visit
a few elderly people in my neighbourhood. I go to
Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion every 1st
Friday 1st Saturday. I usually get to daily Mass. I spend
time very often with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration. I
read the Bible and other spiritual books.
But I'm a kind of a 'hypocrite' at home because I cannot
relate to this man whom I have to live with. My
personality changes as soon as he comes home. I usually
go to another part of the house. There's not much I can
do because he's all into business. May I humble ask your
kind prayers to know if I should continue on this way.
What is God's will. I know I am a sinner and I've had a
very 'troubled' life.
It is impossible for me to feel loved by God yet I read
all the great stories of people experiencing being loved.
Most of life is about punishment. I know we deserve to
suffer because of our sins. It is very hard and
humiliating to live in a 'sham' way. What can I do?
While your letter was
thorough and well written, it is not possible to assess
everything from a letter. However, presuming that abuse
isn't involved, I make the following suggestions.
1) Find a regular confessor to whom you can be totally
honest, and go to Confession face to face. Open to him
the aversion you have for your husband, and all the inner
thoughts and desires that go with it. In this way the
light of Christ can shine into your inner mind and heart.
Keep going to Confession regularly, and continue to open
your inner frustration, hurt and anger. Don't worry about
(What the Confessor says to you is of very little
importance, so don't get hung up on it. The important
part is you being totally honest, and opening up your
(Alternatively you could go to a Christian counsellor.)
2) Start opening all the pain that is in your heart to
the Lord. Identify the key elements of it - the reasons
you feel this aversion for your husband - how you feel
let down and neglected. Write down the different thoughts
that come to you as you go along.
3) Hold the inner pain before Jesus each day in daily
prayer, thanking Him that He has won for you the right to
immense inner healing. Desire the total dissolution of
this mountain of pain. Continue to write down the new
insights that come to you.
4) Accept that is isn't possible for you to love your
husband with your own emotions. Then become conscious
that Jesus does love Him. Focus on Jesus' love for him.
(Even though your emotions have very negative feelings,
seek for your inner spirit to unite with the love of
Jesus for him.)
5) Praise and thanksgiving open us to God's blessings.
When it becomes at all emotionally possible, regardless
of your feelings, start thanking Jesus first for His
love, and then for the person who is your husband. You
don't have to thank God for his faults, but do thank God
that he is made in God's image, and seek to develop a
mental picture of him with his own struggles and
disappointments in life.
6) While accepting that in your emotions (flesh), the
hurt and anger etc will persist for a long time, seek in
your inner spirit to utter the words, "I forgive
him. ... I forgive him. .. I forgive him ... When one is
able to utter them, these words are very liberating.
7) I suspect that certain problems go back in your life
to before you met your husband. Learn to identify these,
and to open them up to Jesus using steps 1 to 3 above.
8) You have no sense of being loved by God, yet God is
love. Jesus desires you to have a real breakthrough so
that you will know God's love. Seek to get in touch with
how this false image of God developed in your life.
Renounce it and pray to be delivered from it. Every time
you pray, remind yourself that God is love.
9) "Commit your cause to the Lord. Trust in Him and
He will act on your behalf. He will bring forth your
vindication as the light, and your right as the
noonday." Psalm 37:5-6
Make a decision that your are handing your whole life
over to Jesus and all that is in it. Then start trusting
moment by moment, and day by day, that Jesus is going to
lead you into a better future.
10) Realise that far from being hypocritical, if you even
begin to take these steps you are leading a heroic life,
and that you can hold your head high. Realise too, that,
while your emotions may continue to feed you the lie that
God doesn't love you, God does love you; and also that He
is immensely pleased with every step you take to follow
Meanwhile it is good that you have built up your own
life, and so have a degree of independance. Your presence
is also a source of blessing for your children and
See also my three prayer
booklets designed to lead one into healing through daily
prayer. For details of these, click on heading "Desire to experience
real healing through daily prayer, and to see prayers
answered again and again."