Monday, April 4, 2016

Mormons And Divorce: Debunking The Myth

I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I've heard it said or implied in Church that LDS Temple marriages far less likely to end in divorce than what Mormons call "civil marriages" (which include any legal marriages -- even those performed by LDS bishops in LDS meetinghouses -- not performed in one of the LDS Church's 150-ish temples by those with special authority upon those who've -- theoretically -- met the highest standards of worthiness).
Many times, local leaders and/or teachers will flat-out state that God blesses those who marry in the Temple far more than those who don't, so that the marriages of the former have a God-given chance of lasting and all others take their chances with the US divorce rate of 50%.  Other Mormons have taken a more practical view, stating that it's simply that those who are willing to conduct their lives according to such high standards share common views and common goals, and thus they are likely more able to make their marriages work.
Yet, every time I'd hear this claim, I'd always remembered that I knew quite a few people who'd been divorced after marrying in the Temple and that most of the very best marriages I know are between people who never bothered with the Temple.
Thus, a few months ago, I started jotting down notes, adding to my lists as I went.  And I've come to the conclusion that, based on my own personal knowledge, there isn't a whole lot of difference in numbers of divorces from Temple marriages vs. civil marriages.
Let me give the specifics.
First of all, I determined the following: 1) These must be heterosexual marriages because gay marriage is too new and because it is not allowed in the Temple anyway. 2) I could only count people who lived in Utah or had been raised in Utah, LDS or not. 3) I could only count couples I knew personally or else knew their children very well and had heard in-depth stories concerning the demise of the marriages.
Then I listed the names of the couples, noting whether or not theirs had been a Temple marriage and indicating the reason for the divorce.
(One surprising find was that I could only list a couple of marriages wherein I knew that some kind of financial problem had been a part of the cause, and only a single instance wherein I knew that finances had been the main cause.  I have always heard that financial problems are the #1 cause of marriage break-up in the US, so this surprised me.  However, I do have a long list of people where I don't know the cause of their divorce, so perhaps this is where all the financial problems really are hiding.)
Here are the reasons for divorce and the numbers:

The man cheated on his wife: 8 Temple, 4 civil, (plus 2 more Temple marriages where the woman wanted to leave but had no way to support herself so she stayed)
The woman cheated: 1 Temple, 1 civil
The man wanted a new life or a new wife: 10 Temple, 4 civil
The woman wanted a new life or a new husband: 1 Temple
The man refused to get/keep a job: 1 Temple (plus 1 civil where this almost happened, but then the wife took him back for some unfathomable reason)
The woman was an idiot and the husband could stand it no longer: 3 Temple, 1 civil
The man was an arrogant jerk and the woman could stand it no longer: 7 Temple, 6 civil
The man was an idiot and the wife could stand it no longer: 1 Temple
The man had substance abuse problems: 2 civil
The woman had substance abuse problems: 1 civil
The man was gay but had hoped to be "cured" by marrying a woman: 1 Temple
The couple got married way too young and simply outgrew each other: 6 civil
The couple had not dated enough other people before marriage: 1 civil
The man had charmed the woman into marriage so he could get US citizenship: 1 civil
The man wanted access to the wife's bank account: 1 Temple
The man had mental health issues which the woman thought she could "cure": 1 Temple
The couple married too fast without getting to know each other first: 2 Temple, 2 civil
Unknown reasons: 6 Temple, 11 civil

Total number of Temple marriages ending in divorce: 43
Total number of civil marriages ending in divorce: 37
(I didn't count the "almost" divorces.)

Obviously, that's pretty close.  Based on my personal knowledge, I don't think I agree that Temple marriages are inherently more likely to last than civil marriages.
Other things that become apparent from my tallies:
Number of divorces where the man was to blame: 47
Number of divorces where the woman was to blame: 8
Number of divorces where both parties were to blame: 11
Number where the blame is unknown: 17
I'm going to state here that, based on my observations, it's more likely to be the guy who wrecks a marriage than the gal.

At any rate, I think I'm less likely than ever to believe that LDS Temple marriages are all that much less likely to end in divorce than other types are.

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