What can CMP Accomplish for Your Community?
- Avoid a bad marriages before they begin by taking a
premarital inventory that can predict with 80% accuracy who
- Give "marriage insurance" to the engaged by giving them
access to older couples with solid marriages. Mike and
Harriet McManus through Marriage Savers have prepared 135
young couples over five years. There have been broken
engagements but no known divorces.
- Strengthen any existing marriage. Marriage Encounter
moves. nine out of ten couples to fall back in love.
- Save 90% of the most troubled marriages. In one church
seven couples whose marriages once nearly failed -- met with
40 marriages headed for divorce and restored 38 of them -- a
95% success rate.
- Spark reconciliation of the separated, saving more than
50% of them
- Push down a metro area's divorce rate by creating
Community Marriage Policies like Peoria's, which had a 20%
drop in a year, or Modesto with nearly a 50% plunge in a
decade, saving 1000 marriages a year.
Answers 25 Tough Questions About Marriage
- What is the evidence that half of marriages are
ending in divorce?
Demographers are projecting the number of divorces in the
future from the present trend. The comparison that has stood
since 1973 is that there is one divorce for every two
marriages. For a quarter century! For example, in the latest
year with data, there were 2,244,000 marriages and 1,135,000
divorces. The odds are, those numbers will continue. Yet it
is also true, as the Barna Poll reported, that only a
quarter of Americans have ever been divorced. How is that
possible? Clearly there are millions like me who married 30+
years ago, who have a small chance of divorce. When I was
growing up I did not know any friends whose parents were
divorced. Now more than half the kids in any classroom have
had the experience. I am not the person to argue with about
this, but the demographers, like Dr. Larry Bumpass at the
University of Wisconsin who says that if separations are
included, the divorce rate is 60%.
- How does the U.S. divorce rate compare to other
America's divorce rate is double that of France or Germany
and three times that of Japan, nations where few people are
religiously active in contrast to the U.S. Only England has
a divorce rate comparable to the U.S., and that only since
- How much has the divorce rate grown?
Divorces tripled from 1960 (390,000) to 1979, then leveled
off. There were 1,181,000 divorces in 1979, and 1,163,000 in
1997, a drop of only 1.5% in 19 years. Divorces should have
come down much more since the marriage rate fallen
precipitously, as noted below. One result: the number of
divorced, unremarried people has soared from 4 million in
1970 to 19.3 million in 1997. This is the fastest growing
segment of the population, even though more than two-thirds
of divorces end in remarriage!
- What has happened to the marriage rate?
The marriage rate has plunged. It fell 43% since 1960, from
148 marriages per 1,000 people to 87/1,000 in 1990. The
marriage rate continued to fall to 83/1000 in 1998. For
example, the number of marriages fell in a single year from
2,384,000 in 1997 to 2,244,000 in 1998.
- How much has cohabitation increased?
The number of unmarried couples living together has soared
ten-fold since 1970:There were only 430,000 couples
cohabiting in March, 1960 and a staggering 4.2 million doing
so in March, 1998. The Census estimate of 4.23 million
couples cohabiting was taken in March, 1998. Cohabitation
lasts only 1.3 years on average. By December of that year
probably another 2 million were doing so. So the number
cohabiting in a year is probably 6 million couples, nearly
triple the 2.24 million who married in 1998. Cohabitation
has become the dominant way men and women in America begin
their relationships -- not marriage. According to Dr. Linda
Waite of the University of Chicago, "Recent figures show
that almost two-thirds of young adult men and women chose to
cohabit first rather than marry directly." The pattern is
taken into the church. In dozens of cities, hundreds of
pastors tell me the majority of couples coming for a church
wedding are living together.
- Is cohabitation popular with the general public?
Yes. Remarkably, 55% of Americans believe it is a good idea
for couples to live together before they marry, according to
a Wirthin Poll for the Family Research Council in 1997 This
is evidence that movies and TV have transformed America into
a post-Christian age. Even 45% of those who attend church
regularly agree that it makes sense for couples to cohabit
first! Isn't that evidence that pastors have avoided the
issue, and are as culpable as Hollywood? Wirthin reports
that 26% of adults cohabited and 3% are doing so at any
- Why is cohabitation is a double cancer of marriage?
For millions, cohabitation is the substitute for marriage.
The number of never-married adults has grown from 21 million
in 1970 to 46.5 million in 1998 while the national
population grew only 28%. Thus, the number of never-married
people increased by 25 million in a generation. The
percentage of men and women aged 35-39 who have never
married has tripled since 1970. A Wirthin poll found that
43% of all single women have cohabited. Obviously, many
women believe that living together is a step toward
marriage. They are sadly mistaken. This is one role they
cannot audition for.
- Should "trial marriages" be called "trial divorces?"
Absolutely. Most cohabiting couples break up before marriage
or afterwards. At least 40% of couples living together do
not marry. "Marriages that are preceded by living together
have 50 percent higher disruption (divorce or separation)
rates than marriages without premarital cohabitation"
according to the University of Wisconsin's National Survey
of Families and Households. Instead of half of marriages
ending in divorce, 75% do so. Thus, out of 100 cohabiting
couples, 40 break up before the wedding, but of the 60 who
do marry, 45 will divorce within ten years. That leaves only
15 intact couples after a decade. Few who live together seem
to know the odds of failure. In John 4, Jesus was critical
of the woman at the well who was living with a man who was
not her husband. Here is secular evidence he was right. Yet
have you ever heard a sermon on cohabitation?
- What percent of American adults are married?
Only 56% of U.S. adults are married today, up only 1% from
the lowest percentage ever recorded according to the Census
- How many million children have seen their parents
One million American children have suffered from divorce
every year since 1972, or about 30 million children over the
last three decades. Half of them will witness a second
divorce before aged 18. Some will see many cohabitations,
and as many as two to five marriages by parents.
- Are children harmed by divorce?
Yes, profoundly. Dr. Judith Wallerstein, who tracked 60
divorcing families for 25 years, writes in Second Chances:
Children feel intensely rejected when their parents divorce:
"He left Mom. He doesn't care about me."
Dr. Wallerstein was "surprised to discover that the severity
of a child's reaction at the time of the parents' divorce
does not predict how that child will fare five, ten and even
fifteen years later....Girls seem to fare much better
psychologically than boys. A sleeper effect in females
surfaced of troubles they are experiencing now at entrance
into young adulthood (which) came as a complete surprise.
Girls who have never been betrayed or abandoned by a lover
fear betrayal and abandonment...Many find maladaptive ways
to cope. Some take many lovers at one time. Others seek out
older men who are less likely to betray a younger woman."
Many cohabit rather than wait for engagement.
"Ten years after divorce, close to one-half of the boys (now
19-29 years old) are unhappy, lonely, and have few, if any
lasting relationships with women...One out of three young
men and one of ten young women between the ages 19 and 23 at
the ten year mark are delinquent, meaning they act out their
anger in a range of illegal activities including assault,
burglary, arson, drug dealing, theft, drunk driving, and
prostitution," wrote Dr. Wallerstein.
Even 25 years after their parents' divorce, their adult
children say, "My childhood ended with my parents' divorce."
Of the 60 fathers, 57 remarried and stopped child support
when their children reached 18. Few of the children attained
college or graduate education of their affluent fathers.
(However, fathers underwrote the college education costs of
their stepchildren and their children from a second marriage
but rarely their own children from a first marriage.) Most
of those offspring had difficulty bonding to someone of the
opposite sex. There was much cohabitation and few lasting
- How many children live without their fathers, and
what is the impact on children?
In 1960, 7 million children were living without their
fathers. Today the number has soared to 24 million,
according to the National Fatherhood Initiative. Nearly
two-fifths of all kids live in homes without their father.
Of those children, more than half have never been in their
father's home, and 40% have not seen them in at least a
year. Never in the history of the world has there ever been
such an abandonment of children by their fathers!
Impact Increases for Decades: Dr. Wallerstein recently
re-interviewed children of divorce 25 years after the
divorce. Her conclusion is chilling: "Adults get over
divorce, but unlike adults, children's suffering does not
reach a peak at divorce. The impact increases over time,
throughout the first three decades of life and in all
The impact is calamitous:
- Teen Suicide: As divorces tripled, teen
suicide rates tripled. Broken homes contribute to three
of four teen suicides and four of five psychiatric
- Poverty: Many kids are pushed into poverty.
Children whose fathers left experienced their 1985
income fall from $2,435 a month to $1,543 four months
later, a 37% drop. Since 1970, child poverty grew by 42
percent. Isabel Sawhill, of the Urban Institute says,
"The rapid growth in the number of children living in
single-parent families can explain virtually all of the
growth in poverty among children since 1960."
- Out-of-Wedlock Births: Children growing up
with only one parent -- compared to kids with both
parents -- are three times more likely to have a child
out of wedlock, 2.5 times more likely to be teen
parents, and twice as likely to drop out of school or
- Prison: Of juveniles or young adults serving
in long-term correctional facilities, 70% did not live
with both parents when they were growing up.
- Future Divorce: When children of divorce
marry, they are much more likely to experience divorce
themselves. Why? "They more often escalate conflict and
reduce communication" with a spouse than those from
- Are Adults also harmed by divorce?
Yes, in the vast majority of cases, according to Dr.
- In two-thirds of the former couples, one partner is
unhappy, lonely, anxious, depressed and financially
precarious ten years after the divorce.
- In 25% of the couples, both former partners are
worse off, suffering from loneliness and depression.
- In only 10% of the cases do both former partners
reconstruct happier, fuller lives after a decade.
- What percent of second marriages fail?
Sixty percent. So how long are people who are initially
happy after a divorce, and remarry, remaining happy? There
are no greener fields. We need to learn how to make the
marriages we are in be successful.
- Do divorced people live shorter lives?
Yes, divorced men are twice as likely as married men to die
in a given year from heart disease, stroke, hypertension and
cancer, four times more likely to die in auto accidents and
suicide, and are seven times more apt to die from cirrhosis
of liver and pneumonia. Divorced women are two to three
times as likely to die of all forms of cancer as married
women. The impact of divorce on health "is like starting to
smoke a pack of cigarettes a day," says Dr. David Larson,
President of the National Institute for HealthCare Research.
- How many of those on welfare were married, or still
are, but are separated?
According to Census, "Socioeconomic Characteristics" March,
1995. More than half (52%) of welfare recipients were once
- Is the church part of the problem?
Absolutely. Three-fourths (76%) of all marriages are blessed
by the church, and Gallup reports that in 1999, seven of ten
of all adults were members of a church or synagogue, and 43%
attended services weekly. Yet for a generation, half of new
marriages failed. Clearly the church has access to most
couples, but has not used that access to prepare couples for
a lifelong marriage, to deepen the marriages of couples in
the church, or to save the troubled ones. In fact, few
pastors have ever preached a sermon on divorce. Based on my
unscientific polling of clergy in dozens of cities, not one
pastor in 50 has preached on cohabitation. Sadly, most
churches and synagogues are "blessing machines" or "wedding
factories" grinding out weddings on Saturday with little
thought about whether they would succeed or not. Yet the
Wirthin Poll indicates that 55% of Americans believe that
churches can do the MOST to promote strong, healthy
marriages. Yet sadly, either churches have never considered
that to be their role, or have abandoned it.
- Is there good news about marriage?
There is new, powerful evidence that marriage is of
enormous benefit to both men and women. In a sense, it is
the opposite information noted above about divorce's
negative impacts. Married couples have better health, longer
lives, much greater wealth and greater happiness than those
who are single for whatever reason. Oddly, this is news in
our culture. Again, secular evidence backs up Scripture.
"The Lord God said, `It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a helper suitable for him.'" Genesis 2:18
- Yes! There's Good News at Two Levels. First,
Marriage Is Key To:
- Health, Long life
- Life: A woman aged 48 who is married has
an 87% chance of living to age 65; but a divorced
woman's odds are only 67%. A married man at age 48
has an 83% chance of living till age 65, but a
divorced man has only a 63% chance of survival!
- Happiness: Married people are twice as
likely as those who are single for whatever reason
to say they are "very happy." Some 38% of married
couples say they are very happy, compared to 14% of
divorced men and 18% of divorced women, about 21% of
the never-married, and an average of 18% of the
- Wealth: A married couple in their 50's in
1994 had net assets of $132,000. But a divorced
person, $33,600; surprisingly, a never-married
person, only 35,000; the separated, only $7,600,
according to Linda Waite of the University of
- Marriage Savers Is Helping Bring Down the Divorce
Furthermore, there is great hope for bringing down the
divorce rate of any church or community. Churches have
pioneered answers that are saving marriages by preparing
couples better for marriage, strengthening existing ones
or restoring troubled marriages. Some "Marriage Saver
Churches" have nearly eliminated divorce! Christ
Lutheran Church in Overland Park, KS, a church of 1,500
people, has not had a divorce in three years except two
couples who walked off without telling anyone they were
in trouble. For a profile of six Marriage Saver
Congregations, click here.
While relatively few churches are taking these steps, it
is possible to persuade groups of clergy - typically 30
to 300 pastors, depending on a city's size - to come
together across denominational lines to adopt these
reforms and thus agree on a strategy to roll back
America's marital darkness by creating a "Community
Marriage Policy." In at least 25 cities, divorce rates
have plunged as a result. For example, divorces have
fallen by 30% in Modesto, CA, the first city to adopt a
Community Marriage Covenant(r) in 1986. Newer cities are
getting better results. Divorces plummeted by a third in
Kansas City, KS and El Paso in only three years - and by
17% in Chattanooga in only two years. By contrast, as
noted above, U.S. divorces have come down only 1.5% in
- How big is Marriage Savers? What has been its impact?
Marriage Savers is not a giant institution with dozens of
staff people. We are my wife and me, Rev. Larry Ballard, our
Mid-west Regional Director, Rev. Del R. Palmer, our Southern
Regional Director, a secretary plus dozens of volunteer
leaders around the nation. Yet we have been able to help 140
cities, as of April, 2001, to adopt a "Community Marriage
Policy(r). We do know the results our work in 28 cities.
Some 32 of them have had a drop in the divorce rate 10-100+
times more than the US rate. One remained the same and two
saw an increase in the number of divorces. See our memo on
the Web site: marriagesavers.org. Note particularly my
report comparing the one-third decline of divorces in Kansas
City, KS and its suburbs compared to Kansas City MO where
divorces actually increased at the same time. Why? No clergy
were organized on the Missouri side of the river, and the
press coverage was targeted at Kansas readers.
Robert Rector, of the Heritage Foundation, said there are
enough results from enough cities which adopted Community
Marriage Policies, that "It is up to the critics to prove
- What is "Retrouvaille?"
Retrouvaille (pronounced Ret-roo-vie, a French word for
Rediscovery) is a weekend retreat that has been attended by
60,000 deeply troubled marriages. "Back-from-the brink"
couples whose marriages once nearly failed, tell
participating couples how the Lord helped them save their
marriages. They donate their time for a weekend to help
other couples make it. Participating couples, after hearing
an inspirational story, are asked to write to each other for
ten minutes on specific topics, such as "What do I have
difficulty in talking to you about, and how does that make
me feel?" After writing, couples return to their motel rooms
to read each other's reflection and to talk about them in
private. The result? Retrouvaille routinely saves four out
of five troubled marriages! This is the exact opposite of
what happens when going to a therapist, in which couples
spill their stories to someone who does not know them, at a
high cost with typically low results. Call 800-470-2230 to
talk to the nearest Retrouvaille and ask what their results
- How else can marriages be saved?
The most important answer can be summed up in one sentence:
In every congregation, there are couples in strong marriages
who could be of help to other couples, but have never been
asked, inspired or trained to come alongside another couple,
and be helpful. We call these couples who can help save
marriages, "Mentor Couples." Their marital backgrounds
differ. Some have been in a solid, happy marriage for 15-40
years, and could help prepare couples for lifelong
marriages. Others have had marriages that nearly ended in
divorce, who really could be of help to those now
considering divorce. And some couples in second marriages
with stepchildren, have truly created "blended families" who
could help others to do so.
In short, Mentor Couples can help other couples:
- Avoid a bad marriage before it begins
- Prepare for a life-long marriage
- Strengthen existing marriages
- Restore 80% to 90% of the worst marriages
- Help 70% of the separated to reconcile
- Enable four out of five stepfamilies to be
- How can Mentor Couples help prepare couples for a
Couples considering marriage or who are engaged can be given
a premarital inventory that can predict with 80% accuracy
who will divorce. Nationally, more than 200,000 couples a
year take either the FOCCUS or PREPARE inventories. Of that
number about one tenth break their engagements! Studies show
that those who break an engagement after taking a premarital
inventory - have the same scores as those who marry and
later divorce. That's how a bad marriage is avoided before
If the premarital inventory is administered by a Mentor
Couple, who have more time to give than the pastor, about
15% of couples break up before the wedding. At my church we
trained 52 Mentor Couples who worked with 262 couples
preparing for marriage. Of that number, 40-50 broke their
engagement before there was a marriage. But of the 220 who
did marry, we know of only six divorces in eight years. That
is about a 3% failure rate. So we can say to couples who
marry after our marriage preparation, "We can say with 95%
certainty that if you marry, you will obtain `marriage
- Can Mentor Couples Save Troubled Marriages?
Yes. The best example is a proven reform called "Marriage
Ministry." It began at an Episcopal Church in Jacksonville,
FL when Rev. Richard McGinnis asked this question, that any
pastor could ask, "Are there any couples here whose
marriages were once on the rocks, but who have come off of
them, and whose marriage is now being healed?" Out of 180
people in church that day, ten couples met with him. He told
them, "I am overwhelmed trying to save all of the troubled
marriages in this church. I prayed and asked God what to do.
What came to me was that just as Alcoholics Anonymous helps
ex-drunks to overcome their addiction -- there might be
"back-from-the-brink" couples who could help those now
considering divorce, to save their marriages. Would you be
willing to at least share with each other and my wife and me
how the Lord helped you to save your marriage? Seven couples
agreed to do so. Within five years, they had worked with 40
couples considering divorce, and saved 38 marriages! This
Marriage Ministry has now been planted in 25 churches. And
they are saving nine out of ten marriages! (Compare that to
therapists who often save only a fifth of troubled
marriages.) For example, First Assembly of God of Rockford,
IL has trained 14 couples who have weathered life's storms,
who have helped restore more than 100 deeply troubled
marriages, losing only four to divorce. To read more about
this, see a memo on "Six Model Marriage Saver
Congregations." Or read Chapter 10 of my book, Marriage
Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Avoid Divorce.
- What is a Marriage Savers Congregation? How can my
church become one?
A Marriage Savers Congregation trains a network of Mentor
Couples to help other couples be successful. They put a
"safety net" under every marriage, virtually eliminating
divorces in a local congregation.
You can learn how to put a safety net under every marriage
by coming to a National Training to Create a Marriage Savers
Congregation that we hold twice a year. The charge is as
little as $210 for a pastor and up to three couples. And
that includes $110 worth of materials. For example,
attendees will receive our new 182-page Manual to Create a
Marriage Savers Congregation and meet the marital pioneers
who created the most successful mentoring programs for every
stage of marriage.Visit our Church Training page for
- What is the background of Mike McManus?
I am a former TIME correspondent and have been a syndicated
columnist for 23 years. My "Ethics and Religion" column is
syndicated by The New York Times. I research everything that
I write about, and provide secular evidence that Scripture's
guidance on morality, marriage and divorce makes practical
sense. As a speaker, I persuaded the clergy of Modesto, CA
to adopt America's first Community Marriage Policy(r) in
1986. My wife, Harriet, and I created Marriage Savers in
1996 to devote full-time to helping churches and communities
bring down the divorce rate. We now travel together visiting
20-30 cities a year, training both pastors and Mentor
Couples to launch proven Marriage Savers reforms.
A Final Word
These are brief answers to complicated questions. The final
answers, which offer the most hope, are very condensed. We urge
readers to learn more from our website or call us at Marriage