I heard an interesting story on the radio this morning: it seems that BBC’s Sunday Programme on Radio 4 has commissioned its own research into the statistics and found that couples who choose to marry in a Humanist ceremony are up to four times less likely to divorce.
You can read the full story here and it’s very heartening, although I think that this observation from the research director of the Marriage Foundation is worth bearing in mind.
Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation said the figures were “sensible” but there are “caveats”.
“It may be that humanists are older or richer than most, either of which would account for their apparently lower divorce rates,” he told Radio 4’s Sunday programme.
“However couples with a shared faith or worldview tend to do better, which might well also apply to humanist couples. And as social pressure to marry has reduced, divorce rates have been tumbling across the board as fewer couples ‘slide’ into marriage and more ‘decide’.”
I’m not a statistician, but anecdotally, my own experience backs this up.
When I was writing my book, I contacted 100 couples to ask them if they were happy to be part of it, and of them, only one had separated.
It did strike me at the time that this was remarkable, and I think it if there is a single underlying reason, it’s simply that when I meet a couple to discuss their wedding, I give them an exercise to do.
I call it ‘The Homework Process’ and it’s very simple. If you have time, you can do it yourself now
- Under exam conditions – no conferring – write down the story of you: when you met and what’s happened since.
- Write down 10 things that made you decide that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with
- Write down 10 things that marriage means to you or that you want to achieve in your marriage
Their reward for that is a date night where they get to share what they wrote, and it’s usually an incredibly emotional and rewarding process – I never tire of getting e-mails from couples telling me how much they enjoyed it, but there is a ‘but’ and here it is…
What I also say to every couple I meet is that I’d rather they shared their homework, had a screaming row, and never spoke again that go through with their wedding and find themselves 10 years down the line realising that they’ve made a big mistake.
Almost every year, I get an email from a couple who found that their homework showed they weren’t on the same path, and it’s incredibly sad, but I know that when they look back, they will realise it was for the good.
Divorce – however amicable – is painful: I know that from my own experience. But if humanist weddings really do help couples make their marriage work, then I am delighted, and I am truly grateful to be a part of rebuilding society’s most important institution.