You’ve probably heard the argument that religious couples get divorced more often than couples with no religious affiliation, but the data doesn’t show the whole picture… It turns out when you differentiate religious affiliation from church attendance, you get a whole other story. In other words, your actions are louder than words.
A new study by the Institute for Family Studies polled about 1,600 American adults from the ages of 18-59 about their church-going habits and their general satisfaction in their relationships. They found that going to a religious service indeed makes an impact on the happiness in relationships. The report states that “religious affiliation is less important than regular religious attendance when it comes to predicting divorce.”
The data measured self-reported ratings of happiness between couples, some of which regularly attended a religious service, and others who did not. Other couples were split on the issue. Here’s what they found:
The conclusion: “Religion is most likely to foster better family outcomes when faith is shared, so we consider the effect of attending services together (as opposed to by oneself) on relationship quality.”
Here’s what’s interesting however… The study showed that it makes a difference which spouse attends the religious service. Individuals are happier when the man or both the man and woman attend, compared to when just the woman attends or neither attend. So, why the gender difference? What’s the deal?
The Gender Gap?
The Institute for Family Studies came up with a few possibilities for the gap. Many religions stress the importance of family values and fidelity. One hypothesis for the gender gap here is that “religious services may be particularly effective in turning the hearts and minds of men towards their partner’s welfare and the relationship more generally,” according to the Institute. Especially in a society that highly values career aspirations and financial well-being, going to church is a fantastic way to refocus yourself on your relationships and marriage. Think of all the Scriptures that focus on loving and caring for others!
Another hypothesis: women who participate in more spiritual activity make also seek similar qualities in a partner or spouse. The lower percentile may reflect a disappointment that their partner doesn’t share their spiritual aspirations. The Institute also raised the theory that religious attendance raises a woman’s expectation of her partner, but why doesn’t this same result reflect in the male partner’s happiness? Maybe this is a better explanation: the data could reflect a large population of women that attend religious services seeking solutions or solace for marital issues.
Read the rest of the study here.
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