Until Divorce Do Us Part? Busting Common Relationship Myths


There are many myths regarding the rate of divorce in popular culture, possibly contributing to many single people's fearfulness towards attachment and commitment to long-term relationships. Additionally, couples facing conflict may be more apt to seek a divorce because of the accepted social norm that half of all marriages end. However, the right therapy has shown significant benefit when both partners are interested in saving and maintaining the marriage. Also, psychotherapy may be a helpful solution for those who are fearful of commitment, and especially for those who describe themselves as "just no good at relationships." Individual and couples therapy also may help highly dysfunctional relationships to end and former partners to heal and move forward. Likewise, psychotherapy has been shown to be helpful for individuals coping with separation and divorce, and improves relationship skills for the future.

Myth: 50% of ALL marriages end in divorce.

Truth: Many different factors contribute to the likelihood of divorce. Education levels, age of marriage, age when having children, and income levels are correlated with rates of divorce. For those who marry under the age of 23 and do not have college degrees, the rate of divorce is around 50%. However, divorce rates after 10 years of marriage are around 30% for college graduates. For couples who both hold doctoral (MD, PhD, etc.) degrees, one study found divorce rates as a low as 10%. Granted, dual doctoral couples represent a very small percentage of the general public. With advanced degrees, there are associations with financial security, as well as a more mature marriage age. These findings suggest that more education, a later age of marriage, and financial stability are associated with marriage stability.

The media spotlights celebrity divorces, which is a about 50% after only 6 years, versus 26% of the general public. This overfocus perpetuates the myth that a marriage’s survival is a crapshoot and divorce is almost an inevitable way to solve marital problems.

Myth: Remarriages fail at an even higher rate than first marriages.

Truth: 68% of remarried people are still together after 10 years. While blending families and "baggage" from previous long-term relationships are challenges, many people know more of what they want and may have learned from their mistakes. In short, by the second marriage, they are older and wiser.

Myth: If you are in marriage/couples counseling, it’s too late to save the relationship. Or if you seek counseling before you are married, that is a huge red flag!

Truth: Often couples seek couples therapy as a last ditch effort, and by then there is too much of the proverbial water under the bridge. Also, if one partner truly wants out, counseling has little chance of saving the union. There are many unhappy relationships that are unhealthy and need to end. Abusive relationships are ones that must stop even though partners seem inextricably drawn to each other.

In non-abusive relationships, couples therapy, especially Emotional Focused Therapy, has been shown to improve relationship quality among couples who are experiencing little, moderate, and severe distress.

Contemplating or already divorced? Have a few divorces behind you? Feeling stuck in an unhealthy relationship? Most people could benefit from learning more about themselves and long-term relationship skills. Individual counseling may illuminate patterns good and bad, and provide helpful tools in establishing healthy new ones.

Erika Kao, PhD may be reached 858-472-8959 or visit drerikakao.com. CA Licensed Psychologist 20112

Disclaimer: In no manner does this column serve to diagnose or treat readers with any psychological disorders or imply a client-provider relationship between Dr. Kao and any reader. No such relationship exists until a client-provider agreement has been signed by client and provider.