My dear friend and colleague Glenn Stanton, director of Global Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, has written with regard to marriage: “Faith does matter … It’s one of the most powerful secret weapons in marital happiness and longevity – and this should not be a secret to anyone.”

In his new bookGet Married, Brad Wilcox, professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, confirms Stanton’s statement. Wilcox documents how religious couples are happier, less prone to divorce, and contrary to public opinion, have more sex than secular couples.

But you do not just have to take Stanton’s and Wilcox’s word for it. Even Harvard University – hardly a bastion of conservative, religious views – has found that couples who regularly attend church are about 30-50 percent less likely to divorce.

Other research done by Professors Kenneth Pargament and Annette Mahoney of Bowling Green University’s Spirituality and Psychology Research Team has found marriages are stronger and happier when husbands and wives understand that there is a deeper spiritual significance to marriage beyond feelings or economic security.

Other research has looked at couples that pray together on a regular basis and how that strengthens the marital relationship. Couples who pray together are more likely to be forgiving of each other. As Wilcox writesprayer helps couples deal with stress, enables them to focus on shared beliefs and hopes for the future, and allows them to deal constructively with challenges and problems in their relationship and in their lives.”

 Why does faith and church attendance play such a critical role in marital happiness? The Harvard study surmises it is because religious teachings are sacred, an important bond is created in marriage vows, and attending religious services reinforces that bond. Religious teachings across all faiths discourage divorce and have strong teachings about adultery. They also provide family support through connections with other families, and most importantly, place a strong emphasis on love and putting the needs of others before one’s own.

Thus, it is not just a mere coincidence that the decline of marriage in our society, as well are rising divorce rates, coincided with the decline in church attendance and the influence of faith in society over the past half century. Timothy Carney has pointed out that as the family disintegrates, the last line of defense is our nation’s churches which are the only major institutions providing support to keeping families – the essential building block of society – intact.

The renewal of faith is the essential part of solving the breakdown of marriage and the family. If we are to restore marriage and the family and begin to reverse their decline – and the resulting damage it has done to our society – we must start with the restoration of religious faith.

That restoration must begin in our homes. If we are not involved in a church, we miss out on the biblical teaching needed to keep us focused on God and putting others before ourselves which, in turn, deepens the marital bond through self-sacrifice and respect for our spouse. We also lose the opportunity to develop mutually encouraging relationships with other couples, as well as providing our children with the spiritual foundation and formation that will result in successful future relationships.

And, given the fact that some many young adults have grown up in homes without this foundation, those of us in strong and stable marriages need to come alongside young adults and couples who are just starting out and offer encouragement and support.

Therefore, I would encourage all couples – but especially those who are just beginning their marital journey – to quit spending their Sunday mornings sipping lattes at Starbucks and instead start attending church instead.

Secondly, when tensions inevitably arise in a marriage, rather than lash out at one’s partner, take a moment and say, “Can we pray?”

I think if we start with these steps, we will not only have stronger marriages, but also stronger children, and a strong society as well. It will be faith, not government programs or other secular solutions, which will bring the restoration of the vital institution of marriage – and all its benefits – to fruition.


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