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Family Matters

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Linda Mintle, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist, author of 16 books, a national expert on family issues and the psychology of food and weight. She's an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, a national speaker, writer, and news contributor.

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Predicting Divorce: Three Things to Know


We are less than a week away from celebrating the holiday of love. Yet, in too many marriages, couples have lost that loving feeling and are headed for divorce. Divorce attorneys report that January and February (just before Valentine’s Day) are the busiest time of year for divorce.

Think about it. Couples try to make it work over the holidays and hope that all the hoopla and family time will reignite an ember burning marriage. Apparently, not so much! In many cases, unhappy couples feel the exhaustion of the holidays and have trouble gearing up for the New Year. Whatever the case, the month of love is also the month of love lost. And that is sad.

Researchers are always looking for ways to predict divorce. Their findings can actually help us make necessary changes in order to prevent divorce. So when I found a study by Alan Booth, Paul Amato and colleagues at Penn State concerning long-term marriage and divorce, I thought I’d pass along the information.

Three conclusions were reached about couples and divorce:

1) Couples who do not own a house are more likely to divorce.

The thinking here is that owning a house represents commitment and stabilizes relationships. When couples have more investment in staying together, like in home owning, they may be reluctant to sell or divide the property. That commitment makes it more difficult to divorce and may act as a deterrent to breaking up.

2) Intergenerational transmission of divorce.

If your parents divorced, it is twice as likely that you will divorce. This is one of the strongest risk factors for divorce. We learn patterns, healthy and not so healthy, from our original families. If you lack skills regarding conflict, dealing with emotions, compromising, etc., and didn’t have great role models for interpersonal skills growing up, go to seminars, be open to changes and learn to better communicate and meet the needs of your spouse. Divorced parents can give “permission” to an adult child to get out of the relationship rather than work through the difficulty.

3) Living together.

Couples who live together prior to marriage report more problems and are more likely to think about divorce. Living together does not help create a stronger marriage like so many people think. In fact, many couples live together thinking this will help them avoid divorce because of the potential to get to know the person better by living with him/her. As you see, cohabitation actually has the opposite effect and leads more often to divorce. So God’s way, marriage first, is still the best way.

If your parents divorced, you don’t own a home and you are living with someone, it’s time to make a change. Stop the cohabitation and get married. Then, don’t be victim of the other two factors—home owning and parental divorce. When God is the center of any marriage, there is always a way to break past patterns, honor the marital covenant and make marriage last for a lifetime.


Dr. Linda Mintle, Ph.D. is the author of I Married You, Not Your Family and nine other myths that ruin relationships. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter for more help with couple relationships.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Friday, February 08, 2013 9:11 AM

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