family at dinner table, holding hands to give grace

International research reveals positive role faith plays in marriage

30th May 2019 - Jonathan Williams

Research from the Institute for Family Studies ‘World Family Map 2019' has revealed the positive role that faith plays in marriage. The research looked at the way religion interacts with four key family outcomes in 11 countries around the world, including the UK. 

It found that highly religious couples enjoy higher quality relationships and more sexual satisfaction compared to less or mixed religious couples and secular couples. For instance, the report states that “women in highly religious relationships are about 50% more likely to report that they are strongly satisfied with their sexual relationship than their secular and less religious counterparts.” 

The report concludes that “The beliefs, behaviors, and belonging that shared religious participation provides for couples may foster more commitment, trust, respect, or generosity. Religious traditions seek to foster norms—such as marital permanence and fidelity—that may strengthen or reinforce the ties binding partners to one another. Religious teachings also place a strong emphasis on love, forgiveness, respectful behaviour, and putting the needs of others above one’s own.” 

When looking at religion and intimate partner violence the report found that religion is not an increased risk factor for domestic violence but neither do religious couples have an advantage over secular couples. The report helpfully explains that “Especially in the case of IPV (intimate partner violence), these findings should serve as a(nother) wake-up call to religious institutions to take seriously the prevalence of relationship violence in their midst. But they should also serve as a useful corrective to those who might take reports of violence in religious couples to mean that religious couples are more violent than other couples.” 

Interestingly the report found that the relationships between faith, feminism, and family outcomes are quite complex. “When it comes to relationship quality, we find a J-Curve in overall relationship quality for women, such that women in shared secular, progressive relationships enjoy comparatively high levels of relationship quality, whereas women in the ideological and religious middle report lower levels of relationship quality, as do traditionalist women in secular relationships; but women in highly religious relationships, especially traditionalists, report the highest levels of relationship quality.” 

Contrary to depictions in popular culture of boring, dissatisfied and argumentative Christian married couples, this research shows that faith is beneficial to a marriage.  

At CARE we are passionate about marriage and committed to upholding the biblical vision of married life in the public sphere. This research backs up that commitment but also challenges the church to consider how we talk about and engage with issues of domestic abuse and violence, issues we must not be silent on.  

Watch: Lyndon and Celia's story

In this short film, CARE's Chairman Lyndon and his wife Celia, who have been married for 45 years, talk about the positive role faith has played in their marriage. 



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