Marriage and Family — 28 March 2010
Marriage is an all-around benefit

As challenging and difficult as marriage can be, it is still a most advantageous commitment for both partners. Marriage graces its bonded pairs with blessings of health, longevity, emotional wellbeing, better sex, happiness, greater wealth and a secure haven from the trauma of divorce.

Caveat: Though the research focuses on married couples, it stands to reason that the same benefits apply to all committed unions. Also, the research and this column do not suggest that every individual is better off being married than single.

Dr. Lee Ross of Stanford Longevity Center cites mortality advantages for married people. He reported, “Single men’s mortality rates are 250% higher than married men and single women’s rates are 50% higher than married women.”

A RAND Center for the Study of Aging research found that “married men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s have lower mortality rates than those who are unmarried (never married, divorced, or widowed).”

In “The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially”, Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher cite a large national sample findings that “slightly more than 60 percent of divorced or never-married women lived to age 65 – compared to 90 percent of married women.”

Better mental health is another marriage benefit. As reported by the National Council of Family Relations, “Married people are less depressed and have fewer alcohol related problems, as compared to unmarried people.” Waite and Gallagher, “Married people report lower levels of depression and distress, and 40% say they are very happy with their lives, compared to about 25% in single people.”

Despite common misconception that unmarried people have better sex lives, Waite and Gallagher report that sex is more frequent and more satisfying for married people than for singles. “
About 40% of married people have sex twice a week, compared to 20-25% of single and cohabitating men and women. Over 40% of married women said their sex life was emotionally and physically satisfying, compared to about 30% of single women. For men, it’s 50% of married men are physically and emotionally contents versus 38% of cohabitating men.”

Greater happiness is another bonus of marriage. Patrick Fagan and Robert Rec in “The Positive Effects of Marriage: A Book of Charts” found that “Married people are more than twice as likely to report being very happy when compared with divorced or never married adults.”

Couples are also enhanced financially by marriage. Ohio State University’s researcher Jay Zagorsky documented that married baby boomers increase their wealth an average 16% a year, while singles did so at half that rate.

Being married also buffers one from the trauma of divorce. The emotional, physical and financial losses subsequent to divorce are of devastating proportions. Some say that the pain of divorce is greater than enduring a loss of a loved one to death.

Professor E. Mavis Hetherington found that “20 years after divorce, only 20 percent of individuals indicated that their lives had improved, while in 70 percent of cases, the individuals were in the same or worse emotional and social condition.”

If you are married,

• When marriage interactions stress you – remind yourself how fortunate you are to be in a loving, health and longevity inducing union.
• When you feel down – know that you are upheld and emotionally healthier due to your marriage.
• When you envy your single friends for their “hot sex lives” – dispel this myth and realize that you have the distinct advantage.
• When financial concerns plague you – reassure yourself that you are still better off than your unmarried peers.
• When you wonder if marriage is worth the discomfort – be cognizant that divorce may be a long-term non-remitting trauma.
• When you get overwhelmed – remember that your partner is a source of support, connection and love and your marriage is actually a fountain of overall bliss.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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