The more we learn about marriage, the less we understand it. Awesome, right?
Writes the Guardian's Louise Carpenter,
Whenever marriage is talked about, it is always in sentiments of gravity, happiness, certainty and long-term commitment. Research also suggests it makes you richer, healthier and your children more successful. For example, in a project carried out at Warwick University in 2002, called "Does Marriage Affect Physical and Psychological Health: a Study of Longitudinal Evidence", academics found that, in material terms, a happy marriage was equivalent to an annual income of £70,000. In health terms, it has the equivalent impact of giving up smoking.
Despite these vaunted benefits, of course, we have the incontrovertible fact that marriage is on the wane, and divorce going up. But actually, these statistics don't seem that inscrutable - nor like an argument for marrying mr. good-enough to buck the "spinster stigma": if fewer are marrying and staying married, and those who are are happier, it seems to say that those doing it purely out of choice, and not as a result of societal pressure, thrive. When basically everyone got married, of course more of those marriages were unhappy. None of this is to say that all marriage is blissful or a panacea - but that's the point. The fewer people who think that, and who make informed decisions, well, the more who do - and who go in with eyes open - will reap its benefits.
Or, to quote Carpenter again,
Well, if you try and fail, it will bring you more misery than almost anything else at any point in history. But if you can move beyond overblown feelings of romance (nice while they last), invest in daily kindnesses and see it as a difficult journey rather than an instant hit of sexual and emotional gratification, your life and the lives of your children will have a better chance of being happier. Are you prepared to take the gamble?
Some - yes, Gottlieb included - have used falling marriage rates as part of a larger argument for embracing the institution. But, while the thorny issue is open to all manner of interpretations, it seems equally plausible to take the optimistic one: those who do it at the right time, for the right reasons, are happy. And that's a finding with a much wider application.
The Myth Of Wedded Bliss [Guardian]
Women: Single And Loving It [WebMD]
Never-Married Women Face Social Stigma, Researchers Find [ScienceDaily]
Study: Married People Happier Than Singles, Smart Women Make Better Wives [Associated Content]