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Ethics & Religion
February 16, 2017
Column #1,851
National Marriage Week
By Mike McManus

 

It is National Marriage Week, a good time to assess the health of marriage in America. "The institution of marriage represents the very foundation of human social order," writes Dr. James Dobson. "Everything of value sits on that base. Institutions, government, religious fervor and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability."

When Gallup asked couples to grade their marriages, 68% gave it an A and 23%, a B. Only 6% gave it a C and 1% each, a D or F. By contrast, 64% of cohabiting couples who were preparing for marriage, ranked their relationship in the "low satisfaction group."

Nor do unhappy marriages stay that way: 86% of bad marriages become good ones!

However, divorced men are twice as likely as married men to die from the four big killers: heart disease, stroke, hypertension and cancer. My wife and I report in our book, Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers, "Auto accidents and suicide death rates for the divorced are almost four times higher; cirrhosis of the liver and pneumonia death rates are seven times higher; the rate of death from murder is eight times greater."

Not surprisingly, therefore, being unmarried chops nearly ten years off a man's life. Married women will live four years longer, and their children, five years longer.

"Loneliness is a lethal force with the power to break the human heart," writes James J. Lynch in A Cry Unheard. A married couple cares for each other. For example, a wife watches their diet and objects if her husband pours a second drink. But when one of them dies, the will to live is extinguished for many.

Married couples are far wealthier. Those who never marry experience a 75% reduction in wealth. Married men earn 10% to 40% more than single men with similar education and job history. Why? Married men have a greater work commitment, lower quit rates, healthier and more stable routines.

According to The Case For Marriage by Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, "On the verge of retirement, the typical married couple had accumulated about $410,000 compared to $167,000 for the never-married, $154,000 for the divorced, and under $96,000 for the separated."

We write, "Marrying offers balance. Spouses are invested in each other and in the well-being of their joint future. He proposes to buy a new car; she says, `That's a waste of our money. Let's remodel the screen porch and turn it into a sunroom.' Result: the investment increases the value of their home. The single guy buys the car or vacations in Cancun and by retirement can claim fewer assets."

Married people also have more and better sex than singles. TV shows like Sex and the City give the impression the happiest people are those who jump in bed with someone new every Friday night. But the National Sex Survey reports 43% of married men had sex at least twice a week - compared to only 26% of single men.

Married people also enjoy their sex more, both physically and emotionally than their unmarried counterparts. Married women are almost twice as likely as divorced and never-married women to have a sex life that (a) exists and (b) is extremely emotionally satisfying.

What about cohabiters? While cohabiting couples have at least as much sex as the married, they don't seem to enjoy it quite as much. For men, having a wife beats shacking up by a wide margin: 48% of husbands say sex with their wife is extremely satisfying emotionally compared to just 37% of cohabiting men.

Therefore, I have a tough question. Why were there more marriages in 1970 (2,159,000) than in 2015 (2,077,000)? The population grew from 203 million to 319 million. If the same percentage of couples were marrying now, there would be 1.3 million more marriages per year!

First, I blame America's churches for not making a better case for marriage. Four in ten people attend church weekly - giving clergy huge access. Yet, in my 70+ years of attending church, I can remember only one sermon, a recent one - that held up Christian marriage.

Second, two-thirds of young couples think they should test the relationship by living together. There were 8.3 million couples cohabiting in 2015, but only 1.3 million of them married. The rest mostly break up over time. And women who cohabit are 33% more likely to divorce than those who remained apart till marriage.

Churches should insist that cohabiting couples move apart for months before the wedding - to increase their odds of success.

Sadly, few do so.

____________________________________
Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to  www.ethicsandreligion.org. Hit Search for any topic.

 

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