Why marriage is still worth the bite
Text: Karen Khng
Photos: Getty Images
We all crave human companionship. Love in modern times has conferred us the right to “love whomever you want, however you want, anytime you want, and as often as you want.” But we want so much more than that. We want that flame to burn brightly and to last forever, to create a kaleidoscope of memories that will never elude or disappoint us. We are riveted by reality TV offering us insight into orchestrated mate-selection, over-glorified and unsustainable sexual attraction, commercially-endorsed and prescribed definitions of romance, all whilst respecting a person’s right to choose. Stories of happily ever after, royal and of “blue blood,” ridiculously rich and impossibly perfect, dysfunctional and toxic, and of the celebrity and rock star sort, enthrall us all. We want the dream and to live it, too, but alas we are stuck in a catch 22 of our own making.
Multitudes of surveys say marriage as a trend and institution is declining because more couples are playing house to do a marriage “trial run” to determine if their decision to wed is a viable one. These days, depending on your culture and which country you live, just as many couples shack up in the name of love as those who strut down the aisle or civil registry to declare an unconditional vow of “I do.”
A U.S. census report says some 7.5 million now cohabit compared to 450,000 playing house 50 years ago. A 2010 Pew Research Center paper says 2/3 of people in their 20s will live with a romantic partner. This socio-cultural shift has defied previous stigmas, and escalated thanks to women’s lib, sexual revolution, the easily available option of birth control, and the fact that bill sharing stretches their individual dollar.
Social scientists have dissected the marriage-cohabitation conundrum too many times to name and the verdict hasn’t really changed much: people do better mentally, physically, emotional and financially when they’re happily married. They outlive their unmarried and divorced peers, come across sexier, healthier, happier and lead more affluent lives. They fare better on the mental health totem pole and are less depressed, less anxious, and less psychologically distressed. Scientists even say they have better immune systems. Marriage also brings out the best in us attitudinally and pushes commitment levels and actions in the right directions.
So, why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? How big a difference does marriage really make in a person’s life? Marriage is a strong contender in the Partnership Games. Here’s why it’s worth the bite.