Marriage

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Marriage is a legal, religious, social, and personal affair. It is an institution, a sacrament, a promise, and a contract entered into with some thought of enduring until death, but with only a 50-50 chance of doing so. Although marriage may not last until death, there is some evidence that men who get married do not die as soon as those who remain single. Whether the greater longevity of married men is due to the fact that marriage selects rather than protects, that is, that healthy, long-living people are more likely to marry and stay married, it is also possible that the emotional ties and the sharing of labor and mutual responsibility of marriage encourage health and long life-at least in males. However, it seems that, in terms of longevity, women benefit less from marriage and suffer less than men from being single. At least, this was the finding in a study by Gove (1973). A subsequent investigation conducted by Kobrin and Hendershot (1977) on a national sample of people who died between the ages of 35 and 74 yielded complex findings concerning the tive. Unfortunately, your nocturnal soulmate may not be recognizable by the cold, unforgiving light of day. If you enjoy kissing her (or him) in the morning, you'll enjoy it anytime. Or as one reluctant groom responded when urged by the preacher to kiss the bride, "I'll pass if you don't mind!"

I've always believed that it is a good idea to try marriage at least once, hut some people carry it to ridiculous extremes. Two cases in point are Tommy Manville with his 25 wives and Elizabeth Taylor with her 8 husbands. Of course, Liz, like my own mother, married (and divorced) the same man twice. The couple apparently needed a second go-round before coming to the conclusion that they really couldn't stand each other after all.

Having more than one mate poses a problem of what to do with them. If you live in a polygamous society or can travel rapidly from place to place, it may not be necessary to get rid of them at all. Extinguishing an old flame by paying her (or him) off is another pos sibility, but the method of figuratively ("Jane Eyre") or literally ("Bluebeard") burying your mistakes is definitely not recommended. Furthermore, even if you like your spouses a lot, you shouldn't follow the example of some ancient kings and try to take them with you when you die.

It is conceivable that the rate of spouse-disposal could be reduced by "heading it off at the pass." One might make a "Scenes from a Bad Marriage" videotape of all the things that can go wrong with a match and play it back several times for people who are contemplating coupling. It is doubtful, however, that even the most graphic depictions and predictions will deter two individuals who are blinded by love and intent on getting hitched. Love and marriage continue to go together like work and play, life and death, or a horse and carriage. The question is who will he the driver and who the driven, and how long will it be before the horse bolts or the driver jumps off the rig?

effects of marriage on longevity. In general, however, the results of this and other studies (e.g., Berkman & Syme, 1979) support the conclusion that close social ties and higher social status, which are more likely to be found in marriage than outside it, favor greater longevity. This relationship suggests that social interaction, such as is found in marriage, is as important as diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, or exercise in promoting a long life (see House, Robbins, & Metzner, 1982).

In 1995, 50% of males, 56% of females, 60% of non-Hispanic whites, 40% of blacks, and 55% of Hispanics in the United States over age 14 were married. Figure 6-3 shows that the median age of first marriages for both men and women during this century declined until the 1950s and then rose again. That many Americans do not get married until their late thirties, if ever, is indicated by the fact that in 1995, 33% (13.6 million) of those aged 25-34 had never been married. However, many unmarried couples in this group were living together (Saluter, 1996).

As shown in Figure 6-4, the percentage of married women increases

1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 1995

Year

Figure 6-3 Median age for first marriage by year during the twentieth century.

(Based on data from Saluter, 1996.)

until the forties and then declines. However, the percentage of married men reaches a maximum approximately 10 years later and declines less rapidly than the percentage of married women. At all ages, the percentages of black men and women who are married are lower than those of Hispanic and non-Hispanic white men and women. Less than 75% of black women, compared with 90% of white women, eventually marry, and they tend to marry at a later age. Also note the steep drop in the percentage of married women produced by widowhood in later life (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992).

People get married for many different reasons other than love and romance: familial and peer expectations and pressures; to improve their economic and social positions; to raise a family; to cope with feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and insecurity. Some women still get married because they are pregnant, but out-of-wedlock births have become fairly common and less likely to produce personal, social, and economic handicaps than they once were.

Although traditional marriage in which the husband is the dominant partner and decision maker and the wife is the principal housekeeper and child rearer, has been declining in popularity, it is still the most common type. Other marital arrangements include companionate, colleague, open,

Age Interval (Years)

Figure 6-4 Percentage of married men and women as a function of age in 1995.

(Based on data from Saluter, 1996.)

Age Interval (Years)

Figure 6-4 Percentage of married men and women as a function of age in 1995.

(Based on data from Saluter, 1996.)

and group marriages. In companionate marriage, no distinction is made between male and female roles. Both husband and wife can assume any of the duties, rights, and obligations of the family unit. Different from companionate marriage in terms of role assignments, but also democratic, is colleague marriage. Here, specific duties and responsibilities are assumed by each partner and recognized as such by the other marital partner. Companionate and colleague marriages are especially popular among highly educated, middle- and upper-middle-class couples (Duberman, 1974).

At the more liberal end of the traditional-modern continuum of marital arrangements are open and group marriages. An open marriage is a legally sanctioned union, but both partners find it perfectly acceptable to have sexual relationships with other people. Group marriage is a communal arrangement in which a number of couples are legally married to one another but decide to share living quarters, duties, and sexual partners (Duberman, 1974).

A major task in marriages of various sorts is that of role differentiation and the associated process of power division. A research study conducted by Miller and Olson (1978) found evidence for nine different patterns of role and power differentiation between husband and wife: wife-led (disengaged, congenial, or confrontive), husband-led (disengaged, engaging, confrontive, con-

flictive, or cooperative), and shared leadership. A strong determinant of power in marriage, whether wife-led or husband-led, was money. Women who had high incomes tended to be equal to or higher in power than their husbands. In a further analysis of their data, Miller and Olson were able to describe most marriages in terms of dominance, conflict, and affect. The affect dimension included such behaviors as humor or laughter, disapproval of the spouse, and self-doubt on the part of the husband.

Other researchers who have analyzed changes in the ways that marital partners deal with problems of authority, control, and power over time have delineated various phases through which married couples pass in their relationships with each other. Kurdek and Schmitt (1986) differentiated between the blending phase of the first year, the nesting phase of the second and third years, and the maintaining phase of the fourth and subsequent years of marriage. The blending phase consists of learning to live together and to think of the marital partners as an interdependent pair. The nesting phase involves an exploration by the partners of limits on their compatibility and the time that they should spend on shared activities. Stress and disillusionment are frequently at a maximum during this phase of marriage. In the third and final phase, the maintaining phase, family traditions are established, the individuality of each partner is recognized, and the level of stress declines.

All marriages are obviously not successful or happy ventures. Unwillingness or inability to compromise, inflexibility, and a refusal to acknowledge one's own inadequacies and failures as well as those of one's spouse are characteristic of partners in unhappy marriages. Short marriages are typically unhappy ones, but endurance does not necessarily imply satisfaction. Many middle-aged couples, women in particular, who have been married for two decades are dissatisfied with their marriages. The good news for these individuals is that marital satisfaction generally increases in later life (Anderson, Russell, & Schumm, 1983; Lee, 1988). It is usually highest during the first years of marriage, declines until the children begin leaving home, and then rises again (Berry & Williams, 1987).

A number of factors are associated with enduring marriages. Included among them are the relative maturity of the partners when they are married, the degree of financial security, and a feeling that the relationship is an equal one (Diamond, 1986). Among other factors that can interfere with marital happiness and have an effect on the length of a marriage are pregnancy or delivery prior to the marriage ceremony, the physical appearance of one's spouse (Margolin & White, 1987), whether or not there are children in the home, and the personal and behavioral characteristics of the spouse (dependency; argumentativeness; addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs). With older couples, the situation in which the husband is retired but the wife continues to work outside the home can become a source of conflict and dissatisfaction in marriage (Lee, 1988).

In general, married couples, as with any two people who live close to each other for years in an interdependent, symbiotic relationships, experi ence periods of cooperation and conflict, like and dislike. The longer two people live together, the greater their investment in the marriage and, hopefully, the greater their involvement and desire to make it work. The traditional virtues of tolerance, patience, consideration, respect, and affection are as important in marital happiness and longevity as they are in any effective human relationship and must be practiced by both partners.

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How To Add Ten Years To Your Life

How To Add Ten Years To Your Life

When over eighty years of age, the poet Bryant said that he had added more than ten years to his life by taking a simple exercise while dressing in the morning. Those who knew Bryant and the facts of his life never doubted the truth of this statement.

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