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The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially Hardcover – October 3, 2000
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The wages of the married are high, commitment is good for the libido, and, despite 30 years of arguments to the contrary, happiness may just depend on reciting the wedding vow, according to Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher. After sifting through the evidence and conducting their own studies, the authors conclude that marriage is beneficial and transformational, and that neither cohabitation nor swinging singledom are all they're cracked up to be. In fact, it turns out that marriage is a public heath issue: being single can take almost 10 years off a man's life, while wifely nagging really is good for his health. Getting and keeping a wife can also increase a man's income as much as an education. Waite and Gallagher debunk a number of myths about marriage, including the one that says men get a better deal. Acknowledging that there may have been some truth to this in the past, better equity in modern marriages means that women make out just as well as men, though in different ways. Divorce--not marriage--is especially bad for women's health; parenting young children--not marriage--is the usual source of depression seen in mothers; and battering is significantly more common in cohabitating couples.
So, what does threaten marriage? For one, the insecurity engendered by the cultural acceptance of divorce. Couples are now less willing to invest fully in each other, the authors write, while "commitment produces contentment; uncertainty creates agony." Cultural indifference towards marriage is the other big downer. Because marriage is a public commitment, it can "work its miracles only if it is supported by the whole society." Not surprisingly, divorce gets a very bad rap as Waite and Gallagher pull out the heavyweight facts, particularly when it comes to its effect on children. The good news, though, is that marriage is resilient--five years down the road most couples who considered but resisted divorce found that they were happy again. Since Americans are still the marrying kind despite the cynicism, fear, and laissez-faire attitudes, The Case for Marriage makes a reassuring and compelling case for keeping on keeping on. --Lesley Reed
Waite and Gallagher overstate contemporary attacks on marriage, but they make a valid point that the revered institution has suffered stings lately. They cite the steady rise in divorce and in cohabitation, unwed parenthood, and the perception among some of marriage as a tradition. The authors note troubling trends that indicate that despite polls showing Americans rank a happy marriage as their primary goal, "when it comes to marriage, Americans have both high hopes and debilitating fears." The authors combat every negative myth regarding marriage--that it imprisons women or provides the context for abuse--with statistics showing its benefits: married people live longer, are healthier, have greater wealth and happiness, have sex more often, and provide a healthier, happier environment in which to raise children. Waite and Gallagher make their arguments in the context of the struggle between individualism and community interests, "between freedom and love." They also examine public policies that threaten to undermine marriage and what the government, courts, private sector, and individuals can do to strengthen this time-honored institution. Vanessa Bush
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The authors give a plethora of interesting facts and points about marriage far too numerous to list, but let me give just a few examples: only 8% of American women consider remaining single dividing chores in a totally equal fashion is unproductive economically as it removes the benefits derived from specialization of labor approximately 50% of Americans aged 35-39 are or have in the past been in cohabiting relationships  80% of married couples see the relationship as permanent as opposed to only 50% of cohabiting couples who either break up or get married withing two years  women who felt a career was very or extremely important mere more likely to cohabit than those who didn't - not a big surprise on that one  between 1979-1981 of approximately 12k suicides, widowed or divorced persons were 3X more likely to commit suicide than married persons  60% of never married and 51% of divorced cohabiting females had sex 2 or more times a week, while only 55% of cohabiting men had sex as often - YOU GO GIRLS!  at the same time cohabiting females were 8X more likely to cheat than married females - YOU STOP GIRLS! After just reading this last paragraph perhaps you can see how statistics can make for difficult reading. The book has slightly over 200 pages of narrative, with the rest being cites and references for further study.
I have little problem with what the authors said excepting the dearth of reasons to ever get divorced, but still think it would be worth your while to read the book and judge for yourself. This is certainly an area where we can all benefit from as much knowledge as we can get. In any case, I think the authors are most sincere in their beliefs regarding marriage and its benefits to children and society as a whole.
This work is useful for anyone concerned about marriage: the person on the street, the young single, the counselor, the clergyman, the sociology prof, the individual considering divorce or the candidate for marriage. Despite a few quotations using offensive language, this work is ideal for all adults. It must be read slowly, because it is filled with facts, figures and statistics and you may want to do a lot of underlining (as I did).
There were a couple of points that would have made the work better. For example, the authors constantly refer to a near 50% divorce rate in the U.S. Although true, it is important to point out that only 27% of FIRST marriages end in divorce. [note: over just the last few years, new stats suggest a 41% rate, which still means that most first marriages succeed]. What brings the statistics up are the serial divorcers.
Their chapter titled, "Why Marriage is in Trouble" is weak. It sights a few possible reasons for the rise in divorce, but not the main one: people are more messed up than they used to be. People are less social, have a less realistic understanding of what is normal and realistic (partly because they believe TV and Hollywood, but partly because of THEIR upbringing), and the social push toward "demanding" our rights rather than being cooperative and compromising. They did get it right, however, when they stressed that too many people think about "their happiness" and not about the misery divorce will bring to them and to their children.
Let me share this one: "86 percent of unhappily married people who stick it out find that, five years later, their marriage are happier.... In fact, nearly three-fifths of those who said their marriage was unhappy in the late 80's and who stayed married....rated this same marriage as either "very happy" or "quite happy" when reinterviewed in the early 90's." We need to get the word out!
I would label this an important book and highly recommend it. If you are involved in "people helping," this book is not luxury, but necessity.
Waite and Gallagher provide the full treatment for this last, perhaps most important element of poverty prevention. Hillary Clinton missed the point: Families, not villages, raise children. And, if we follow Clinton, we'll all be the sorrier for such a loss of the real, meaningful social and economic foundation of society: the family.
Families generate economies of scale and job specialization. Children in families become investments, not expenses. Families provide built-in, free baby sitting, day care, education, tutoring and entertainment.
A student once responded to my question about teaching abstinence to prevent AIDS, implying my position as a moralistic, religious sanction. Sorry, she was wrong. Just because it's morally correct does not mean that there is no rational basis for the belief.