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February 10 2017

Scholars: Guys Benefit from Marriage

Charlotte Hays

There is a growing belief among men that marriage is nothing but sacrifice and loss of freedom, according to W. Bradford Wilcox of U Va's Institute of Family Studies, and Nicholas Wolfinger, director of the National Marriage Project at the same university. They sum up the view with a  composite named Craig:

Let’s call him six-pack Craig. His bill of particulars with marriage is long and hyperbolic. But he does a good job of expressing a view that is increasingly popular among a growing number of men: Marriage is of little benefit to the average guy, especially the kind of guy who lives for the hedonistic moment. Indeed, the increased popularity of views like this are probably one reason why the share of young men.

In their must-read article at NRO (headlined "Put a Ring on It"), Wilcox and Wolfinger use data to show that just the opposite is true. Married men earn more money (it's called "the marriage premium"), are happier and healthier--and even have better sex.

On average, the quality of married sex trumps that of unmarried sex. In the National Health and Social Life Survey, 51 percent of married men reported that they were extremely emotionally satisfied with sex, compared with 39 percent of cohabiting men and 36 percent of single men. Married men also found sex more physically pleasurable than men in unmarried relationships. These findings run counter to just about every movie, sitcom, and music video we’ve seen. What’s going on here?

We think guys benefit from the sexual investments that marriage encourages on the part of both parties. As one middle-aged spouse told researchers: “I think for sex you need more time, time to get in sync, time to know your partner, time to get to know what the other person likes or doesn’t like.”

Imagine that: getting to know the other person. But of course it's not just the sex that's good:

We’ve seen that for the average guy, when it comes to money, sex, and health, marriage offers significant returns on the sacrifices it requires. It’s all of a piece with what one major research project, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, found about what makes men healthy and happy over the course of their lives, including their retirement years. Indeed, elderly men who enjoyed good marriages reported significantly less depression, better moods, and more satisfaction with life.

The director of the study, Robert Waldinger, summed up the results: “Over and over in these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships with family, with friends and with community.” Social science confirms that marriage confers enormous benefits for men’s wallets, their sex lives, and their physical and mental health. Yet too many men still believe in the ball-and-chain myth, viewing marriage as an expensive encumbrance on their freedom and their sex lives. These views are ubiquitous in popular culture, and that has undoubtedly had adverse consequences for men’s aspirations to marriage.

It's a terrific article and I commend it to you.

One question: the problem of single-parent households is particularly prevalent in the inner city, and this results in all sorts of handicaps for the children. I am wondering how these findings could be used to promote marriage in low-income families, where marriage is most needed for financial and emotional stability.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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