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The Case for Marriage:
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 [via]