The share of Americans who have never been married is at a record high, and young adults are at the leading edge of this national trend. In 2012, 20% of Americans ages 25 and older had never tied the knot, up from just 9% in 1960.¹
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that only half (53%) of never-married Americans would like to eventually tie the knot.²
It seems that marriage is not a top priority for Americans. Having a successful marriage is “one of the most important things” in life for only 36% of adults, according to a 2011 Pew Research survey. An additional 48% said it is “very important but not the most” important. Being a good parent was seen as “one of the most important things” by a larger share of adults (53%).³
If and when they do decide to get married, it seems that love is the number one motive.
However, there are more reasons to marry and with even greater benefits. Younger generations in particular need to understand tangible benefits that come with a strong marriage. If you are on the fence about marriage, keep reading…
5 UNEXPECTED BENEFITS OF MARRIAGE
1. BETTER HEALTH
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that married people face less psychological stress than their single counterparts. Hence, married people have lower levels of cortisol—a stress hormone that, when produced in excess, can contribute to inflammation and chronic disease. Consistently high cortisol levels, which can be caused by ongoing stress, can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to many health conditions, including heart problems, lower immunity, diabetes, and cancer.⁴ The reason married couples are less stressed can be found in our next marriage benefit….
2. HAPPINESS AND STRESS RELIEF
Keeping thoughts and feelings to yourself can lead to depression, anxiety and greater stress with the increase of ruminating, unyielding self-disparagement.⁵
Psychotherapist Shira Bursting says, ”Of course, no relationship is perfect, but a healthy, functioning marriage can provide stress and anxiety relief in many different forms: encouraging each other to strive for healthier goals (think: quitting binge drinking, eating healthier, going after that dream job), complimenting each other's positive qualities and celebrating each other's successes.”
Furthermore, married couples experience higher levels of serotonin and testosterone. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter created by the human body that's known to maintain mood balance and decrease depression, anxiety and anger.
"Coming home from a long day of work and having that partner there for physical affection increases positive mood, sex drive and, ultimately, intimacy," Burstein says. "Despite the concern that having the same sex partner for the rest of your life means the possibility of sex becoming 'stale' and hot and heavy nights can become few and far between, a partner that is reliably reliable, available, supportive and dedicated in other ways extends overall happiness long-term for a married couple.”⁵
3. ANTI-AGING ANTIDOTE
Research consistently shows that couples in a committed marriage live longer than those who are single, cohabiting or divorced. The emotional support that is possible in a marriage provides each partner with the feeling of being ‘heard.’ "Particularly for men, being in a stable relationship allows men to break outside of gender expectations and roles. With statements that exist such as 'Men don't cry' or 'Men don't talk about feelings,' having a partner provides a safe space to be able to verbalize emotions, feelings and needs that may often go ignored or suppressed on a regular basis,” says Burstein.⁵
4. BETTER SEX LIFE
University of Chicago gerontologist Michael Roizen is an expert in the field of sex and longevity, whose work has revealed a number of profound health benefits that sexually active adults experience throughout life. According to Roizen, more frequent sex can lead to many health benefits. For example, if you have sex twice a week you may experience the equivalent of being two years younger than your chronological age, as well as benefiting from a significant enhancement in the health and efficiency of the heart, respiratory system, and maintaining muscle strength. (If you have satisfying sex once a day, you may experience an eight-year age differentiation.)⁶
Queens University (Belfast) conducted a study of 1,000 married men over a ten year period. Their findings, which was published in The British Medical Journal, found that long-married men live up to five years longer than unmarried counterparts. Why? Sex delivers a natural high in the form of the neurohypophysical "feel-good" hormone, oxytocin, producing a feeling of tranquility and happiness, and lowering blood pressure, which also provides protection against heart attacks and strokes. The team's research showed that those who had sex three times a week or more cut their risk for heart attack and stroke by 50%.⁶
Jana Lembke wrote a great article on this topic, A Sidekick for Self-Actualization: How Our Partners Make Us Great. Here I will summarize.
Self-actualization is what psychologists call the process of fulfilling one’s needs and eventually achieving one’s full potential. It is important to realize what qualities are important in a lifelong partner to help us become self-actualized. In fact, one study of over 2000 married couples examined features of relationships that predict personal well-being and self-actualization habits…
Firstly, there are two approaches to studying well-being.
The first approach is based on the hedonic perspective and involves judgments of how good one’s life is. If you are content with how your life is going, you have high hedonic well-being.
Eudiamonic well-being, on the other hand, is distinct from experiencing pleasure and is more about reaching your full potential. Life isn’t just about being happy – it’s about living for a greater purpose. Part of that means helping others, seeking personal growth, and managing challenges and responsibilities.
Put simply, hedonic well-being is about living a pleasurable life while eudiamonic well-being is about living a meaningful one.
The study found that the number one greatest indicator of greater well-being over time is partner responsiveness – the extent to which you feel valued, cared for, and understood by your romantic partner. (Other variables that influence well-being include age, personality, and the responsiveness of friends and family.)
If you viewed your partner as being highly responsive, you were more likely to show increases in eudiamonic well-being ten years later! However, there was no link between partner responsiveness and hedonic well-being over time. These findings mean that on average, people with more responsive partners reported more growth towards self-actualization across the ten years. But, having a responsive partner did not necessarily lead people to feel more satisfied with their lives over time.
In a follow-up analysis with the same data, the authors found evidence that the link between responsiveness and eudiamonic well-being may be because when we perceive our partners as being generally responsive to our needs, we react less negatively to daily stressors. Feeling valued by those closest to us – even without being aware of it – may help us effectively deal with life’s difficulties. So, it may be that having a responsive partner helps us feel less nervous, sad, or hopeless when bad things happen in our lives, allowing us to effectively deal with the situation and get back to progressing towards our goals.
Various studies have found eudiamonic well-being to be associated with productivity, physical health, and a decreased risk of depression. This research suggests that being with a caring partner over the years may also help us lead a meaningful life.⁷
- Wang, Wendy, and Parker, Kim. (2014, September 24). "Record Share of Americans Have Never Married." Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/09/24/record-share-of-americans-have-never-married/.
- Wang, Wendy. (2014, October 2). "The best and worst cities for women looking to marry." Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/10/02/the-best-and-worst-cities-for-women-looking-to-marry/.
- Cohn, D'Vera. (2013, February 13). "Love and Marriage." Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/02/13/love-and-marriage/.
- MacMillan, Amanda. (2017, February 14). "The Biological Reason Married People Might Be Healthier." Retrieved from https://www.realsimple.com/health/biological-reason-marriage-is-healthy.
- Jacobson, Ivy. "13 Legal Benefits of Marriage." Retrieved on March 28, 2017 from https://www.theknot.com/content/benefits-of-marriage.
- Bloom, Linda and Charlie. (2015, September 26). "6 Reasons Why Married People Should Have Better Sex Lives." Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/201509/6-reasons-why-married-people-should-have-better-sex-lives.
- Lembke, Jana. (2016, November 14). "A Sidekick for Self-Actualization: How Our Partners Make Us Great." Retrieved from http://www.scienceofrelationships.com/home/2016/11/14/a-sidekick-for-self-actualization-how-our-partners-make-us-g.html.