Tier 3

music / / poetry / / philosophy / / -ology by Nick Courtright

Family Dynamics: Marriage, Long Life, and Cohabitation

Note: This is part one of a many-parted series discussing practical issues revolving around the family, such as the effects of suburbanization and corporatization on family happiness, divorce as a social phenomenon, the frailties of inner-city households, and the role of the father. No sources will be cited, but they do exist, somewhere. The ideas and thoughts proposed in this series are rhetorical and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Tier 3.

Studies have shown marriage to be a preemptory strike against stupidity—excessive drinking, recklessness, etc.—and marriage1.jpgsuggest that marriage’s role on the individual level helps to contain an individual’s either implicit or explicit desire to destroy him-/herself. The idea is that because a married person is responsible for someone besides him-/herself, he/she will be less likely to harm him-/herself. Also, the social communion of marriage eliminates the thought that a person is all alone in the world when confronted with stressful or compromising situations. Studies, though, often declare the obvious in statistical findings, comparing the married not to the never-married but to the divorced, a demographic that has undergone the rupturing of their most significant bond and would understandably be more likely to engage in less-than-ideal activities. So, keeping in mind that divorce is generally an unpleasant experience, and that divorce requires first a marriage, should marriage as an institution be held responsible not only for the good it causes (unity, child rearing, comfort, economic security, etc.), but also as an institution responsible for the soul-crushing epidemic known as divorce?

But to backtrack, it is of interest that the likelihood of long life for the divorced (but not remarried), though significantly lower than for the married, is still higher than for those who never married. Does this mean that even a marriage not worth keeping gives an individual the hope/love/fuel needed to live a long life? Or does it mean that those who never marry are such a debilitated mess of a demographic that they die younger because of loneliness/uselessness/ugliness? Although marriage is said to reduce risky behaviors, thus leading to longer life, the unmarried may by nature be a group more likely to lead a shorter life—why were they unmarried?

Perhaps this is over-complication of the issue, but it seems that those who never marry would be more likely to have problems extending far beyond singleness. But whether marriage-as-an-institution causes positive, life-extending effects—or if such effects are merely because people in better physical and mental shape are more likely to marry—is unclear.

The notion that marriage seems less desired now than in the pre-Vietnam era hinges on a number of factors, but the increased freedom of women to pursue careers, as well as the delaying of adulthood—due in a large way to higher rates of continuing education in both men and women—play undoubtable roles. But also playing a significant role is the skyrocketing rate of people who cohabitate as a first step towards greater commitment, rather than bypassing pre-marital cohabitation for the altar. Most relationships designated as cohabiting do not last long because the couple either moves quickly into marriage or realizes the partnership isn’t one worth keeping—but those instances account only for “most” cases of cohabitation, as many cohabiting couples who desire to retain the relationship are content to postpone marriage. Because the social stigma attached to cohabitation has lessened considerably, there is little impetus to rush headlong into the permanence of marriage. Not only that, but the increasingly equal nature of the importance of men and women’s career goals puts the rigmarole that is a wedding on the back burner.


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