It’s probably not a surprise that I’m not a huge fan of marriage, given my recent acrimonious divorce, however it is well documented that men benefit more from wedlock than women.
The presence of a wife may bring benefits for men in terms of household management and healthcare, whereas women are “more likely to feel stressed”
Interestingly and perhaps not surprisingly, this is not the case for same-sex marriage where marriage is mutually beneficial for LGBT couples from physical and mental health perspective.
In heterosexual relationships, studies show that married men have lower rates of depression, anxiety and suicide than never-married men. Meanwhile, married women have higher rates.
Moreover, men live longer when they are married, while their wives’ longevity is impaired.
This is because the presence of a wife may bring benefits for men in terms of household management and healthcare, whereas women are “more likely to feel stressed and find their role restrictive and frustrating,” according to Dr Caterina Trevisan at the University of Padova, who also notes that when men die, their widows often bounce back.
This does beg the question, should women bother getting married? And increasingly, they are not.
According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics marriage rates for women have dropped from a high of 60.5 per 1,000 in 1972, to 20.9 in 2014 (I’m not sure why they don’t have more recent numbers).
There are many reasons out there for the decline in popularity of marriage, including the increasingly punitive costs involved in walking down the aisle (the current average cost of a wedding in the UK is £27k, according to hitched.co.uk).
Another driver of the decline in matrimony is women deliberately choosing not to marry.
“We are living through the invention of independent female adulthood as a norm, not an aberration, and the creation of an entirely new population: adult women who are no longer economically, socially, sexually, or reproductively dependent on or defined by the men they marry,” explains Rebecca Traister in her book, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation.
Where this leaves men is rather more worrying, according to The Good Men Project. Women are more likely to reach out for help when they need it and to maintain their support networks.
For men, their wife is usually their sole best friend. Moreover, men don’t tend to share with other men, certainly not on the same emotional level that women do.
“As men feel unable to meet women’s needs for economic, emotional, and social support, they feel more inadequate and distance themselves even more, often escaping into pornography, increased alcohol consumption, and compulsive work habits,” writes Dr Jed Diamond, author of The Enlightened Marriage.
Choosing a marriage of equals
The decision not to marry is a bold one for women to take, but a decision that could result in them living longer, happier and healthier lives. But for those who do want to publicly commit to their partners, there is the option to choose a marriage of equals.
When I married my ex in 2008 I’ll admit to being carried away by the romance of it all and pushing most of my feminist ideals to one side.
However, even then I saw little point in changing what was a perfectly good name, one that I’d had all my life, and questioned why I should be “given away” by my father as if I was simply a man’s property.
Some women say they take their husband’s name because they want the same surname as their children. But if marriage is losing its appeal, perhaps children should start taking their mother’s surnames? But that’s a discussion for another day…