Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Sickness and in Health

Marriage has long been considered a psychologically beneficial state, with marrieds often healthier and happier. But hold on. It’s really been considered beneficial primarily for men, with women more likely to be depressed in marriage than men. This relates in part to the well accepted fact that married working women typically handle more of the housework and childrearing responsibilities, effectively giving them two jobs.

Recent work has started to question some of these findings. One group of researchers has suggested that the benefits of marriage can be shared by cohabitors (i.e., they both have built in companions and someone to share the work). But these researchers have found that the cohabitors are happier and have higher self-esteem than the marrieds. With marriage comes a loss of autonomy and difficulty pursuing personal growth goals leading to decreases in happiness and self-esteem. Cohabitors may be able to maintain more autonomy and self-direction. And the single men may even be as happy as married men.

Even cohabitors tend to decrease contact with family and friends, like marrieds. And cohabitors separate more. But now we find that a bad marriage is worse for blood pressure than singledom. We also find that divorce and loss of a spouse through death may lead to more stress than singles experience with relationship dissolution.

The biggest takeaway messages for me are about maintaining autonomy and personal goals in relationships, be they marriages or other. Retain your sense of self in a relationship. Don’t sacrifice important personal goals. Keep your friends and families close. Do the things that make you feel happy. Don’t give up who you are in order to satisfy someone else. Healthy relationships don’t demand this level of sacrifice. I think in sickness and in health just means you’ll stand by your partner.

Mood music: Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), Beyonce; So What, Pink

1 comment:

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