Better sex, better health, more money: What men really get out of marriage

You know that old ball and chain joke from men about marriage? More than ever, today’s young men question the value of marriage to increase their happiness and well-being.

The U.S. marriage rate has dropped dramatically (from 70 percent in to 50 percent in four decades) and marriage is getting replaced with new habits of long-term dating, late marriage and long-term cohabitation.

I’ve watched my husband of 36 years, my son (married at age 28), and my son-in-law (married at age 25) easily embrace the contradiction to that joke -- that in fact marriage deeply enhances their lives and they would rather be married than single.

Young women have their own reactions toward marriage, but a new study on “Men & Marriage” sheds fresh insight on the attitudes of men towards marriage. “Science could not be clearer:  on average, men enjoy more money, better sex, and better health when they are married,” cite Institute for Family Studies researchers Brad Wilcox and Nicholas Wolfinger.

The report, “Men and Marriage: Debunking the Ball & Chain Myth” found that:

?  Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than otherwise comparable single men.

?  That the quality of married sex trumps the quality of unmarried sex.

?  Men who get and stay married live almost 10 years longer and are more likely to experience better physical and emotional health.

Better Health:  “Simply put,” the report says, “the companionship, the support, and even the nagging that men get from their wives in marriage translate into better physical health.”  It is partly from better eating and encouragement to get medical care, but social and emotional support also translates in better mental health—married men have less depression and more happiness.  Our immune systems function better when we have support from loved ones.

More Money: Married men earn more, save more, and generally have access to a second income.  The typical fifty-something married man has three times the assets of his unmarried peer, about $167,000 compared to $36,000 for never-married and $48,500 for divorced.

Better Sex:  The National Health and Social Life Survey reports that “51 percent of married men reported they were extremely satisfied with their sex lives, compared to 39 percent of cohabiting and 36 percent of single men.”

What brings success?  The report notes that a majority of first divorces are initiated by women and so it offers some advice for men.

“Men who do their best to hold down a stable job, who don’t abuse drugs or alcohol, who are sexually faithful, who attend religious services regularly with their wives, and who make a regular effort to be emotionally engaged in their marriage are less likely to divorce.” 

Since success and joy feel so much better than failure, begin with the end in mind. Recognize that having a successful marriage takes work, but that effort is worth it.

As we begin National Marriage Week USA (Feb. 7 to 14th), men should know that there is a path to greater happiness, wealth and well-being.

Guys, take heart – you may think marriage is just the “ball and chain,” but it can make your life better!