The mysterious benefits of marriage

By Tom Quiner

I read advice columnists.

How I would have loved to respond today to the young lady who wrote in to advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, in her column which is called “Tell Me About It.”

The woman begins:

“I’ve been dating my boyfriend for two years (he’s 29, I’m 30). I’m the first person he’s imagined living with or marrying, and we’ve been talking about moving in together, as well as marriage. I’m a little reluctant to go all-in for living together without a firm commitment to each other, but he views it as a necessary first step to make sure we’re compatible.”

Young lady, may I translate what your young man is saying? He is saying that he wants you available for regular sex and other benefits of marriage, but that he is unwilling to hang around if things get too “uncomfortable.” He is saying that you really shouldn’t count on him should you become pregnant.

Stop and think: do you want to raise a child alone?

She continues:

“He also recently revealed that he is terrified of divorce, which I had some suspicion about because his parents split when he was 12, his brother just announced his divorce after seven years, and several of his good friends have gotten divorced.”

I appreciate his concerns. Ask him this question: “is your love for me contingent on your feelings for me? In other words, honey, is love an emotion?”

Now go silent.

Let him talk.

Give him lots of time … and don’t interrupt.

Is he saying the right things?

What are the right things? I think it is this: love is more than a feeling. Yes … it IS a feeling, a wonderful feeling. But it is also a choice.

It HAS to be a choice, because feelings wax and wane.

Your lover is going to lose those warm and fuzzy feelings toward you at times in your relationship. And so are you.

When you publicly acknowledge that love is a choice, which you do during your marriage ceremony, you have made a commitment that makes it tougher to “break-up” when the going gets tough.

What do I mean by a choice? Have you ever heard the phrase “through good times and in bad?”

That’s the memorable phrase you hear in most marriage vows.

Marriages have good times and bad. Without the commitment of marriage, uncommitted parters bale when things get tough, and you’re left holding the bag.

The young lady continues:

“He told me he has serious commitment issues, which he is just beginning to realize, and that in his mind, “marriage” means “divorce.” He usually has a “look-at-the-positive” mind-set, except for this, which he acknowledges. My exposure to marriage has been very, very different, but I can understand his fears.”

I’m not unsympathetic to your boyfriend’s worries based on his experience.  Perhaps you should look him in the eyes and simply say: ” … but don’t you think I’m worth the leap of faith?”

Again, go silent. Let him talk.

Does he affirm you’re worth it?

Or not?

Our young lady concludes with these worries:

“I do want to live with him, but I don’t think of living together as a trial run, I see it as something two people do when they are completely ready to commit to each other. I don’t know what to do.”

Young lady, let’s be honest. Your young man DOES view living together as a trial run. You’re putting your future happiness at stake if you let him talk you into doing this, because he is not willing to commit his love, his devotion, his loyalty to you for the rest of his life.

He is not ready to make the CHOICE of love.

If he only knew that the upside of marriage is so wonderful. Although this isn’t a very romantic way to prove it, marriage is measurably wonderful as revealed in “The Case for Marriage” by Maggie Gallagher and Linda J. Waite.

Economically, women and men both are better off married than their unmarried counterparts.

It’s interesting … married men get promoted more often than unmarried men. They get better job evaluations. They arrive at work on time more than unmarried men.

Marriage brings out the best in men at the workplace.

Interestingly, black women who are married earn ten percent more than their unmarried black counterparts. And white married women earn 4 percent more than unmarried white women.

Marriage benefits women economically on the job whether they’re white or black.

Did you know that single people are less healthy than married ones?

Unmarried men have mortality rates that are 250% higher than married men. Yes, you read that correctly. Two-hundred and fifty percent!

And even single women have mortality rates that are fifty percent higher than married women.

Married people have less risk of dying of cancer than unmarried ones.

Married women rate their health as being better, a lot better, than unmarried ones.

And married men and women live longer than unmarried ones.

In other words, marriage is good for your physical health!

It keeps getting better: marriage is good for a man’s mental health. Married men are half as likely to commit suicide as unmarried men. Married men and women suffer from less depression than their unmarried counterparts, and are quantifiably happier.

Married men drink half as much as unmarried ones, so marriage helps to check tendencies toward excess.

Married women are five times LESS likely to be victims of crime and married men are four times LESS likely to be victims of crime.

So married men and women are safer than their unmarried counterparts.

When it comes to sex, married men and women are more physically and emotionally content than couples who live together without the commitment of marriage.

Marriage provides mysterious benefits because of the power of commitment.

So, to the young woman writing in to the advice columnist this morning, I simply ask: do you want to give all this up?

Seriously … isn’t the power of commitment a fundamental building block to living a happier, more fulfilled life?

Your boyfriend will say, “yeah, but look at my parents.”

And you should say right back, “yeah, but look at mine.”

Then tell him this:

“I’m willing to commit to you through the good times and bad.

I will raise our children with the knowledge that I love their father. They won’t be able to miss that even if they’re blind.

Whether you lose your hair and grow a big gut, I’m there for you.

If you get sick, I’m there for you.

If we don’t have a lot of money, I’m there for you.

And despite all the ups and downs, we’re going to have a wonderful life together, because I commit my love to you.

Will you do the same for me? Will you make that choice?”

If your young man says, no, he can’t make that choice, do not move in with him. The relationship needs more time to grow. Or perhaps it’s time to move on.

If your young man says, yes, he is willing to make that choice, do not move in with him. He knows you’re worth waiting for.

And so will you.


  1. Monte B. Gray on June 30, 2011 at 5:54 am

    I agree with you 100% about the benefits of marriage! I can’t think of a single point you stated that would be considered inaccurate! Having been in a marriage for over 30 years I can attest to it’s benefits!

    Even with a divorce rate of almost 50%, people still remarry! Undoubtedly for it’s benefits! :’)

  2. maxine bechtel on June 30, 2011 at 7:35 am

    BRAVO!! Tom, methinks you should relegate your business to the back burner and become a full-time marriage counselor! My hubby and I have been married 62 years, and at rare times it might have been tempting to consider “bailing out” during the tough times, but that would have cheated us and our 5 children of all the wonderful perks of true commitment!

    Too many young people these days have fallen for the myth that “shacking up” is the safeguard to a happy marriage. Those of us who have weathered the storm have an obligation to set the example to refute the “compatibility test!” You are doing that!

  3. […] Read yesterday’s post for the set up for today’s post (The Mysterious Benefits of Marriage.) […]