THE CASE FOR MARRIAGE
by Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher
(Broadway Books, 2000, 260pp, $29.90. Available from AD Books)
The Case for Marriage provides the solid research facts about why marriage is a social good, more than just sex - and why sex is better in marriage - and why marriage is good for men and women, as it is for children.
The authors examine one of the most powerful myths in society today that marriage is good for men but bad for women. This myth, promulgated by feminists since as far back as the 1960s, and still rife in our universities today, is that marriage is crippling and destructive to women.
The overwhelming evidence today, after allowing for the many variables, shows the contrary: marriage is good for women's health and also good for their emotional, sexual, physical and economic health. And it is the same for married men.
The old adage that women care more about marriage than men is also debunked. Researchers using a measure for personal dedication found men and women equally valued their spouse as the most important person in their lives and were both willing to sacrifice, invest and strive for their spouse's well-being.
While sex is a very important part of marriage, it is not (as with cohabitators) the defining characteristic of the relationship. When it comes to sex, rather than marriage being a "ball and chain" that dampens or ends one's sex life, married men and women report greater sexual satisfaction than cohabitating couples and singles.
Cohabiters (especially those who are not engaged) typically define their relationship in principle as sexually open, even if neither has plans to have sex with anyone else. Married couples on the other hand define their relationship as sexually exclusive.
Although cohabiters have as much sex as married couples, they do not report the same levels of satisfaction. According to Waite and Gallagher, the theory and research evidence suggests the secret ingredient which marriage adds to a better sex life is commitment.
Married people also benefit from economies of scale, with two living as cheaply as one. Although cohabiters argue they also benefit from economies of scale, the married are better off because they are usually more careful with their money due to their greater responsibilities.
Also, only couples who are committed to the institution of marriage, not simply to each other, feel safe enough to be able to trust their resources to one another.
As for why marriage is in trouble, the authors give a very good critique of the feminist analyses. They also look at supports for marriage, work and women, divorce laws in America, and how to restore young people's hopes in marriage.
Kerrie Allen is Research Officer for the Australian Family Association.