Marriage and Long-Standing Relationships

Marriage as a basic social institution may have flaws and need modifications, but most individuals still hold on it as the ideal. This is the persisting concept among the majority in the face of increasing attempts to reduce it into only one among many forms of recognized and legalized relationships.

Findings of the study conducted by York University Professor Ann-Marie Ambert revealed that cohabitation was not equivalent to marriage and did not benefit society (News and Society 2005). Cohabiting relationships do not and did not possess the commitment, fidelity and stability of marriage, which accrued to the well-being of the partners and their offspring. Ambert used hundreds of research papers to examine the social, emotional and financial effects of cohabitation and marriage on men, women and children. From these, she concluded that cohabitation favored men more than women and that marriage was far more beneficial to the offspring, while cohabitation tended to benefit all parties. Corollary 2000 statistics showed that, of the surveyed countries, marriage was highest in Sweden at 30%, 29.8% in Quebec and 24.5% in Norway as compared to only 8.2% in the U.S.A. (News and Society).

David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values believed that the institution of marriage originated 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia when men were brought in into the family, consisting of mothers and children (Buckley 2004). Some anthropologists today argued that marriage should not be bothered about, as 26% of all Americans lived alone and about half of all marriages eventually ended in divorce. They, instead, sought for a solution to the problem situation for those who cohabited for more than a night or a month to come to an agreement on the distribution of property and the custody of the children in the event of a breakup. Columbia Law School teacher Carol Sanger noted that little was written in the last five years on the need for marriage and more on alternative forms (Buckley).

Another study was conducted on 25 white women and 25 women of color from five New England colleges and universities from 1992-93 to determine what they wanted to achieve (Hoffnung 2004). The majority said that they wanted career, marriage, and motherhood. This finding was consistent with the identified changing roles of women in American society. Statistics on labor showed that the number of married women with young children rose dramatically in the 80s. Consistent with the findings of the study, most American women today expected to work after finishing college. The higher the educational level, the greater the chances of employment became. Increased interest in their career drove these women to postpone marriage and childbearing and a decrease in the number of offspring. But these women remained committed to marriage and raising a family. They determined that the combination of wifehood, motherhood and career was their best option. Economic needs and the pursuit of career contribute to employment after marriage and mother hood. These women saw this as their contribution to the family income. The findings evidenced the similarity of expectations among the surveyed college women. Despite their racial, socioeconomic and college status differences, almost all of them still wanted to mix career and family. Seven years after they completed their education, differences emerged. While most of them retained the value of mixing career and family, only a few became mothers and most had not yet opted to establish families. Career was major focus to them. Almost half of them got married but had not given up on developing their career. Although almost all of them spent their 20s on the development of their career, by the seventh year, they had achieved different educational degrees and career status. Interviews held in 2000 showed that the majority of the respondents still wanted a mix of career, family and motherhood, although they had become more realistic about conflicts occurring between career and family (Hoffnung 2004).

Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, in their book entitled "The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better-Off Financially," wrote that marriage promotes longer, healthier lives and bigger bank account, among other benefits (Wetzstein 2000). In their opinion, marriage was not only a sheet of paper, as critics of marriage maintained. It was an insurance policy, which more often than not, brought the couple long lives, good health, fat bank accounts and personal happiness. They based their conclusion on hundreds of studies and surveys, which provided reliable evidence of the overwhelming benefits of marriage. They also derived their call on parents, counselors, lawmakers and the clergy to do what they could to revive and revitalize the institution. They disagreed that marriage was just another lifestyle option and that it could not thrive or survive in a culture with this kind of thinking. The book grew out of the decreasing trend of marriage and remarriage and the continuously high rate of divorce. It was also a reaction to comments against marriage about being only a "piece of paper" and was harmful to women (Wetzstein).

They conducted and sifted through national surveys for a number of years (Wetzstein 2000). The surveys compared married people and unmarried people through all demographic groups. Findings showed that married people excelled in many categories, including longevity, physical and mental health, sexual satisfaction and financial assets. These results would reveal that marriage was not only desirable but prove the healthiest model for adults, children and society. It offered a scientific case about the broad and powerful consequences of marriage for children and adults and new arguments in favor of these. The book brought out scientific data, which pointed to the key asset of marriage as its unique vow of permanence. Within this commitment of permanence, the spouses could develop and invest in a long-term strategy to handle their challenges together. The authors stated that single people must accomplish all their life's task by themselves, but marriage was a partnership, which had an edge. It allowed the partners to choose from among tasks those he or she especially liked or did especially well (Wetzstein).

The authors also challenged the fixed and certain notion that every marriage was inherently bad and would, therefore, eventually become so (Wetzstein 2000). They contended that not even already unhappy marriages would necessarily stay unhappy. They discovered from research that 86% of those who said their marriage was unhappy in 1988 said five years later that it became happy or happier. They also asserted that marriage was not purely a private relationship. The public commitment involved in marriage would tend to change the way either partner would think about himself or herself and his or her spouse. It would tend to change the way they acted or thought about the future and the way other people and other institutions would tend to treat the couple who entered into the married state (Wetzstein).

The authors listed the physical, emotional and financial benefits of marriage (Wetzstein 2000). Physically, married couples, especially husbands, tended to live longer lives with fewer health problems; develop lover levels of risky behaviors, such as drinking, smoking and drug abuse; engage in high levels of sexual activity and achieve the highest levels of sexual satisfaction. Emotionally, married couple would tend to develop lower levels of depression, anxiety and other forms of psychological distress; account for lower levels of suicide; and achieve a higher sense of meaning in life. And financially, husbands had higher incomes than bachelors and this so-called "marriage premium" tended to increase as long as the man remained married; wives generally enjoyed higher levels of wealth than non-married women; and married couples tended to have higher levels of overall assets, including savings, twice than any other households (Wetzstein).

The Family Law seemed to have been under siege. Two influential reports on the family, written by lawyers, endeavored to push the family law away from its traditional direction of support for marriage and the protection of the best interests of children (Cere 2005). The first report was entitled "Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution," published in 2002 by the American Law Institute. It clearly sought to change existing law in three areas. It attempted to revise the position of marriage into only one of many possible and equally valid family forms. It also sought to break the ties of biological and functional parenthood. And it pushed for full legal rights and recognition of same-sex marriage. The second major report was entitled "Beyond Conjugality: Recognizing and Supporting Close Personal Adult Relationships" and was published in 2002 by the influential Commission of Canada. It was distinctively similar to the first report by the American group of lawyers. It recommended that the law should focus on the "substance of relationships" more than on the legal recognition of specific "arrangements," such as marriage. It contended that any relationship, characterized by interdependence, mutuality, intimacy and endurance should be legally recognized. It held that governments should recognize and support adult "close relationships" as neither "dysfunctional" nor "harmful." This second report emphasized theā€¦