Dr. Steve does a cost benefit analysis of being married and discovers some surprising results.
Is marriage a good investment? Depends on whether you stay married or not. Divorce is very expensive, both emotionally and financially.
Staying married is a good investment in your health, especially if you are in a strong marriage. It is such a wise investment it is better than cohabiting or being single. Married men are happier, live longer, have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, depression, and stress.
But don’t worry if you are cohabiting, it is still better than being single. How much. Well, according to researchers, Hui Liu and Corinne Reczek, examining national health survey data, they found that the mortality rate of cohabiting men compared to single men dropped by 80%, and 59% for women.
Here’s an interesting tidbit, men drink less after marriage than before. Women, drink more, supposedly because they are matching their partners drinking habits and men generally drink more than women.
According to Karen Sherman, happily married individuals undergoing heart bypass surgery are 3x more likely to be alive at 15 years post op. If you are going to get sick, be married.
OK, the research seems to be clear that being married, for men, is a good investment in your physical and mental health.
But let’s talk about a bad marriage or long-term relationship, which I think is important considering that 35-50% of all marriages fail depending on what country you live in. Not only does it suck emotionally, but there are other costs involved.
I will speak from personal experience on this one. I have supported one woman through her college education. I worked, she didn’t. I was alright with this when we were together, but once we separated and thought about it – boy I was ever caught in the old paradigm of men supporting their women. I suppose it felt good to be generous at the time, but really, what was I thinking? O.K. I was young and naïve. Lesson learned.
A good relationship is not a guarantee of good health, but a bad relationship is going to take its toll. Talk to your friends who are in a bad relationship and ask them how they are doing. They are probably saying things like, “I can’t sleep, I’m not eating properly, my stomach is upset, I feel crappy, my work is suffering,” and “I can’t make decisions.”
I can relate. Can you? Half way through a three year long relationship I got a duodenal ulcer. I was in bed with an ulcerated mouth curled up in agony from the pain in my stomach. It didn’t kill me but life was miserable. As high as the physical cost was, the emotional cost was higher. I felt hopeless about ever changing the situation and incapable of leaving. I was not coming from a place of strength, that’s for sure.
If you are in a marriage for a longer period, say over five years, you have probably accumulated some possessions; maybe a car, possibly a house or condo, and if you are one of those saver types, some cash or stocks. Even more than these items, you may have invested in a dream. A dream of what you want to accomplish in your career, marriage and future goals.
This was the biggest loss for me coming out of my marriage. The loss of the dream. After so much effort in living frugally for so many years in order to get an education, starting to work part-time as we pursued advanced degrees, and then have it disappear in the wink of an eye – major shock. And that was a good relationship!
A side note here: the fact that I was more upset with the loss of the dream and not the person told be something – I was not with the right person.
That one cost me big in time. I won’t say they were lost years, but I lost critical opportunities. One of the dreams was to have children and that was delayed because of our education. The opportunity never came again. On the other hand, I may never have gone on to university without my ex and that decision has benefited me greatly.
Today, I am in a stable, loving relationship that has lasted seventeen years. Maybe relationships/marriages are like playing the stock market – it is a gamble. You can reduce the risks by studying the market but in the end, there is a lot of luck involved.
My current relationship has paid many dividends.
I have learned to take responsibility (more) for my physical health, to not rely on my partner for my personal happiness (bit of an paradox as she plays a huge part in my being happy as she is an amazing and wise woman), have been encouraged to grow as a person, have become a better partner over time, and have participated in a love that grows and deepens every year.
How much is it worth to have someone to love and be loved by in return? When I do the calculations I come up with the infinity symbol. There is no end to this process as our love continues to expand for each other and for ourselves. In other words, it is priceless.
Going back to the original question, is marriage worth the investment? Yes. I couldn’t think of a better place to invest myself.