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Jan. 21 2010 - 4:19 pm | 1,074 views | 0 recommendations | 14 comments

Report: Marriage sucks for women

A couple following their marriage in the Manti...

Image via Wikipedia

Think those two in the picture look happy? Note the discomfort in her expression and her inability to open her own eyes to see the truth right in front of her. Meanwhile, he surveys his bride as if he wants to eat her, or at least, capitalize on her earnings and work ethic.*

There’s been an abundance of research about women in the press lately, most recently, the Pew report finding that the ladies are now better educated and often better paid than their layabout hubbies.

What’s radically changed is that marriage now is a better deal for men,” said Richard Fry, co-author of the report, published by the Pew Research Center. “Now when men marry, often their spouse works quite a bit. Often she is better-educated than the guy.” In 1970, unmarried men “had a higher economic status than married guys,” he said, “but no longer.”

This follows the disturbing news that married women are fatter, more depressed/conflicted/trapped/cranky, and have to do more chores than their single peers. Meanwhile, married men live longer, are in better shape, and wear their shit-eating grins without a trace of compunction as they sit on the couch instead of taking out the garbage.

We’ve known for some time that men need marriage more than women from the standpoint of physical and mental well-being,” said Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and research director for the Council on Contemporary Families, a research and advocacy group. “Now it is becoming increasingly important to their economic well-being as well.”

I’m all for men being happy and healthy, don’t get me wrong. I like men, I do. But what’s with women getting the short end of the marriage stick? And if these new, smarter, better-paid women are so unhappy in marriage, will they keep getting hitched?

As much as we all plotted our double weddings to various hair band members back in seventh grade (okay, that was just me), maybe not. “Marriage itself is in some decline, the report showed. In 1970, 84 percent of the 30- to 44-year-old group was married. Now it is 60 percent.”

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for the next report to find out if those are men or women declining the institution, or just cynics of all genders.

In the meantime, take heart: the key to marital happiness for women can be found in yet another study: Marry an ugly dude.

*Comments about the couple in the photo are author’s interpretations only. She does not know Phil and Marlene and is sure they are truly in love and equally intelligent/well-paid.


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  1. collapse expand

    I am a 53 years old male, and married for 25 years. The key to our marital bliss is in fact me taking out the garbage, and cooking all the meals, and doing all the yard work. In return I get laundry, and book keeping services. Not a bad deal. A lot of men are pigs. Not all women get a bad deal. Marriage done right beats being single, hands down. I am more fun than any kitty.

  2. collapse expand

    I learned the hard way…true love means, do not get married.

    Unless it’s for citizenship in another country, then do it for friendship, not love.

    Love suckered me in years ago, spent my money to create her career, then when it came my turn to write my novel she went split.

    Good deal for the ex. And the lawyers.

    I still scored a publishing deal though. :)

  3. collapse expand

    I wonder if some of the married women’s discontent stems from their role as mother, not wife!

  4. collapse expand

    Jen,

    I’m intrigued by your question: Will women keep getting hitched? Women’s happiness has been declining for decades, apparently, and yet they are still getting married. (Although, as you point out, marriage rates have declined a bit.)

    If a lot of women are still making this deal, I wonder whether there isn’t some other advantage for them that these studies are not picking up.

    And–here I risk a storm of criticism, I know–I don’t think the lazy, selfish husbands are all just lazy and selfish. There are two possibilities here: they are all lazy and selfish. Or something else is operating, and there is some more subtle explanation for why they behave the way they do.

    The reason this matters, I think, is that if they’re lazy and selfish, that suggests one kind of remedy: kick ‘em in the butt, or don’t marry ‘em. If it’s something more complicated and subtle than that, we might think of other ways to improve the situation. But first we have to know what’s causing it.

    Submitted as a husband and father who, I admit, is very happy being married. Guilty. And I hope my wife, Elizabeth, is getting a better deal than some of the women in these studies. I try.

    • collapse expand

      Paul, I’m not married, but I think that I speak for many ladies when I saying trying is a huge part of things. It always wins big points with me.

      Personally, I think people will still get married, because (in my admittedly perhaps cynical view) many women view it as something that’s more akin to adopting the religion of your parents or voting the same way they do and, of course, having kids than something that you do to benefit yourself economically (also, it bears saying that maybe that’s not a BAD thing if women can economically benefit men these days) or even, maybe, for love. Marriage is what you’re supposed to do to many. And if you don’t think about why you’re doing it, I’m sure unhappiness and eating-for-love is a solid byproduct.

      In general, I also wonder about people thinking they deserve to feel happy in marriage. It didn’t used to be the case that happiness was even an issue – you had arranged marriages, marriages to cement property ownership or rulership, or good family standing. Love was something that people didn’t focus on, so much. Now, I’m not promoting that, (if I ever marry, I want love) but I do think it’s interesting that we’re in such a happiness and love-focused society today, and if you have high expectations for those things, inevitably you’ll feel it more when you don’t get them. Right?

      Also, women are statistically more unhappy then men – maybe because we’re allowed to be more emotional and happiness-obsessed.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Agree completely that marriage and kids are not for everyone, and that too many people find themselves in those circumstances because they thought they were supposed to–exactly as you say.

        As for happiness, I think, at this stage in our social and economic development, we can ask for that. Happiness broadly defined, that is, in some way we’d more or less agree on–satisfaction and fulfillment in work and life, rich personal relationships, and so on. Do you know the Jason Robert Brown song Stars & The Moon? It captures this exactly. Happiness is not the yacht and the diamond ring…

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  5. collapse expand

    Two things can significantly alter a woman’s chances at marital happiness, I believe, speaking from personal experience — a clean, clear pre-nuptial agreement initiated by the high(er)-earning woman (no, you can’t marry me just for the money) and the decision not to have children. Every study of parenthood shows steep declines in marital bliss with the arrival of kids — yet 80 percent of women have them.

    I’d really like to see more studies of child-free women and how happy their marriages are. The couples I know, and many of our friends also don’t have kids, seem pretty content without diapers-induced drama. There are enough issues in any marriage to cope with, then you add in the gazillion more of raising healthy, happy kids.

    When you choose to marry with your own assets intact (you get and stay married for love, not income) and no kids, you choose a man for what you most value and stay with him until that fades. I would bet men who marry secure women (emotionally, financially) also enjoy this and behave quite dfferently knowing they are not, as they often are in traditional marriages where men earn more and do less (hello, nasty power struggles?), really the sperminator/wallet-with-legs.

    Women who are not encumbered with kids and the tremendous need for income and stability they therefore need have many more choices — people with choices tend to be a lot happier than those who have few to none.

    When I re-marry, it will be for love and pleasure in my partner’s company. So many other drivers push women, and men, to the altar — many of them unconscious and/or undiscussed.

    • collapse expand

      Thank you, Caitlin! This also makes me wonder about the happiness of women who choose to have kids without partners.

      It reminds of me of something my dad told me when I was probably too young to take it seriously. There are three main things that divide married couples, according to him (and I’m sure, a number of studies): money, kids, and sex. So make sure you marry someone who shares the values you do on those three things. If you get married, of course.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      “…people with choices tend to be a lot happier than those who have few to none.”

      Right on Caitlin, truer words have never been spoken. Whether you choose to have children or not, if each partner is treated equally when it’s time for needs and wants to be met the anxiety and tension decrease dramatically. If you feel beholden to someone else in the partnership due to income, emotional security, etc. you’re going to feel trapped and desperate.

      As a married woman with two small children, creating this balance is a lot of work when income and job pressures are not equal and always changing. However, if you and your partner respect each other and maintain an awareness outside of yourself it feels less like work and can be incredibly satisfying for both partners to create equality in the marriage.

      Knowing that you’re fulfilling the other person, (whom you presumably married for love) meeting their needs and creating a solid home life is just about as good as it gets. Then the children become a happy result of the union, rather than simply a giant drag on a woman’s resources.

      Yes, yes, I know. Way easier said than done.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  6. collapse expand

    This is a glass half full. Lemonade from lemons.

    You’ve inspired a money making idea for me – reinventing that horrible old card game “Old Maid”(!!!!) with a new, updated version:

    Marriage Sucks! I didn’t WANNA get married!

    Instead of some pitiable spinster it would feature hot Cougars, with sports cars and cool condos to enjoy in her old age – who would mind missing out on snotty nosed grandchildren or a boorish old fart in her twilight years?

    Stuff!! I got stuff!!!

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