Being married is great, but are you ready to take that next step? Why do we need marriage and what value does it add to your life?

Dave and Jessica are celebrating their thirteenth wedding anniversary. They are “happy enough”, have learned how to communicate, handle conflict, and discipline their children. When asked why they decided to get married, Danie says: “It was the next step, the right thing to do at the time. That’s how it works, right? A couple gets together and dates for a few years, then everyone around them starts to get married.”

Jessica adds: “That’s also around the same time our parents started asking us when the ring is coming.” While Dave and Jessica are one of the happy couples who are making their marriage work, the reasons they decided to get married aren’t good ones. Many couples get married because they believe it will solve their relationship problems, they think they hit the jackpot by finding someone who’s hot and rich, or because they’re scared of being alone.

Getting married and then staying married

After tying the knot, we’re also compelled to stay married because divorce negatively impacts your life. Parents are warned that kids who grow up outside of the confines of marriage have a bigger chance of developing a drug problem, showing poor performance at school, suicide, unwanted pregnancy, poverty and being subjected to child abuse. These scary statistics motivate us to stay married. Moving past all the negativity, though – getting and staying married holds several benefits.

In her book, The Case for Marriage, Maggie Gallagher writes about her research on the effect of marriage on the lives of adults. In, she writes. “Quietly, with little fanfare, a broad and deep body of scientific literature has been accumulating that affirms what Genesis teaches: it is not good for man to be alone—no, nor woman neither. In virtually every way that social scientists can measure, married people do much better than the unmarried or divorced: they live longer, healthier, happier, sexier, and more affluent lives.”

Get married and stay married because

… your marriage certificate isn’t just another piece of paper. Of course, it isn’t. A grocery list, title deed, and divorce papers are all just ‘pieces of paper, but the emotional value of each one differs dramatically. Your marriage certificate validates your relationship in a way that makes it official, stronger and more meaningful. Married people are also responsible for and accountable towards each other, which benefits each other and society. “Marriage is a transformational act that changes how two people see each other, the future and their roles within the community.”

… marriage will make you feel safer. When you and your partner get married, an invisible shield that protects you is formed. Once married, you’re tasked with protecting each other. Marriage can eliminate anxiety and jealousy from a relationship and make you feel safer. This isn’t just based on a feeling, either. Research shows that single and divorced women are four or five times more likely to be victims of violent crime than married women.

… it makes you part of a team. When you and your partner get married, you are part of a permanent team that works together like a family. Married people have the confidence to take on important life challenges because they have twice the talent, time, and manpower than singles. Psychologists use the term ‘transformation from motivation’, which describes couples who work towards the best outcome for both parties instead of from a self-serving perspective. Psychology Today describes it as follows: “It requires the ability to hold in mind the long-term goals of the relationship. With motivation transformed, partners are more apt to take a moment to consider how to respond, rather than react reflexively in the heat of a moment.”

… it can save your life. Married people live longer than single people, especially in their later years. Research found that nine out of ten married men aged 48 lived to the age of 65, compared to only six out of ten single men. Nine out of ten women aged 48 will go on to become senior citizens – compared to only eight of ten divorced and single women. Stastistici Bernard Cohen and I-Sing Lee, who created a catalogue of relative mortality risks, found being married one of the best ways to protect yourself from health risks. Married men with heart problems were found to have a lower life expectancy (by six years), while single men’s life expectancies were lowered by ten years. Having a partner also lowers a cancer patient’s risks of dying from the disease; and it lowers your chances of dying in a hospital. Scientists even found that happily married couples have better functioning immune systems.

… it has a positive effect on your wallet. Getting married for financial reasons is never a good idea, but marriage does hold many financial benefits. It is estimated that married men earn around 40% more than their single counterparts. Married women see the same higher earnings (until they have kids). Married couples not only save on monetary expenses, but also on non-monetary expenses such as time and energy. By sharing a house, couples can divide the labour according to areas of expertise so that a higher level of efficiency is maintained with less effort.

… it keeps you and your partner sexually exclusive. Getting married is no guarantee that your partner will stay faithful, but men who live with their partners are four times more likely to cheat than married men. Women who live with their partners are eight times more likely to cheat on their partners than married women. Marriage is a commitment to eternity. Only one out of ten cohabiting couples are together five years later, compared to 80% of married couples, who are still together after five years of marriage (these numbers apply to first marriages only).

… sex is more regular and better. Sex and the City and Tinder might make it look like being single goes hand-in-hand with lots of sex, but statistics show the opposite.  Married people report better and more satisfying sex lives than singles and cohabiting partners. Not only do married couples have more sex, but they are also more likely to rate their sex lives as highly satisfying.

… it’s good for your soul.  Married men and women are less depressed, less anxious, and they experience less stress than singles, divorcees and widowers. Around 40% of married people rate themselves as being “very happy” with their lives, compared to only a quarter of single people and 18% of divorcees.

So, is marriage really a useless piece of paper, or is it much more than that? Maggie says: “Something about marriage as a social institution – a shared aspiration and a public, legal promise – gives it the power to change people’s lives.”

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Article written by Annelize Steyn