Tom Peters had an interesting post regarding the effects of marriage on men and women. He claimed that women tend to put on weight, become depressed, and become less happy once married..... while men stabilize their weight, have less stress, and are happier. When divorced, the patterns are reversed..... men become less happy and women become more happy.
My first thought was that this is a generational thing. I can imagine this being the case for my parents (and Tom Peters) generation. When those folks married, the man gained a house servant, nanny, and permanent sexual partner while the woman lost her freedom and autonomy. No wonder the women became depressed.
I know this sort of marriage still happens, but it seems rarer. I think of Matt, for example. He and his wife have a partnership. They travel together. They work together. They are sharing a life...
My second thought was to wonder what role kids play. Do the statistics hold up with couples who dont have kids? Are childless couples happier in general... (especially the women)? Despite the strides women have made, the bulk of childrearing still falls on them. Suddenly they must be a nanny in addition to working full-time and dealing with their husband. I cant imagine how they do it.
Of course, Im out of the loop here, because I would predict that BOTH men and women would become less happy once married (is it a surprise Im still unmarried at 37 :). Hakim Bey once referred to families as the //misers of love//. I think thats an apt description for the majority. Most couples isolate themselves. The wife drives away the husbands friends. The husband, in turn, becomes more possessive of the wife. Once kids enter the picture, neither has time for friends or community. They become a closed system.... all energy and love are hoarded within the family unit. Mom & Dad become increasingly neurotic and cut off from the outside world.
By middle age they become caricatures-- befuddled, easily flustered, and socially inept. These are the bozos I encounter in the airport.. trying to joke with me about Osama Bin Laden.
Its the pattern Ive observed in most //mainstream// families. To paraphrase Steinbeck, the man becomes, in effect, the youngest child in the family; and, The wife becomes caretaker to an overgrown baby. (You know the transformation is complete when husband and wife call each other Mom and Dad).
All of this makes me wonder... whats the point of marriage at all? Most now end in divorce. The ceremony and piece of paper guarantee nothing. Do we really need government or church sanctioning of our relationships? In the case of international relationships, there are certain practical advantages (visa benefits for both spouses) but otherwise I struggle to understand the necessity (or efficacy) of marriage.