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Effects of Marriage on Couple's Relationship

1. Happiness

Those who marry experience increased commitment and stability.1) Men raised in married families have more open, affectionate, and cooperative relationships with the women to whom they are attracted than do those from divorced families.2) Correspondingly, married mothers report more love and intimacy in their romantic/spousal relationships than cohabiting or single mothers.3) Those raised in married families have higher expectations of eventually marrying,4) and a larger fraction of those from intact families than non-intact families are happy in their marriages.5) Similarly, a lower percentage of those raised in intact families divorce.6)

Daughters raised in intact families are less likely to say they do not plan to have children than daughters living with divorced or remarried mothers.7) In contrast, cohabiting couples enjoy diminished relational happiness and fairness and increased relational disagreement and violence, relative to married couples. When duration of cohabitation was factored in, cohabitation’s effect became nonsignificant, but increased duration of cohabitation worsened (relative to marriage) happiness, disagreement, and violence.8)

A larger fraction of those in always-intact marriages report that being married is very important to them, compared to those who are divorced, single, or remarried (although these may also regard marriage as important).9) (See Chart)

The 2002 cycle of the National Survey of Family Growth showed that among adults aged 38 to 44, staying in one’s first and only marriage is most common among those raised in an intact married family.10) (See Chart Below)

2. Sexual Experience

Studies show that married men and women report the most sexual pleasure and fulfillment.11) Married men and women report having more enjoyable sexual intercourse more often,12) and married couples find their sexual relationship more satisfying than cohabiters do.13)

The National Health and Social Life Survey shows that those in always-intact marriages were most likely (91.3 percent) to report feeling thrilled and excited during intercourse with their current sexual partner, followed by those who were divorced and remarried (88.9 percent), those who were always single (82.7 percent), and those who were divorced or separated (81.8 percent). 14) (See Chart Below)

A larger fraction of individuals in intact marriages than always-single, divorced or separated, or divorced and remarried persons report “very, extremely” enjoying intercourse with their current sexual partner.15) Likewise, a larger fraction of individuals in intact marriages than always-single, divorced or separated, or divorced and remarried persons report feeling satisfied,16) (See Chart Below) loved,17) “taken care of,”18) and thrilled or excited19) during intercourse with their current sexual partner. Those in always-intact marriages were most likely to report feeling wanted and needed during intercourse (92 percent).20) These feelings are less prevalent in non-intact family structures and among singles.

Correspondingly, a smaller fraction of individuals in intact marriages than always-single, divorced or separated, or divorced and remarried persons report feeling guilty,21) sad,22) or scared or afraid23) (See Chart Below) during intercourse with their current sexual partner. Those in always-intact marriages were the least likely to feel anxious or worried during intercourse with their current sexual partner (6.8 percent). Feeling anxious or worried during intercourse is more prevalent among those in non-intact structures and among singles: 12.1 percent of those who were divorced and remarried, 20.6 percent of those who were divorced or separated, 25.9 percent of those who were always single feel anxious or worried during intercourse with their current sexual partner. 24)

1) Daniel Lees, “The Psychological Benefits of Marriage,” Research Note (April 2007): 1-4. Available at http://www.maxim.org.nz/file/pdf/psychological_benefits_of_marriage.pdf. Accessed 27 July 2011.
2) Silvio Silvestri, “Marital instability in men from intact and divorced families: Interpersonal behavior, cognitions and intimacy,” Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 18 (1992): 79-108.
Rhoades, Galena K., et al. “Parents' Marital Status, Conflict, and Role Modeling: Links with Adult Romantic Relationship Quality,” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 53, no. 5 (July 2012): 358.
3) Stacy Rosenkrantz Aronson and Aletha C. Huston, “The mother-infant relationship in single, cohabiting, and married families: a case for marriage?” Journal of Family Psychology 18, no. 1 (March 2004): 5-18. As cited by The Heritage Foundation: Family Facts. Available at http://www.familyfacts.org/search?q=huston%20and%20aronson&type=findings&page=1. Accessed 1 September 2011.
4) Wendy D. Manning, “The Changing Institution of Marriage: Adolescents’ Expectation to Cohabit and to Marry,” Journal of Marriage and Family 69, no. 3 (August 2007): 559-575. As cited by The Heritage Foundation: Family Facts. Available at http://www.familyfacts.org/briefs/22/navigating-the-winding-road-how-family-and-religion-influence-teen-and-young-adult-outcomes. Accessed 20 July 2011
5) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “Intergenerational Links to Marital Happiness: Family Structure.” Available at http://www.frc.org/mappingamerica/mapping-america-32-intergenerational-links-to-marital-happiness-family-structure. Accessed 1 September 2011
6) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “Divorce or Separation: Family Structure in Adolescence.” Available at http://www.frc.org/mappingamerica/mapping-america-62-divorce-or-separation-family-structure-in-adolescence. Accessed 22 September 2011.
Jay D. Teachman, “Childhood Living Arrangements and the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce,” Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (2002): 717–729. As cited by The Heritage Foundation: Family Facts. Available at http://www.familyfacts.org/briefs/39/family-environment-and-childrens-prospects-for-marriage. Accessed 20 July 2011.
7) Bonnie Barber, Jacquelynne S. Eccles, Lisa J. Colarossi, and Michael F. Schrecker, “The Impact of Family Structure on Gender-Role Attitudes of Adolescents and Their Mothers,” University of Michigan Paper 1989, funded by Grant HD17296 from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (paper presented at biennial meeting of Society for Research in Child Development, Kansas City, Missouri, April 1989): 6. Available at http://www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/garp/articles/eccles89.pdf. Accessed 5 December 2011.
8) Susan Brown and Alan Booth, “Cohabitation versus Marriage: A Comparison of Relationship Quality,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58, no. 3 (1996): 674.
Larry Bumpass, James Sweet, and Andrew Cherlin, “The Role of Cohabitation in Declining Rates of Marriage,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 53, no. 4 (1991): 923.
Scott Stanley, Sarah Whitton, Howard Markham, “Maybe I Do: Interpersonal Commitment and Premarital or Nonmarital Cohabitation,” Journal of Family Issues 25, no. 4 (2004): 507-508.
9) This chart draws on data collected by the General Social Survey, 1972-2006. From 1972 to 1993, the sample size averaged 1,500 each year. No GSS was conducted in 1979, 1981, or 1992. Since 1994, the GSS has been conducted only in even-numbered years and uses two samples per GSS that total approximately 3,000. In 2006, a third sample was added for a total sample size of 4,510.
Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “‘The Personal Importance of Being Married’ by Marital Status.” Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA09K02. Accessed 1 September 2011.
10) This age band was selected because tracking family structure is difficult, but the arrangement of the family is more settled [in aggregate, on a national level] around ages 38 to 44
Patrick F. Fagan and Paul Sullins, “'Currently in First (Only) Marriage' by Structure of Family of Origin and religious Upbringing,” Mapping America Project available at http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF14K45.pdf
11) Robert T. Michael, et al., Sex in America: A Definitive Survey (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1994), 124-129
Edward O. Laumann, et al., The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 364, table 10.5
Andrew Greeley, Faithful Attraction: Discovering Intimacy, Love and Fidelity in American Marriage (New York: Tom Doherty Association, 1991), see chapter 6. As cited in Glenn T. Stanton, “Why Marriage Matters.” Available at http://www.ampartnership.org/resourcecenter/news/89-why-marriage-matters.html. Accessed 27 July 2011.
Busby, Dean M., Jason S. Carroll, and Brian J. Willoughby, “Compatibility or restraint? The effects of sexual timing on marriage relationships,” Journal of Family Psychology 24, no. 6 (December 2010): 766, 772.
12) Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, “The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially.” As cited by Richard Niolon. Available at http://successfulsingles.com/media_articles_files/The%20Case%20for%20Marriage:%20Why%20Married%20People%20Are%20Happ ier,%20Healthier,%20and%20Better%20off%20Financially.pdf. Accessed 27 July 2011.
13) D.G. Blanchflower and A.J. Oswald, “Money, Sex and Happiness: An Empirical Study,” Scandinavian Journal of Economics 106, no. 3 (2006). As cited in Daniel Lees, “The Psychological Benefits of Marriage,” Research Note (April 2007): 1-4. Available at http://www.maxim.org.nz/files/pdf/psychological_benefits_of_marriage.pdf. Accessed 27 July 2011.
14) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “Feels Thrilled, Excited During Intercourse with Current Sexual Partner,” Mapping America Project available at http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF12I27.pdf
15) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “Degree to Which Respondent Enjoys Intercourse with Current Sexual Partner by Current Religious Attendance and Marital Status.” Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA13D03. Accessed 19 December 2013.
16) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “‘Feels Satisfied During Intercourse with Current Sexual Partner’ by Current Religious Attendance and Marital Status.” Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA13E07. Accessed 19 December 2013.
17) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “‘Feels Loved During Intercourse with Current Sexual Partner’ by Current Religious Attendance and Marital Status.” Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA13E05. Accessed 19 December 2013.
18) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “‘Feels “Taken Care of” During Intercourse with Current Sexual Partner’ by Current Religious Attendance and Marital Status.” Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA12H06. Accessed 19 December 2013.
19) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “‘Feels Thrilled, Excited During Intercourse with Current Sexual Partner’ by Current Religious Attendance and Marital Status.” Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA12H03. Accessed 19 December 2013.
20) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, ““Feels Wanted, Needed During Intercourse” with Current Sexual Partner by Marital Status and Religious Attendance,” Mapping America Project available at http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF13J24.pdf
21) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “‘Feels Guilty During Intercourse with Current Sexual Partner’ by Current Religious Attendance and Marital Status.” Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA12H04. Accessed 19 December 2013.
22) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “‘Feels Sad During Intercourse with Current Sexual Partner’ by Current Religious Attendance and Marital Status.” Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA13E06. Accessed 19 December 2013.
23) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “‘Feels Scared, Afraid During Intercourse with Current Sexual Partner’ by Current Religious Attendance and Marital Status.” Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA12H05. Accessed 19 December 2013.
24) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “'Feels Anxious, Worried During Intercourse with Current Sexual Partner,'by Marital Status and Religious Attendance,” Mapping America Project available at http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF14G24.pdf


This entry draws heavily from 164 Reasons to Marry.