Since so many of my commentaries have been centered around psychological disorders, for this segment I decided this time to post one which is positive and affirming. One of the most positive and affirming institutions that I can think of is the institution of marriage.

Frankly, marriage’s reputation in the modern world is not so great. Such things as high divorce rates,  infidelity and domestic violence have caused many to postpone or even forgo marriage altogether.  Indeed, the average age of a person marrying has changed dramatically from twenty-one in 1971 (when I graduated from college) to almost twenty-nine presently.

When folks are ready to marry, at what ever age, it is important to under that that good marriages don’t “just happen”.  Successfully blending two individuals into a working partnership is neither automatic or easy.  We have learned that for marriage to thrive the partners must have the knowledge of some basic skills as well as the commitment to  working through inevitable conflicts and disagreements.

Given the all problems and work required, many wonder, “Is marriage worth  the effort or am I better off staying single?”

Fortunately, there has been a lot of research regarding the differences between married and non- married folks and, as a result, there are a lot of statistics that show that happily married folks do a lot better in life in many ways.  In addition to the dramatic financial and tax benefits, here are some other advantages, married people,  compared to single folks:
—  Are happier and have more fulfilling lives.
—  Enjoy better physical health, especially their hearts.
—  Have better mental health, with less anxiety and serious depression.
—  Live longer.
—  Have less of and cope better with stress.
—  Have fewer bad habits.
—  Have more and better sex.
—  Have more stability in their lives
—  Are less likely to experience violent crime.

Beyond these measurable and practical differences, marriage can offer important emotional and spiritual  joys of a long life lived together. The continuity and shared experiences combine to create meaning and context for one’s existence. Likewise, joining families and having children expands our personal network and experience of human connectivity.

Some say that cohabiting offers the same benefits as marriage but I disagree.  In marriage, partners make a commitment to  mature and grow together through good times and bad.  Through this commitment  a miraculous psychological change which occurs. Our isolated sense of individuality is transformed into being part of the larger whole of the marital union.  Our personal concerns are expanded beyond ourselves to include our partner in a profound way.

Marriage, at its deepest level, overcomes the profound isolation and loneliness of existence and, in doing so, provides a serenity and peace which goes beyond all attempts to explain it.  Indeed, the most profound blessing of marriage is the transcendent and spiritual fulfillment found in having a life partner.  When looked at from this point of view, I suggest that marriage certainly is worth the effort .

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC , Fellow AAPC                        11 4 2018

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