I was merely a child when my parents decided to get a divorce. Due to divorce, I went from a five-person household with everything to a four-person household with practically nothing. I believe divorce ruined many of my opportunities because I had to constantly struggle to provide for myself financially and academically. Would my life have been different had my parents stayed together? Most definitely! In this paper I intend to point out that individuals benefit more from being married than from not being married. I would also like to reinforce that a marriage with children significantly improves the well being of those involved in a marriage such as the father, mother, and most importantly the children.
According to Elise Harris in “Can Marriage Be Saved?” the chances for a successful marriage in the United States are about fifty percent. So why get married at all if there is a fifty-fifty chance that marriage will fail? The answer is that marriage grants unseen benefits in the long run. In Harris’ essay, Linda Waite (a respected sociology professor from the University of Chicago) explains marriage’s health and monetary benefits. Waite states that married people have healthier and wealthier lives than non-married people. She also states that married men live longer and are less likely to commit suicide than non-married men. She continues to support her view as she explains that married women have better health because marriage changes bad habits such as drinking, smoking, etc… She points out that marital sex is also more gratifying than non-marital sex. She concludes that financially, married men earn roughly 40 percent more than non-married men, which grants economic flexibility in a woman’s work life. Adding to the argument that marriage has benefits, Frances K. Goldschneider and Linda J. Waite in their article “Alternative Family Futures,” address that married people live longer lives and have fewer mental health problems than unmarried people.
As I have pointed out, marriage has a lot of incentives, but what are the marital benefits of the father? According to Robert L. Griswold in “Fatherhood and the Defense of Patriarchy,” marriage increases the relationships between fathers and children. In Griswold’s essay, Phyllis Schlafly is quoted stating that a male’s sense of need is satisfied by his role as a provider for the family. Fatherhood also gives men the hopes of a possible future. With marriage, the father can enjoy his wife and the children that they have together. If the marriage has children, the children can encourage respectability, economic productivity, and stop bad habits committed by fathers. Fatherhood also disciplines men to accept responsibility which otherwise would not have been present without marriage (Griswold 376-377). Furthermore, without marriage the father would not experience such pleasures as reading to their children, playing with their children, or other activities that would bring back old childhood memories that the fathers loved and enjoyed as children themselves (Goldshneider, Waite 368).
According to personal experiences and a few references, the marital benefits for the mother are somewhat similar to that of the father. From my own experiences, considering my mom was divorced, my mom had fewer opportunities to advance in industry, was constantly financially challenged, and lacked adequate resources to attend to her three children. Had my mother remained married, she would have had more financial flexibility, and wouldn’t have had to revert to “super mom” status by holding a job and raising a family all at once. My mother, even though she rarely admits it, is often depressed. Studies have shown that divorced women are three times more likely to commit suicide than married women, which points out that divorced women are typically more depressed than married women (Harris). In addition to depression, divorce can be hard on single mothers. Single mothers need help parenting because few mothers can handle raising children on their own. If the parenting falls completely on the mother, she will be less likely to reproduce, and her children will be less likely to reproduce as well (Goldshneider, Waite 368). Coming from a divorced family and living in a single parent household, I believe this is true because my older sister has no children in her relationships, and I have no children as well.
Finally and most importantly, marriage benefits the children. A single parent household run by the mother would present problems for the male children growing up because they lack ideal models of what real men are like. The male children in single parent households lack experience with real problems that men go through such as sexual roles, parenting, and emotional needs (Goldshneider, Waite 367). Divorced parents are also likely to spend less quality time with their children than married parents. With divorced parents spending less time with their kids, children may miss out on such important activities as learning to ride a bike, learning to play a board game, or getting help on a subject from school (Goldshneider, Waite 368). As stated previously, single parents make less money than married parents, and therefore children take the brunt of the financial hardships (Goldschneider, Waite 368). From my own experiences, economic struggles from my mother forced me to go to school in ragged clothing, which subjected me to constant harassment from my peers. In “Can Marriage Be Saved?” Waite confronts her brother who left his wife and children and tells him that in marriage the kid’s emotional needs should come first. As a final point, in two parent households, children’s skill levels increase and ties and respect between parents and children are reinforced (Goldshneider, Waite 371).
In conclusion, I believe that a marriage between two people is also a marriage between those two people and their children. Marriage has a lot of benefits for all the parties involved and should not be broken up. Although some marriages are destined to end up in divorce, Waite states in “Can Marriage Be Saved?” that eighty six percent of unhappy couples that choose to stay together rather than get divorced are far happier five years later. Finally marriage, even when it’s going through tough times, is something worth holding onto.
Goldschneider, Frances K. and Linda J. Waite. “Alternative Family Values.” Writing in the Disciplines. Ed. Mary L. Kennedy, William J. Kennedy and Hadley M. Smith. Uppersaddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000: 364-371.
Griswold, Robert L. “Fatherhood and the Defense of Patriarchy.” Writing in the Disciplines. Ed. Mary L. Kennedy, William J. Kennedy, and Hadley M. Smith. Uppersaddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000: 374-378.
Harris, Elise. “Can Marriage Be Saved?” Lingua Franca 10.8 (November 2000) : http://www.linguafranca.com/print/0011/cover_marriage.html