Posts Tagged 'marriage'

Healthy Marriage Improves Health

via jezebel

The Daily Mail reports that (happy) marriages keep you healthy. More so than long term relationships without the official title.

“Analysis of 148 studies of social relationships found their legal status and the amount of emotional support involved were linked to death rates, with marriage coming out on top. There is no evidence available to judge the health of people in civil partnerships,” said Dr Gallacher.
(…)
Exclusive and supportive relationships confer substantial mental and physical health benefits that grow over time.
(…)
Last year, a World Health Organisation study revealed marriage could reduce the risk of anxiety and depression and those who tied the knot were much less likely to suffer the blues than those who stayed single.

Therefore: marriage should be available to all, not just the straight folks, as it is unfairly denying potential physical and mental health advantages to a subset of the population.

Also worth noting, staying single is way better for your health than being in an unhappy relationship. (I’m looking at you Lori Gottlieb).

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Resist Relationship “Math”

Newspapers love relationship science. So do women’s magazines and pop psych mags, because love (and sex) are, if not universal, certainly near-universally desired. And because we live in a scientific age, we keep hoping that there will be some magic formula that will dictate human interaction. I’m the same – the teen mags I read as a kid with ‘how to tell if he likes you’ quizzes and bizarre high school chat-up lines I read like a script. After three or four awkward moments, I decided that, following that sort of vague and romantic advice was ultimately unhelpful.

Now there’s a new study out that supports this kind of thinking. Marriages succeed or fail based on the couple’s “type” in terms of how they deal with conflict. And there’s a mathematician, so obviously it’s waaaaay more valid that those Cosmo quizzes. The Daily Mail article and an op-ed in the Times today (I couldn’t find it online) both started out comparing the simplistic thinking to those mockable magazine quizzes, then backing up the findings since, you know, it was a big, math-y, science-y, study.

Who doesn’t want to believe that by taking a simple quiz (or being observed by people with clipboards and labcoats while having a discussion on a heavy topic), one can determine the sort of person with whom one is most compatible? Or rather, whom one would be the least likely to divorce? Unless, of course, you’re ‘volatile’, in which case, it’s a crapshoot. That caveat alone should have sent off flares.

Because the methodology was 1) watch couples talk about a ‘fraught’ subject 2) judge their manner of discussion as one of 4 types of behavior 3) watch for several years to see who gets divorced.

All right class, who can point out the flaws here? Let’s start with

1) Choosing what is a fraught subject is highly subjective, and time sensitive. A couple just starting out on a tight budget might find talking about money a little more tense than one where at least one person has a massive savings account or inherited property. The selection of the matter under discussion presumes that everyone will find the subjects more of less equally important. Obvious logical flaw.

2) In coding behavior and speech in a discussion in one of 4 ways automatically presumes there are only four categories. If I say everything is either red, white, or blue, and something turns up green or black, they’re both going in the ‘blue’ column, even though that’s not necessarily accurate, it’s just as close to accurate as you can get given the methodology. Ergo, saying people’s behavior proves they fall into these categories begs the question.

3) Just wait? No checking to see if discussion styles change over the years? No looking for other parameters, like infidelity, depression, death, bankruptcy, etc?

It bugs me that people, and particularly journalists, don’t think critically about scientific studies (or reports thereof). The temptation to simplify people and relationships into types is significant, which is all the more reason to be logically cautious. What’s different between someone classifying themselves as ‘avoiders’ and therefore only seriously considering other ‘avoiders’ for long term bliss (when a ‘validator’ or ‘volatile’ could teach them to be less afraid to speak up and maybe have a better quality of life because they aren’t as afraid of confrontation, assuming these aren’t terribly simplistic categorizations anyway and highly unlikely to represent someone’s behavior all the time), and a Scorpio refusing to date an Aries because they’re just ‘too insensitive’?

image from Royal Holloway University of London

Marry Young

from msnbc

Saudi Arabia’s most senior Muslim cleric as saying it is OK for 10-year-old girls to marry.

The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper also quotes Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Baz, the country’s grand mufti, as saying that those who believe women should not marry before the age of 25 are following a “bad path.”

This is his response to human rights groups agitating to prevent such marriages.

My question is, what else is on this ‘bad path’ – financial and emotional independence? Perhaps growing intellectually mature enough to question the rites and traditions of their religion?

This actually reminds me a bit of this article in the Atlantic (Lori Gottlieb, March 2008). I don’t think that the author was recommending marriage of minors, but her argument is to settle because, as she claims that if you “ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won’t tell you it’s a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she’ll say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child)”..

By this logic, yon cleric is right. All we ladies need, really, is the stability of a marriage wherein we can, once sufficiently physically developed, make babies. All that career talk, that’s just gab.

Now, Gottlieb argues that people settle anyway, she’s just being ‘different’ by treating it like it’s good. I would argue that people aren’t ‘settling’ so much as maturing to the point where they understand and appreciate the complexity of human nature and relationships, rather than expecting a flawless, indulgent, semi-parental figure to cheerlead and provide everything.

The problem with both of these viewpoints is that they fall into the trap of assuming all women are the same. You’ll notice that the cleric isn’t urging men to marry before the age of 25, and that Gottlieb doesn’t have a male counterpart urging men to marry so they aren’t left childless and alone, regardless of what security they might find in their career, financial independence, or various non-marriage relationships.

That people still make such generalizations, and use their position to advise the untaught masses, baffles me. Both Abdul-Aziz bin Baz and Gottlieb assume that even as adults, women won’t be able to make the choice that is ‘right’ – i.e. making babies and marriage a priority. The Sheik thinks, therefore, that they should be married as soon as they’re weaned, before any life experience or schooling gets in the way, and Gottlieb that they should ignore or discount said experience and schooling and just jump right in and make with the babies, in a wholesome, ‘traditional’, nuclear family.

Women are grown-ups, too. Let’s stop assuming that we are incapable of making choices about what is best for us, individually.


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