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4.4: Marriage

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  • Marriage is very popular among U.S. adults, in part because it does offer many rewards that unmarried people don't enjoy. Marriage has become socially controversial in part because of the intense political efforts to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. Regardless of your moral position on the issue of same-sex marriage, you can see the political quest for it as an indicator of just how rewarding it is to be legally a “married couple.”

    There are numerous studies and books on the benefits of marriage to married individuals. Below are the Top Ten Benefits of Being Married in Contrast to Being Single:

    1. Better physical and emotional health
    2. More wealth and income
    3. Positive social status
    4. More and safer sex
    5. Life-long continuity of intimate relationships
    6. Safer circumstances for children
    7. Longer life expectancy
    8. Lower odds of being crime victims
    9. Enhanced legal and insurance rights and benefits (tax, medical, and inheritance)
    10. Higher self-reported happiness

    Marriage is a legal union between a man and a woman as recognized by most of the United States. Internationally, and in certain U.S. political regions, a man and another man or a woman and another woman can be legally recognized as a married couple. What are typical marriage structures? The U.S. and world-wide culturally preferred marriage type today is monogamy. Monogamy is the marriage form permitting only one spouse at a time. Almost all who have married in the U.S. have done so monogamously since the original colonies in the 1600s. Monogamy implies a 1:1 relationship and is typically desired both by married couples and by opposite and same-sex cohabiters.

    Polygyny is a form of marriage permitting more than one wife at the same time. Polygyny is still common and legal in many African, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and Indian nations. It was a deep part of China's history and prior to World War II it was common for a Chinese man to have multiple wives and many children.

    Polyandry is a marriage form permitting more than one husband at the same time. This is historically and currently rare, and, if or when it was practiced, it often includes the marriage of one wife to a set of brothers with all husbands having sexual access to the wife. Polyandry was found among some Pacific Island cultures and among the pre-Taliban Afghanis.

    What if a person marries, divorces, marries, divorces, etc.? Serial Monogamy or Serial Polygamy is the process of establishing intimate marriage or cohabiting relationships that eventually dissolve and are followed by another intimate marriage or cohabiting relationship that eventually dissolve, etc. in a series. Thus polygamists have simultaneous multiple spouses while serial monogamists or serial polygamists have multiple spouses in a sequence of relationships. Millions of U.S. adults will experience serial marriages and divorces. Many marry then divorce, yet still want to be married again. Many others who suffered through their parents’ unhealthy marriages and divorces also want to marry, knowing firsthand how risky that might be.