Marriage Causes Stability for Both Straight and Gay Couples

Marriage Causes Stability for Both Straight and Gay Couples

I give dating and relationship advice to people who ask, but I don’t really care what you do with your private life.

If that sounds cold, it’s important that I state this, because there is a prevalent sense that I’m trying to be preachy and get you to convert to my way of thinking – secular, liberal, sex-positive, non-judgmental, married with children. No, I am those things, but if you’re not: if you’re a religious conservative who wants to save yourself for marriage, or you’re one of those people who doesn’t want to get married or have kids, I am 100% cool with it.

Remember, no one puts a gun to your head and forces you to get married. People choose marriage, by their own volition, regularly.

I’m a live and let live guy who believes that everyone is entitled to her own feelings, but not entitled to her own facts. So here’s a fact for all the “marriage-is-obsolete-and-it’s-really-just-a-piece-of-paper” people. Reason Magazine just did a piece on the rise of gay marriage and the similarities between straight marriage, and what they discovered should not be surprising to anybody.

“There are big differences in relationship stability between married and unmarried heterosexual couples. The annual breakup rate among married different-sex couples was 1.5 percent. The relationships of unmarried different-sex couples dissolved at annual rate of 21.7 percent.”

You mean that people who get married are less likely to break-up than people who are unmarried? That maybe the whole ceremony and the tremendous investment of time, energy and money may signify a greater level of commitment than just being “boyfriend/girlfriend” or “living together”? Sure enough. And it’s not even close.

The goal is not to get married but to become HAPPILY married. And while marriage doesn’t guarantee happiness, I think it’s safe to say that we all value stability in our relationships.

And since gay people are just like straight people, except for the part where they’re attracted to members of their own sex, we see a very similar pattern when gays are allowed to marry. “Married same-sex couples broke up at a rate of 2.6 percent per year, while 12.8 percent of unmarried same-sex couples went their separate ways annually.”   Concludes the study’s author, Michael Rosenfeld, “Despite the declining universality of marriage in the US for heterosexual couples, marriage is a uniquely important predictor of couple stability, for both heterosexual and for same-sex couples.” Rosenfeld finds that marriage is not just associated with stability but causes it–that once couples are legally entangled, that serves as a significant barrier to exit.

Remember, no one puts a gun to your head and forces you to get married. People choose marriage, by their own volition, regularly. And even if 50% of people get divorced – usually because they are younger, uneducated, immature, or marrying out of passion – that doesn’t mean that marriage itself isn’t a positive and stabilizing institution. Again, the goal is not to get married but to become HAPPILY married. And while marriage doesn’t guarantee happiness, I think it’s safe to say that we all value stability in our relationships, and that stability is 10X more likely to take place within a marriage than with a plain old boyfriend.

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  1. 1

    I agree fully Evan; I am a person who was married happily to a much older man (maturity is good) for 12 good years. I chose not to do the family/children route for a number of very good reasons. However, my married years were the best of my life. Although I would never have been suitable for the soccer mom life, I was really able to thrive in my marriage. Physical affection, being able to have long, in depth convos, on all issues with someone who respected my mind and vice versa, being in protests, public hearings on enviro issues together, working together to build and restore our farm. I have done IRL and the online thing and I really do not want some sort of ephemeral, non committted relationship yet it just seems as though the men in this region either want to commit solely because theyre looking to be supported, or just arent interested in committment. Let someone go a few months ago after giving him lots of chances because it became abundantly clear he would never be marriage-ready.

  2. 2

    Agreed. The good things are more exciting, and the bad things are more manageable when you have your husband/wife by your side. The difficult part lies in finding the one who will love you unconditionally, will not sweat the small stuff, and who is on your team. Every single day.

    1. 2.1

      “The difficult part lies in finding the one who will love you unconditionally, will not sweat the small stuff, and who is on your team. Every single day.”

      It’s difficult because you have such a what-can-you-do-for-me approach to men.

      1. 2.1.1

        Wrong. You sound bitter, BOB.

        You have no idea that I preserve and prioritize my relationships and friendships, and that I am holding out for someone who can offer what I have always offered in relationships: teamwork, unconditional love, and selflessness.

    2. 2.2

      “The difficult part lies in finding the one who will love you unconditionally, will not sweat the small stuff, and who is on your team. Every single day.”

      Yeah, that’s a myth.

      1. 2.2.1

        Evidently not because it happens. That it doesn’t for you or anyone you know is a strawman argument.

        1. Mickey

          Strawman argument or not, it’s a myth for me.

      2. 2.2.2
        Karl R

        Mickey, I can see one reason why this could possibly remain a myth for you perpetually.

        If *you* are the kind of person who can’t love someone unconditionally, who frequently sweats the small stuff, or who won’t have your partner’s back every day, then it’s extremely unlikely that you would be able to find a partner who will provide that for you.

        In general, you have to BE the kind of partner you would like to get. (It’s slightly more complicated than that. You have to be better than the partner you want to get. Then you’ll get the kind of partner you want … who also happens to be better than you in some completely different ways.)


        On a separate note, this isn’t necessarily your problem. You definitely have a problem with frustration, and it’s killing your chances regardless of what kind of person you are.

        Frustration occurs when your expectations exceed reality. You expect that success at dating should come fairly easily, when reality shows that it’s very, very hard.

        1. Reevaluate Your Expectations.
        Look around your community. What percentage of the women would you consider getting into a long-term relationship with? If you’re like me, you’re ruling out 95% of them before even getting to know them. Therefore, if you’re asking the other 5% out randomly, you should expect about 95% of them to reject you. (And if 19 out of 20 women are rejecting you, statistics shows that you will sometimes see streaks of rejections three or four times as long.)

        2. Be More Selective About Who You Ask.
        If I asked a woman for a phone number / email, there was about a 50% chance that I would get a first date with her. This isn’t because half of the women in my community want to date me. It’s because I screened out 18 of the 19 rejections and didn’t waste my time asking them. (Usually. I took the occasional long shot, but I recognized that it was unlikely to be successful.) This is a skill that takes time to develop.

        3. Broaden Your Definition of “Success”.
        If you limit your definition of “success” to “a happy marriage”, then you are going to succeed once, at most.
        By that definition, I went through about a hundred failures (and Evan went through hundreds more) before either of us succeeded.
        Instead, we had broad definitions of success. If I approached a girl in a bar, had a good conversation with her, asked for a phone number and she politely turned me down at that point … I called it a SUCCESS. I had conquered my fear of rejection and approached a woman in a bar. Chalk up a victory for me.

        On an objective scale, that’s no more successful than calling it a rejection. But on a subjective scale, it meant I spent my dating career going from success to success, instead of failure to failure.

        Confident people do better at dating (objectively) then less confident people. By broadening my definition of success (subjectively), I improved my confidence level (and my overall attitude), which boosted my chances of succeeding (objectively) in the future.

        When I approached dating with your attitude, I was no more successful than you. If I had kept that attitude, I would probably still be single and barely dating.

        1. Mickey

          Karl: The problem is that once a guy hears the magic word NO enough times, no matter what he does, the collateral damage only adds up over time and gets to the point where apathy sets in. Admittedly, this is where I am.

        2. Karl R

          That’s what separates people who succeed from people who fail.

          I said you have to BE the kind of partner you want to have. Do you want a partner who gives up and quits? I’ve been unemployed and job-hunting during a recession before. In that situation, I had two choices: keep going despite hearing “No” multiple times per day (for months on end), or end up homeless and starving.

          If you end up married to someone like that, and she ends up hearing “No” a lot during her job search, she’s going to take “collateral damage” (whatever you mean by that) and get to the point where apathy sets in … and she’ll sponge off of you for the remainder of the marriage.

          That’s probably not your ideal wife. It’s not most women’s ideal husband. (Most people would rather remain unmarried rather than be saddled with a partner like that.) So when you complain about how hearing “No” has made you quit dating, you’re doing a good job of convincing other women that they wouldn’t want to date you either.

          Returning to the job-hunting analogy, what would be a better alternative to giving up, becoming homeless and starving? Trying a different job-hunting strategy might work. Learning marketable job skills might work. Either of those can be applied to dating. Anybody who has gotten in shape to improve their dating (for example) has done the latter. People who seek out Evan’s advice are doing the former.

          Coming here and complaining about how hearing “No” repeatedly has caused you to give up … that’s the equivalent of sitting at home and complaining on Facebook that you can’t get a job. It doesn’t make you more employable. It doesn’t get you a job. Eventually, it won’t even get you sympathy.

          Dating is hard. Even if you’re reasonably marketable and doing everything right, you’ll still hear “No” more often than not. That’s the environment EVERYBODY dates in.

          I’d like to recommend that you read the 7 pages of comments that follow another blog post Evan made years ago. Their situation has nothing to do with yours, except to point out that there are millions of single people who are in a far more difficult position (when dating) than yours.

  3. 3
    Karl R

    Evan said:
    “You mean that people who get married are less likely to break-up than people who are unmarried? That maybe the whole ceremony and the tremendous investment of time, energy and money may signify a greater level of commitment than just being ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ or ‘living together’?”

    You may be conflating cause and effect. If I believed I was likely to break up with a woman (or that she was likely to break up with me), I wasn’t going to marry her. If I didn’t feel all that committed to a woman (or that she was particularly committed to me), I wasn’t going to marry her.

    If one of your clients tells you that they feel that their relationship lacks commitment and could be headed toward a breakup, would you counsel them to get married in order to stabilize it? Of course not. We both know that’s a recipe for divorce.

    I personally believe there is a stabilizing effect that is caused by marriage, but this study was not designed to measure that.

  4. 4

    LOL, Evan, of all the people to misinterpret the conclusions here, I’m surprised that YOU, the guy who dated some 300 women would make the mistake!

    This is like measuring the wetness of water against the dryness of air. Of course water is wetter…of course people dating “break up” more than people who are married. It’s all part of the territory – you can’t get to married without first dating…so by simple logic it requires more breakups in dating. Like you can’t count to 7 ten times without first counting 2.

    Then again, maybe that was your point, and we’re talking about the same thing from a different perspective, but yielding the same conclusion.

    1. 4.1

      I don’t believe this study confirms that marriage as an institution is inherently stabilizing at all. In fact, the only thing this study illustrates is that individuals who are already in loving, happy, and   stable relationships usually decide, as a result of a mixture of socialization and financial incentives, to pursue marriage as an end goal. But the marriage is simply the by-product of the successful relationship, it does not define it. To draw an analogy (a bit of a crude one I admit) if someone were to interview a sample of individuals wearing expensive suits driving expensive cars, they would discover that most of these individuals are financially successful. However, the car and the nice clothes are not the cause of the success, they are merely indicators, and sometimes they may not even be that (for example, certain individuals may go into massive debt for the purpose of conspicuous displays of wealth in order to prop up a public image).
      In other words, in order to prove that marriage has a stabilizing effect on relationships, you would need to conduct a highly controlled study, in which all other relevant variables (such as financial stability, education level, mutual affection, consideration, compatibility, etc) are held constant so that the effects of marriage can be isolated and tested. To my knowledge, no such study has been conducted to date.

  5. 5

    I should certainly HOPE that marriages aren’t breaking up at the same rate. If a marriage which takes place at age 30 between two people have been dating for several years has the same breakup rate as a live-in relationship between two 20-year-old college students, I would say we have a big problem!!
    However, I don’t think it says anything about relationships that are equally serious at older ages. Canadians and Nordics are more likely to cohabit and less likely to marry than Americans, and our kids are more likely to live in intact homes.
    I think that says it all.

  6. 6


    Here’s why the job hunting analogy doesn’t apply here. In job hunting, one is not confronted with a mindset that suggests “all employees are lazy,” “all employees are no good,” “all employees are worthless,” similar to the usual invectives about men. Secondly, if I couldn’t get a job in one line of work, I can at least switch professions; this was something I did in my younger days.

    However, with my perpetual odds with the so-called fair sex long and unwinnable, what are my options? Turn gay? Start practicing bestiality? I think you’ll agree that these are not viable options.

    1. 6.1
      Karl R

      Most women don’t believe all men are lazy, worthless or no good. There’s a vocal minority who do. Don’t date them. If I started chatting with a woman who expressed those beliefs, it was time to politely end the conversation and move on.

      Furthermore, if *you* believe that all women (or even a majority of single women) hold these beliefs, your beliefs about women are just as incorrect as those women are about men. And since you hold those beliefs, I wold make the SAME recommendation to women as I just made to you: Politely end their conversation with you and move on.

      You have to BE the type person that you want to get.

      In addition, you *can* change the market you date in. Evan spent years trying to find a wife who was atheistic, Jewish (ethnically) and Ivy-League educated. His wife is none of those. I was trying to find someone close to my age. I broadened the age range I dated and had much greater success. My wife is 16 years older than me.

      I don’t know if *you* can change the market you date in. I know that Evan and I did.

      1. 6.1.1

        Karl R, what are the over all advantages of dating someone older than yourself? I have been often adviced to date older men (my friends say they would appreciate me as a person more and I on the other hand respect them), as I have some older (10-30 year older) admirers but they turn me off physically. I am quite an athlete and could imagine getting old with someone I love but am attracted to fit young men my own age or younger (i am 33), but they hardly ever reciprocate as I am quite a difficult (kind of ego-centric and hyperactive person) to be with but older men seem to love all those “negative traits”. Also older men are more generous and giving and cultural but I can ´t go further than friendship. How does one overcome physical repulsion?

        1. Karl R

          If you find someone physically repulsive, don’t date them. If you click the Youtube link in my post above, you’ll see a video of my wife and I dancing. At the time the video was taken, I was 44 and she was 60.

          Do you believe that either of us finds the other repulsive?

          (As a side note, it is possible over time to broaden your opinion of what constitutes “attractive”, but that’s a much longer discussion.)

          I would not recommend that you date anyone because they are older/younger. Date them because they’re a great partner (for you) — regardless of whether they are older or younger.

          I would recommend that you broaden the age range that you date. You’re more likely to meet great partners that way.

          Alena said:
          “[I] am attracted to fit young men my own age or younger (i am 33),”  

          No shit. Most women are attracted to fit young men in their 20s and early 30s. That’s a small pool of men, and there is no shortage of women ages 18 to 50 who would love to date them.

          If a man has that many women to choose from, why wouldn’t he pick someone who is younger -and- hotter -and- easier to get along with than you?  

          There’s only one possible reason a young, hot guy might not have that many options … if he’s a real prick to be around. Even then, there are a lot of women who will put up with a total prick, just to be with someone young and hot.

          Alena said:
          “older men seem to love all those ‘negative traits’.”

          No they don’t. They’re like the women I just talked about. They’re willing to put up with negative traits in order to be with someone younger and hotter.  

          (In all fairness, some people may prefer hyperactivity. That strikes me more as a personal taste.)

          Work on your negative traits. That will serve you well in dating and the rest of life.

          There’s a broad spectrum of men between “young and fit” and “old and repulsive”. Start dating the men who are attractive enough, and whom are also interested in pursuing you.

          Remember that you’re always making trade-offs with your partners. Each partner will be better in some areas and worse in others.

          Figure out which traits you need in a partner, and which are just nice to have. Make sure you end up with all of the traits you need. My wife has all of the traits I need. She also has most of the traits that are nice to have.

          The quality of the relationship is more important than the quality of the partner. (You probably won’t understand this right now, but hopefully you’ll remember it after you’ve had a few mediocre relationships with otherwise amazing partners.)  

  7. 7

    thanks for the reply. you guys seem agesless in the video. one of my fitness trainers says, if a dance/choreography looks effortless, than there has been a lot of practice and talent behind it.

    1. 7.1
      Karl R

      Thank you for the compliments.

      I would agree with your trainer’s statement. Just to clarify one point — that wasn’t choreography. We were putting that together as we went. However, your trainer’s statement holds true for both dancing and choreography. We have been going out dancing 2-3 times per week (for fun) for years.

      Alena said:
      “you guys seem agesless in the video.”  

      We’re not the only people our age(s) who do. There’s a friend of mine who is in his mid-60s and could easily pass for 20 years younger. In addition, he is extremely fit for a man of any age.  

      He’s not available. He and his boyfriend (another fit, good-looking man 20 years younger) have been together for about a dozen years.

      Decide whether you find someone attractive (or unattractive) independent of their age. Don’t just write someone off as unattractive because of their age. Do the same for compatibility. My wife and I thought our relationship was just going to be a brief fling (due to the age difference) … then we started to realize that we were highly compatible.

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