More articles by

Dr D Narayana Reddy
Dr D Narayana Reddy

Friends for life

You can sail through crises with a smile if your spouse is your pal, too

Sudeep was adamant. He did not want to get married, in spite of tremendous parental pressure. He was of the firm opinion that marriage enslaves a man and deprives him of all freedom and happiness. It was the women who benefited from marriage, he thought.

Nothing can be more farfetched than Sudeep’s belief.

The US National Bureau of Economic Research wanted to know the truth, so they studied pre-marital happiness and discovered that people who were married were happier than those who remained single, particularly during stressful periods like midlife crises. This is the most important part of the finding. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker, marriage dynamics have drastically shifted over the past century, evolving from women looking for men to provide and men looking for women to run a household into equally contributing partners looking for companionship.

Friends for life Illustration: Jairaj T.G.

John Helliwell of the Vancouver School of Economics explains that this deeper friendship shared between spouses is especially important during middle age where many people report diminished life satisfaction. “The benefits come in high-stress environments, and people who are married can handle mid-life stress better than those who aren’t because they have a shared load and shared friendship,” he said.

According to research, the same happens in live-in relationships. Those who were married were not the only ones who reported higher levels of happiness. Living with a romantic partner, regardless of legal marital status, was the true predictor of happiness. Friendship seems to be the underlying factor in the whole study, as those surveyed who reported their spouse or partner as their best friend also reported being twice as happy and satisfied compared to others. “Maybe what is really important is friendship, and to never forget that in the push and pull of daily life,” said Helliwell.

Relationship researchers have long known that marriage is associated with better health, particularly for men. The main reason is that wives often take on the role of care givers. Because erectile dysfunction is an important barometer of a man’s health, a wife often is the first to notice changes that could signal a health problem like heart disease or diabetes. Marriage protects men from depression and makes women more vulnerable to it—twice as many married women are depressed as married men. Studies have shown that at all ages, husbands report higher levels of marital satisfaction than do wives. Single women report more life satisfaction than married women; the opposite is true of men. Husbands who lose their wives have lower survival rates than married men. Widowhood, by contrast, seems to have no effect on women’s health.

The 1994 Sex in America survey found that those who were happiest with their sex lives (88 per cent) were married people. By contrast, the least satisfied were those who were not married, not living with anyone and who had at least two sex partners. It all proves that being bonded together in pairs is one of the five universal exigencies of being human.

Here are suggestions for making your pair bonding work:

Don’t marry a person who doesn’t like you: Do not assume that all will work out well after marriage. Check the comfort levels between your prospective mate and her parents. The best indicator of how someone is going to be in a family is how that person has been in a family before.

Don’t assume stereotypical gender roles: Sure your mate is a female, but that does not necessarily mean she likes to cook, sweep and polish your shoes. Today, the gender roles have changed or at least are changing. Realise this.

Be open: Be frank. Do not hold back information from her and make sure you do not have to do so.

Fidelity: This is a decision, not a feeling or inclination. Compared to flirting from partner to partner like a pollen-dazed bee, monogamy is much more likely to make you happy for a lifetime.

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Topics : #Sex

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