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Love and marriage

Agriculture.com Staff 02/17/2008 @ 11:00pm

With another Valentine's Day in the rearview mirror, it's clear that the 1950s song lyrics, "Love and marriage . . . go together like a horse and carriage," are a hard sell. Celebrity marriages waffle with the flavor of the month, and the percent of married Americans in every age group has nose-dived.

But marriage still exerts a surprising impact on our health, happiness, and even the environment.

The Pew Research Center survey of Americans traditionally ranks children in the top three ingredients of a good marriage. In 1990, 65% of Americans said children were very important. But in 2007, only 41% rank children as very important.

In fact, sharing household chores, which shot up to 62% from 47% in 1990, outranks having children.

By a margin of nearly three to one, Americans say the main purpose of marriage is the mutual happiness and fulfillment of adults, not the bearing and raising of children.

What should we make of this? Are the results a rejection of the parental values of sacrifice, stability, dependability, and maturity? Or is the shift to chore-sharing tied to a lack of family-friendly workplace policies?

Remember the hit show Married with Children? Stay tuned for next season's Married with Chores. Of course, couples who say kids aren't essential would have fewer chores.

Another startling 2007 study says divorce is bad for the environment. Michigan State University researchers report that the global trend toward higher divorce rates has created more households with fewer people. More houses require more energy to build, fuel, and provide water. The study calculates Americans spend an additional $3.6 billion annually on water because of dual households created by divorce.

Divorce might eliminate economies of scale, but it does promote housekeeping. As Zsa Zsa Gabor once said, "I'm a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house!"

A few years ago during a severe drought, Australians were advised to "Save water, shower together". Of course, this form of environmentalism can be carried too far and cause divorce. Or lead to communal living.

Staying together to conserve resources must be balanced with studies indicating a link between an unhappy marriage and poor health.

A 2007 British study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that people with the worst close relationships were 34% more likely to have a heart attack than those with good relationships.

A study in Psychosomatic Medicine doesn't support that finding. But it notes that wives who expressed their feelings during marital fights had less risk of dying during the next 10 years than those who kept silent. This result wasn't true for husbands.

So what's our takeaway on marriage? Women, if your husband's socks are on the floor, offer him your views on chore sharing. After all, it's healthy for you to talk it out.

Speak now or forever hold your peace doesn't apply after the wedding. But conservation might. Who knows, men, your wife might ask you to help research water-saving showerheads.

With another Valentine's Day in the rearview mirror, it's clear that the 1950s song lyrics, "Love and marriage . . . go together like a horse and carriage," are a hard sell. Celebrity marriages waffle with the flavor of the month, and the percent of married Americans in every age group has nose-dived.

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