Marriage and happiness

Today I’ve been married for five years. I highly recommend it.

I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’ve heard there are statistics talking about how marriage increases happiness. I can well believe it.

It’s hard to come up with the list of reasons why married life is so preferable. It’s surely worth pausing to remember what the proverb maker said about how desirable a good spouse is and how miserable a bad spouse can make you. We have too much evidence ever to doubt the truth of that.

I should also clarify that in saying marriage increases happiness, I don’t mean to say that’s all it does. There are hard times too, of course. I always think of something a good friend told me many years ago, that marriage means higher highs and lower lows.

Still, the average, for me at least and doubtless for many others as well, ends up being considerably happier than the alternative, when I pause and take stock..

There’s something paradoxical about marriage. Your life becomes simultaneously freer and more limited. I think this is true of parenthood as well. It’s limited on the small scale and the large scale because suddenly it becomes necessary always to take the plans and the needs and the sensibilities of another person into account for all sorts of decisions that would once have been more straightforward.

But marriage is profoundly freeing as well. It settles a part of a person’s identity that was previously a question mark. It grounds a person, making it possible to focus on new goals that could previously never really be the focus.

I’m sure I still haven’t gotten to the heart of what it is about marriage that makes me so grateful for it. But there’s a start, at least.

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