My beloved husband, John, slumped at the wheel of his cranberry-colored airport-shuttle-sized SUV June 9, 2012, at about 7:30 p.m. I sat next to him. Behind us sat my son-in-law, Jun Turalba, a professional in owning and managing top-flight nursing homes in Arizona.
John was driving slowly from a photoshoot that featured him and I with our children and grandchildren. From nowhere, John’s voice informed me, “I feel really bad.” Before I could react, he slumped at the wheel.
I assumed he was asleep, but Jun knew that he stopped breathing. What followed was a masterpiece of cooperation between myself, the adult children he loved, and the municipal and medical authorities in and around Stone Harbor.
This powerful choreography resulted in not only a stent for John’s heart, but hospitalization for 38 days to repair damages that, otherwise, would have cost him his life. His death would have created a second widowhood for me in the space of 21 years.
In addition to the reported advantages of marriage and lifelong loving, we often forget that a successful marriage provides a second set of eyes, ears, and brain cells to operate when a partner collapses accidentally.
Would John have collapsed if he was a bachelor? Probably. Would have he have survived the heart attack called the “Widow Maker” in medical circles? Doubtful.
There are practical advantages to marriage, and Dr. David Ribar is one of the researchers in this area.
As we demonstrated in this unforgettable true story, Ribar oversaw international research that indicates advantages to married life:
- We often see higher adult earnings for married adults. Not only are two salaries better than one, marriage often creates the financial complexity of homes, cars, children, and vacations. The earners protect the welfare of themselves, and their families, through increased energy towards financial success. Many single family households are run by women. The Atlantic reports that single women may require as much as $1,000,000 more than married women over their lifetimes. When we add to this finding, that many single-parent households are headed by women, we understand the financial pressure of supporting a family as a single adult.
- Children experience greater wellbeing when raised by a high-functioning team of parents than being raised by hurried single parents. Understandably, two high functioning adults can provide their children with more frequent companionship and greater coverage for the events of daily life than a working single parent.
- Adult physical health: The true vignette above is a breathtaking example of the advantage of having a wife and child present at the time of the imminent death of a husband and father. Statistics have supported our belief that married adults enjoy greater health benefits for a variety of reasons: There is another adult to turn to as needed, partners often look out for one another, an uninsured partner can benefit from their counterpart’s insurance, and an effective partnership is more protective than managing alone.
According to a Harvard study, those who get married:
- live longer
- have fewer strokes and heart attacks
- have a lower chance of becoming depressed
- are less likely to have advanced cancer at the time of diagnosis, and more likely to survive cancer for a longer period.
- survive a major operation more often.
4. Married women and men appear to also be more satisfied in their daily lives. Married women report about 15% more satisfaction emotionally and sexually, while married men report over 10% more satisfaction than unmarried men, in terms of emotional and spiritual well-being.
To consider: Imagine for a moment that, although you are successfully married, you wake up tomorrow as a single adult, or you are single, and you wake up tomorrow successfully married to the partner of your dreams.
How do you feel? Can you see advantages, or disadvantages, to a lifestyle different from your own? What might they be?
To explore: David Ribar, "What Do Social Scientists Know About the Benefits of Marriage?" (http://ftp.iza.org/dp998.pdf)
ED. NOTE: Dr. Coche practices clinical psychology in Stone Harbor and Philadelphia. She invites responses through her website, www.cochecenter.com.