How to Get Marital Benefits--Sans Marriage

Marriage continues to be the living arrangement that confers the most happiness. But couples who live together without getting married can enjoy most of the benefits of marriage, and often have better self-esteem and flexibility in their living styles as well. And even the happiness gap between the two living arrangements is shrinking.

Intimacy produces tangible physical and well-being benefits, says Ben Karney, a professor of social psychology at UCLA. "Your body works better, your immune system functions better, and your body produces more antibodies," he says. "Study after study shows that people in good relationships live longer."

To prove this point, Ted Robles, a UCLA assistant psychology professor, has researched how dating couples respond to concerns about the strength of their relationships. During a first visit, the couples receive a small scrape on their arms and then talk about the problems in their relationship. They later come back for a second visit to discuss ways the relationship can be improved. Robles says the rates at which people's scrapes healed was directly related to their levels of concern about the health of their relationships. Emotions, in other words, drove their bodies' immune systems.

People also have different comfort levels with intimacy itself, Robles says. Unlike electrical charges, opposite intimacy types do not attract and may not produce the most healthful relationships. Chris Fraley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, has produced an online questionnaire that can help couples measure their relative attachment styles.

Beyond physical and emotional ties, the lack of legal sanctions continues to be a defining difference between couples who marry and those who live together. But in recent years, notes sociologist Kelly Musick at Cornell University, advances in domestic partner rights and state recognition of same-sex marriages have narrowed this gap.

Today, so many unmarried people have decided to live together that attitudes and laws are changing. During the past 50 years, "the number of unmarried couples in America increased more than seventeen-fold," the National Marriage Project said in its 2011 annual report on the state of marriage.

"The young are much more inclined than their elders to view cohabitation without marriage and other new family forms--such as same-sex marriage and interracial marriage--in a positive light," the Pew Research Center said in a 2010 report. More than half of all adults between the ages of 30 and 49 said they had cohabited at some point in their lives. "In 2008, 6.2 million households were headed by people in cohabitating relationships," Pew added. "They included 565,000 same-sex couples."

Lisa Diamond, an associate psychology professor at the University of Utah, says the growth of same-sex relationships has expanded to include partnerships with little or no sexual activity. "There are tons of individuals that we know are having a long-term, same-sex relationship, where they wouldn't necessarily identify themselves as gay or lesbian," she says. "There are plenty of same-sex couples that are just living quiet lives and doing the same kinds of things that heterosexual couples do."

Because the accepted social roles of same-sex partners are so similar, Diamond explains, "same-sex couples seem to do a better job [than heterosexual couples] of maintaining equity ... and it is more important for them to have equity in their relationships."

While social attitudes have become more accepting of same-sex and other unmarried couples living together and even having children out of wedlock, people who describe themselves as conservative and religious told Pew they continue to have substantial reservations about the practice. And if the immediate families and friends of an unmarried couple do not support their living arrangement, it can replace needed support structures with opposition, which can create serious stresses. In other words, loving one another might not be enough.

"There are a couple of big issues in understanding cohabitating couples," Karney says. First, on average, different types of people decide to live together rather than opt for marriage. This self-selection produces outcomes that contribute less to well-being and happiness than people who choose to get married.

People who choose to cohabitate often have weaker relationships, he adds. Also, studies show there is a higher rate of domestic violence in such relationships. "Commitment is the driver here," Karney says. "Because they have a reduced commitment, they don't bother to get that piece of paper [a marriage license]." Economic stresses also lead couples to live together rather than marry. It is no accident, Karney and others say, that the decline of marriage and traditional family structures has occurred during the sustained economic decline of the nation's middle class.

Whatever the outcome of cohabitation may be for the average couple, individual couples who decide to live together need not accept an average outcome. Sociologists ascribe four types of benefits to marriage--intimacy and commitment, complementary household roles, societal support from friends and family, and legally guaranteed benefits such as joint tax returns and health insurance.

There is very little reason unmarried couples can't enjoy the same strength of commitment and household partnership as married couples. Some researchers have found that the relative ease of ending an unmarried relationship tends to weaken its bonds compared with a legally sanctioned marriage. Again, this may be true on average, and not necessarily for any specific relationship.

Robles provides several examples of things that couples can do to maintain or increase their happiness:

-- Sharing novel experiences.

-- Doing something new together.

-- Sharing good news, whether it's life-changing or part of a day's experience.

-- Responding positively when your partner shares good news.

Unmarried couples also may need to work harder to develop and maintain mutually supportive household roles. In many marriages, for example, women tend to reinforce healthy eating and good healthcare practices. They also tend to be the dominant developer of social relationships for the couple. Carrying out such roles can be harder when the partners are not married.

The three elements of successful relationships, according to Karney, are: the qualities of the two people involved that make them better or worse at relationships; the qualities of their immediate circumstances; and the qualities of their interactions. Negative factors--career setbacks, financial issues, weight gain, a recession, family and friendship squabbles--can all sidetrack the development and growth of an intimate relationship. "When life is hard, intimacy is hard," he concludes.

"Getting along with another person who is not identical to you, and who inevitably wants different things than you want, is hard work, even in the best of circumstances," Karney says. A key ingredient is to make the effort to understand the other person's point of view and step outside your own, he adds.

To understand what someone else is thinking and what's important to them is not only a key to being a responsive partner, but a sign of great respect for the other person. "Part of doing that is appreciating the invisible forces in the relationship," Karney says. These may include what kind of day they had and what else is going on in their lives. He adds: "Those invisible forces can help us understand our partners better, and we can give clues to our partners as well about how we are feeling."

Twitter: @PhilMoeller



More From US News & World Report

--

Get stories like this on the Yahoo app and discover more every day.
Download it now.
Loading...
  • Chinese telecom firm ZTE books 9.3 percent rise in H1 profit on 4G growth Reuters - 20 minutes ago

    HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp on Thursday booked a 9.3 percent rise in first-half profit as China's adoption of fourth-generation (4G) mobile technology offset the impact ... … More »

  • Brexit hits German business morale, Ifo index plunges
    Brexit hits German business morale, Ifo index plunges Reuters - 25 minutes ago

    The Munich-based Ifo economic institute said its business climate index, based on a monthly survey of some 7,000 firms, fell to 106.2 in August from 108.3 in July. "Business confidence in Germany has clearly worsened," Ifo head Clemens Fuest said … More »

  • FTSE retreats as pharma stocks fall Reuters - 29 minutes ago

    By Kit Rees LONDON (Reuters) - UK shares fell on Thursday, extending losses from the previous session as healthcare stocks dropped, though CRH (CRH.L) rose after posting results. The blue-chip FTSE 100 ... … More »

  • Asia energy stocks hit by oil sell-off, eyes on Yellen
    Asia energy stocks hit by oil sell-off, eyes on Yellen AFP News - 30 minutes ago

    Asian energy firms suffered further losses Thursday after another sharp fall in oil prices, while currency traders moved cautiously the day before a key speech by Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen. World markets have struggled to gain traction this … More »

  • One Tiny Ski Town Is Defying Japan’s Scary Population Slump (1) Bloomberg - 30 minutes ago

    The area’s booming economy has spurred investment in luxury hotels, restaurants, and shops--and attracted local and expat workers who’ve become full-time residents. Niseko’s population grew 2.9 percent last year to 4,952 compared with 2010 levels, … More »

  • High-Speed Trader IMC Under China Stock-Index Futures Probe (1) Bloomberg - 31 minutes ago

    The firm has received inquiries from the China Securities Regulatory Commission related to futures trading at its Shanghai-based affiliate, said Ian Bickerton, a spokesman for IMC. Discussions between IMC and the regulator have been constructive … More »

  • Playtech to seek more deals; makes special payout Reuters - 35 minutes ago

    The company said it would pay 46 euro cents per share as special dividend on Dec. 6, which would come from its cash pile that stood at 777.6 million euros as of June 30. Playtech, which provides software for sports betting and online casino and … More »

  • PBOC Money-Market Tactic Has Traders Trying to Decode Signal (4) Bloomberg - 36 minutes ago

    The People’s Bank of China sold 50 billion yuan ($7.5 billion) of 14-day reverse-repurchase agreements on Wednesday, its first offering of anything with a tenor other than seven days since February. Officials are signaling they’re ready to curb … More »

  • Everyone’s Playing It – Here’s How Businesses Have Reacted To Pokémon GO In Singapore
    Everyone’s Playing It – Here’s How Businesses Have Reacted To Pokémon GO In Singapore Vulcan Post - 36 minutes ago

    This article is brought to you by DBS BusinessClass & Vulcan Post Pokémon GO mania has hit everyone hard and it has, more or less, unofficially become our national pastime. With its release two weeks ago, its timing was seemingly … The post … More »

  • Russia launches large snap military drills
    Russia launches large snap military drills AFP News - 38 minutes ago

    Russia on Thursday launched large-scale snap military drills, putting its troops on full combat readiness in districts bordering Ukraine and the Baltic states, the defence minister said. "In accordance with the decision of the Supreme … More »

  • Oil prices fall as hopes of production freeze fade
    Oil prices fall as hopes of production freeze fade Reuters - 40 minutes ago

    Oil prices slipped on Thursday as the market focused on oversupply and fading hopes of a production freeze. U.S. light crude oil (CLc1) was unchanged at $46.77 a barrel, after dropping 2.8 percent on Wednesday. Oil prices rose more than 20 percent … More »

  • Mobius Says Helicopter Money Will Be Japan’s Next Big Experiment Bloomberg - 45 minutes ago

    Haruhiko Kuroda decides to act. Helicopter money is coming, says Mark Mobius, even as soon as next month. For Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, traditional easing measures have just made people save instead of spend … More »

  • More Turkish tanks head to Syria after IS-held town seized
    More Turkish tanks head to Syria after IS-held town seized AFP News - 56 minutes ago

    At least 10 more Turkish tanks on Thursday crossed the border into Syria a day after pro-Ankara Syrian opposition fighters ousted jihadists from the town of Jarabulus in a lightning operation. The tanks were set to join those which had crossed the … More »

  • Fintech company Adyen expands its presence in APAC, partners with Grab
    Fintech company Adyen expands its presence in APAC, partners with Grab e27 - 1 hour 7 minutes ago

    Adyen moves to new, larger premises in Singapore and was selected by Grab as its payment solution partner in Southeast Asia Payment solutions company Adyen has today announced its expansion and move to a new Singapore office, which will remain as a … More »

  • Germany 'mulling pullout from Turkish airbase'
    Germany 'mulling pullout from Turkish airbase' AFP News - 1 hour 7 minutes ago

    Germany's military is preparing to pull out from a Turkish airbase as a row between the two NATO partners escalates, Der Spiegel magazine reported Thursday. Germany in December agreed to send Tornado surveillance jets and tanker aircraft to the … More »

  • Spain revises Q2 growth estimate upward to 0.8 percent Associated Press - 1 hour 8 minutes ago

    Officials have revised Spain's quarterly economic growth figure for the April-June period upward, from 0.7 percent to 0.8 percent, welcome news for a country in its eighth month without a fully functioning ... … More »

  • TABLE-TOCOM August rubber deliveries at 204 lots Reuters - 1 hour 18 minutes ago

    Aug 25 (Reuters) - Following are deliveries and expiry prices of contracts that have expired on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange in the past six months. Each lot is for 5 tonnes. Contract Aug July June May ... … More »

  • Hong Kong’s Equity Bull Run Tires as Fed, China Concerns Return Bloomberg - 1 hour 33 minutes ago

    Speculation China’s economy is stabilized has been dashed by July data showing faltering growth. At the same time, technical indicators are signaling that the Hang Seng Index’s 25 percent ascent since February’s low was too quick. For BNP Paribas … More »

  • Bold moves, tepid gains: Have central banks met their limit?
    Bold moves, tepid gains: Have central banks met their limit? Associated Press - 2 hours 8 minutes ago

    The world's key central banks have worked themselves into contortions to try to rev up economic growth, raise inflation and coax consumers and businesses to borrow and spend more. They've pumped trillions ... … More »

  • WHY IT MATTERS: Trade Associated Press - 2 hours 11 minutes ago

    THE ISSUE: In this angry election year, many American voters are deeply skeptical about free trade — or downright hostile to it. The backlash against trade threatens a pillar of U.S. policy since World ... … More »

  • Dollar Rally Fades Away Before Yellen as European Stocks Retreat Bloomberg - 2 hours 19 minutes ago

    European stocks fell for the first time this week. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index snapped a four-day winning streak that was fueled by hawkish comments from Fed officials, while the Stoxx Europe 600 Index retreated from a one-week high. … More »

  • European stocks dip at open AFP - 2 hours 20 minutes ago

    Europe's main stock markets fell at the start of trade on Thursday, with London's benchmark FTSE 100 index down 0.4 percent to 6,810.08 points. Frankfurt's DAX 30 also lost 0.4 percent to 10,576.56 points ... … More »

  • Indian IoT startup Witworks raises seed round, launches smartwatch
    Indian IoT startup Witworks raises seed round, launches smartwatch e27 - 2 hours 27 minutes ago

    The funds will be used for development and launch of Blink, a smartwatch designed to provide access to contextual information and services on-the-go Bangalore-based consumer IoT company that makes smart devices in the home and lifestyle space, … More »

  • Korea’s 50-Year Bond Shows Aging Investors Want Mature Debt (2) Bloomberg - 2 hours 29 minutes ago

    China and Thailand have already started issuing 50-year debt, and there is speculation Japan will do the same. The United Nations forecasts the ratio of people in Asia over 60 will more than double by 2050, led by Japan to 41 percent of the … More »

  • Alipay Owner Said to Plan Hong Kong IPO in First Half of 2017 Bloomberg - 2 hours 30 minutes ago

    Mainland China’s restrictions on stock options are discouraging Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group Co. from its original plans for the dual listing, said the people, asking not to be named because the matter is private. A Shanghai … More »

 
Recent Quotes
Symbol Price Change % Chg 
Your most recently viewed tickers will automatically show up here if you type a ticker in the "Enter symbol/company" at the bottom of this module.
You need to enable your browser cookies to view your most recent quotes.
 
Sign-in to view quotes in your portfolios.

MARKET MOVERS

  • Most Actives
    Most Actives
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.128-0.001-0.78%
    N21.SI
    0.355-0.010-2.74%
    E5H.SI
    0.59-0.01-1.67%
    5TP.SI
    1.00+0.01+1.01%
    Y92.SI
    0.785-0.010-1.26%
    BS6.SI
  • % Gainers
    % Gainers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.45+0.09+26.76%
    AYB.SI
    0.465+0.080+20.78%
    E8Z.SI
    0.16+0.02+14.29%
    UV1.SI
    0.20+0.02+11.11%
    BGO.SI
    0.188+0.018+10.59%
    AWS.SI
  • % Losers
    % Losers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.35-0.10-22.22%
    BFK.SI
    0.185-0.040-17.78%
    Y35.SI
    0.40-0.06-13.04%
    BBW.SI
    0.20-0.03-13.04%
    AWI.SI
    0.194-0.026-11.82%
    BLZ.SI

Market Data

  • Currencies
    Currencies
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    1.3525-0.0013-0.09%
    USDSGD=X
    1.5272+0.0023+0.15%
    EURSGD=X
    1.7882-0.0024-0.13%
    GBPSGD=X
    74.1740+0.031+0.04%
    SGDJPY=X
    5.7313+0.0077+0.13%
    SGDHKD=X
    2.9730-0.0039-0.13%
    SGDMYR=X
    9,790.8008+7.5596+0.08%
    SGDIDR=X
    4.9209+0.0076+0.15%
    SGDCNY=X
    1.0322+0.0015+0.15%
    AUDSGD=X
  • Commodities
    Commodities
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    1,328.40-1.30-0.10%
    GCZ16.CMX
    18.58+0.02+0.13%
    SIU16.CMX
    95.34-8.55-8.23%
    ^XAU
    2.08+0.01+0.31%
    HGU16.CMX
    47.04+0.27+0.58%
    CLV16.NYM
  • Bonds
    Bonds
    TreasuryYield (%)Yield Change
    1.140.00
    ^FVX
    1.56+0.01
    ^TNX
    2.24+0.01
    ^TYX