The Ol’ Ball and Chain

There’s a satirical video on social media that highlights a common marriage stereotype. It begins with a young woman accepting a surprise marriage proposal. The moment she says yes, the footage switches to clips of her toiling away in domestic drudgery. One moment, she’s enraptured by the beauty and romance of marriage. The next, she’s buried beneath dishes, laundry, and buckets of soapy water.

Negative stereotypes about marriage don’t end there. Some people refer to their marriage as a life sentence with no chance for parole. Or to their spouse as “the ol’ ball and chain.” Given these sour perspectives, you’d think marriage was the best way to become unhappy. But studies show that it’s just the opposite: men and women are most likely to feel happy when they get married and have children.

The General Social Survey is one of the most influential national studies in the social sciences. It monitors beliefs, attitudes, and social trends within the United States. According to their research, married men and women with children report feeling happy twice as often as unmarried men and women, and three times as often as single parents.

Obviously, many single men and women live happy, fulfilled lives. And the single parents I know love their children and work hard. While marriage is no guarantee for happiness, the data is clear: generally speaking, the most certain path toward happiness for both men and women is getting married, staying married, and raising a family.

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