What makes marriage so much more conducive to happiness than other relationships?

It turns out that marriage has a distinct benefit that the hookup culture and cohabitation frequently lack. That benefit is happiness.

Citing research from the Journal of Happiness Studies, Susan Pinker writes at The Wall Street Journal that happiness in adults correlates directly with marriage. According to these studies, the effects of marriage on happiness aren’t a one-time thing either. As Pinker’s headlines says, “For long-term happiness, the wedded win the race.”

Albert Mohler, in his discussion of the WSJ article and the research, notes that these effects are “measured over a lifetime.” The studies show that married couples are especially happy in the early years of their marriage. And, although happiness for married couples seems to wane during the middle of the marriage, when kids and careers cause stress, the happiness levels go back up for older adults who have made it out of the hectic stage of child-rearing.

But why? What makes marriage so much more conducive to happiness than other relationships? As Pinker notes in the article, marriage probably brings more satisfaction than simple cohabitation because of the “level of commitment” it requires. Plus it’s a commitment “formalized by a ritual and a legal document,” making it a serious matter for the people involved. Ultimately, she notes, people find satisfaction in knowing that “someone has [their] back.”

Mohler closes his discussion of the story by pointing out that these conclusions about marriage align with the biblical perspective of the institution. As he suggests, the hookup culture and cohabitation don’t satisfy humans in the same way that marriage does because men and women weren’t designed for mere hookups and cohabitation. God designed them for marriage, and he designed marriage to reflect the Gospel—his own commitment to his people, his own covenant with us, sealed by Christ’s blood.

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