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Bad deal for the better half

London, Dec. 30: Marriage is more damaging to a woman’s well-being than a man’s because it offers her fewer immediate personal benefits, says research by a government-funded group.

The One Plus One Marriage and Partnership Research organisation said while married men appeared physically better off than single men, the same could not be said for married women. Furthermore, single men were more likely to regard themselves as unhappy compared to married men. The same was not generally true of single women.

Research among more than 2,000 divorced couples found that women had to make a greater adjustment to marriage than men.

“The greater part of the husband’s day will continue to be spent much as it was before his marriage, whereas this is rarely so for the wife,” said Penny Mansfield, director of One Plus One.

“If she continues to work, she is likely to have to combine the job of housewife with that of full-time worker. This in itself may be a source of stress because she will have less opportunity for relaxation. Even if the wife does not work following marriage, there may be adjustment difficulties for her since she has to learn to adopt a completely different lifestyle.

“The absence of colleagues, workmates and the loss of an independent income will require varying degrees of adaptation which may all contribute to a sense of increasing isolation.”

Half of those surveyed reported difficulties of sexual adjustment, particularly after the birth of a baby, while about the same (48 per cent) spoke of adjustment difficulties connected with housing and finance.

Most (73 per cent) said the problems which led to marital failure started within the first five years but for a third they surfaced within the first 12 months. The duration of marital “happiness” among the couples, whose marriages lasted an average of 10-14 years, was only 3.87 years.

The government is spending millions of pounds on research into why marriages fail and what can be done to help couples stay together.

Family campaigners blame marital breakdown on Labour policies which have stripped away the tax benefits and most of the legal privileges that go with staying married.

In August, the Lord Chancellor’s department acknowledged that the number of couples who divorced rose for the first time in almost a decade. There were 860 more decrees absolute — the legal measure that finalises divorce — last year than in 2000, making a total of 137,270 completed divorces.

The organisation pointed to American research which showed that couples who did manage to stay married allowed each spouse to retain some sense of autonomy. That meant being careful about what was argued about and accepting compromises. The basic components of long-lasting marriages were love, trust and respect.

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