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'The Happiest Americans': Why Getting Married Can Save Civilization

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Nothing predicts happiness in life better than a good marriage – not even a hefty bank account or a great career. So says University of Virginia sociologist and author Dr. Brad Wilcox. And with American happiness at an all-time low, Wilcox is making the case that marriage can even help save civilization. 

As director of the National Marriage Project, Wilcox wants you to be happy, prosperous, and oh, by the way, save the planet!  Wilcox believes the best way to do this is through marriage. 

In his new book, Get Married, Why Americans Must Defy the Elites, Forge Strong Families, and Save Civilization, Wilcox explains that many problems have their roots in the anti-family message and policies coming out of Washington, Hollywood, and the media, which is basically: stay single without kids and make lots of money. 

"So, I think what's striking about both the online right and the mainstream left is they're often telling us that sort of the path of prosperity and the path to happiness runs away from marriage and family, and yet the facts tell us exactly the opposite. The path to prosperity runs towards marriage, and the path towards happiness runs towards marriage as well," says Dr. Wilcox.

But, how can the institution of marriage save civilization?   

"Well, you know, we're sitting here in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson's university and his home just over there on the hill, Monticello. And he, of course, was the author of the Declaration of Independence and mentioned in that declaration is the importance of the pursuit of happiness. The American civilization that we're seeing now today, unfortunately, is that happiness in America is falling," he said. Wilcox believes the main reason behind that decline is due to fewer Americans tying the knot. 

"What's happened to marriage in the last really 50 years is that marriage has remained pretty strong among upper-middle-class Americans. Americans who have that college degree, Americans who are more affluent in one way or another. But for Americans who are in that more working-class bracket, who don't have that college degree, who have an income between about $20-$50,000, they're really seeing their marital fortunes decline a lot in recent decades," Wilcox said.  

He blames two factors: 

   1. Working-class men are less likely to have full-time employment making them less desirable as marriage partners; 
   2. And some government programs like Medicaid may pay more if you have kids and don't get married. 

"So there's a connection then between the way in which our public policies unintentionally end up penalizing marriage for working-class couples, which is a shame," Wilcox says.

For those who do choose marriage, Wilcox finds nothing but good news:  

   * Married men earn more than their single peers, even compared to those with similar backgrounds;
   * Both men and women who get and stay married accumulate greater wealth;
   * Married men and women with families are less lonely, less prone to suicide, and report more meaningful lives overall, compared to their single and childless peers, and;
   * Husbands and wives who adopt a "we-before-me" approach to marriage, such as sharing a joint checking account, are happier and less divorce prone, compared to those who take a "me-first" approach.

Then there is one group happiest of all: Married Couples who attend religious services. 

"People who are married and who are churchgoing are the happiest Americans. And that's because both, again, on average, both folks who enjoy the benefit of a spouse and folks who enjoy the benefit of being part of a traditional community, a church community, are more likely to be embedded in intense social relationships that give their lives a sense of meaning, direction, happiness, purpose, and solidarity. And that translates into more happiness," Wilcox said. 

And while it's true Christian couples divorce, Wilcox says statistics show couples who truly practice their faith are more likely to stay together as opposed to those who just identify as Christian. 

"People who attend church more often are between 30 and 50% less likely to get divorced. So it doesn't divorce-proof your marriage, but it certainly reduces your risk of divorce," Wilcox said. 

Not only are they less likely to get divorced, but Wilcox also maintains that married, Christian couples report the most satisfying sex lives of all married couples. "They also have more sex than their fellow Americans who are not religious. And they are more likely to be more sexually satisfied than their fellow Americans who are not religious," he said.

In his book, Get Married, Wilcox makes the case that marriage is our most important institution. "I think because we're social animals, as Aristotle said. And really, nothing matters for us more than the quality of our relations with friends, and even more so with family. So, it's kind of the core institution for basically guiding and directing the most central institution in our lives," Wilcox said.

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About The Author

Wendy Griffith

Wendy Griffith is a Co-host for The 700 Club and an Anchor and Senior Reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In addition to The 700 Club, Wendy co-anchors Christian World News, a weekly show that focuses on the triumphs and challenges of the global church. ( Wendy started her career at CBN on Capitol Hill, where she was the network’s Congressional Correspondent during the Impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton. She then moved to the Virginia Beach headquarters in 2000 to concentrate on stories with a more