The XX Factor

Is Marriage Bad for Women?

From Australia comes yet more proof of why women should never get married. Apparently, marriage makes you chunky , finds one important study. Add that to the list of ills catalogued in Ariel Levy’s New Yorker review of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on marriage this week. Married women are more likely to get depressed, fail in their careers, and even die violent deaths at the hands of their husbands. “Marriage is an anachronism,” Levy writes, a relic from the time when people had to “establish kinships for purposes of defense.”

There is, of course, a part of me that wants to connect to my freshman self, sitting on someone’s bed and going on about marriage as a pointless institution and a stupid piece of paper, etc. But life experience has taught me better. For one thing, the statistics are slippery. Unmarried women, for example, are also unhappier than unmarried men. Evangelical women married in the hidebound, pre-feminist mode are the happiest of all. The more freedom women gain in marriage, the less happy they are. Even the weight-gain difference the study found was only four pounds. Honestly, would you trade a lifetime of love for four pounds?

Recently, I reread Herb Stein’s old Slate essay, “Watching the Couples Go By .” He wrote it just after his wife died, and it makes me cry every time. It’s a simple economic analysis of why a wife is the most valuable thing in a man’s life. Here is an even simpler breakdown from Blake Bailey, written just after Hurricane Katrina .

Mornings are bad, to be sure: that first minute after you wake up, and you remember all over again that you’re broke and everything is gone and your poor old cat is dead; but there, too, is your wife’s warm haunch, right where you left it.

Photograph of wedding rings by Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Getty Images.