Better Marriages, Happier Women
A new study shows that religious involvement leads to stronger families. Who knew?
We’ve been conditioned for decades to believe the key to a happy and enduring marriage is one based on “progressive” values and a rejection of the traditional religious views of the relationship between husband and wife. But new studies reveal otherwise.
That’s right: Married men and women are happier when religion is part of their lives.
Of a new report on marriage, faith, and families by the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution, authors W. Bradford Wilcox, Jason S. Carroll, and Laurie DeRose write in The New York Times Sunday Review, “The happiest of all wives in America are religious conservatives, followed by their religious progressive counterparts. Fully 73 percent of wives who hold conservative gender values and attend religious services regularly with their husbands have high-quality marriages.”
But even left-leaning couples are typically happier and enjoy stronger marriages when religious sentiment is part of their lives.
Wilcox, Carroll, and DeRose add that secular women “compared with religiously conservative women” do not “enjoy the social, emotional and practical support for family life provided by a church, mosque or synagogue.”
This seems to fly in the face of a feminist philosophy that religion prevents women from realizing true happiness, and that quality of life is attained only by rejecting religious principles — the patriarchy! — in favor of “progressive” values and a secular worldview.
But a society without religion can leave some people searching in the wrong places for happiness. This includes Millennials who have spurned marriage and family in favor of individual happiness, careers, and wealth. There’s certainly nothing wrong with these goals — except that marriage is actually one of the best ways to achieve them.
As Suzanne Venker suggests in the Washington Examiner, “By turning away from marriage, as understandable as it might have been at the time, millennials set themselves up to fail. Married people are significantly better off (financially, emotionally, even on the happiness scale) than any other group of Americans. The data are indisputable. To be sure, a culture of divorce scares people away from marriage. But what we’ve learned the hard way is that without marriage, a nation crumbles. Just because your parents failed at love doesn’t mean you will. Rejecting marriage outright was the real mistake.”
Of course, many factors have contributed to our nation’s high divorce rate, but there’s no doubt that secular progressivism has been one of them. (Frankly, we’d argue that failed marriages among Christian conservatives are a result of not living up to the biblical ideals they espouse.) When young people believe that everything in the universe is random and that abandoning religious values is the pathway to a happy life, it’s no wonder they reject marriage and family in pursuit of the false promises of secularism.
And while non-religious liberal women tend to celebrate marriages in which male spouses are engaged in family life, this isn’t a new concept in conservative religious homes, where husbands have always endeavored to embrace their role as fathers. At the same time, many feminist women who consider themselves progressives are less likely to have children in the first place.
There are many benefits to a religious life. “Faith is a force for good in contemporary family life in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania,” say the report’s authors. “Men and women who share an active religious life, for instance, enjoy higher levels of relationship quality and sexual satisfaction compared to their peers in secular or less/mixed religious relationships. They also have more children and are more likely to marry.” They add, “This report suggests the family-friendly norms and networks associated with religious communities reinforce the ties that bind.”
Makes sense. And it’s no wonder that more Americans admit they’re suffering from depression, anxiety, isolation, and other afflictions at a time when we’re abandoning the very religious values that held our society together for so long.
Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center conducted a study with similar findings. According to Pew’s analysis, “In the U.S. and many other countries around the world, regular participation in a religious community clearly is linked with higher levels of happiness and civic engagement (specifically, voting in elections and joining community groups or other voluntary organizations). This may suggest that societies with declining levels of religious engagement, like the U.S., could be at risk for declines in personal and societal well-being.”
After so many years of social and moral chaos, it’s interesting that we’ve come full circle and finally realized that maybe we had it right all along. After having been told that a rejection of religion would strengthen our society, we’re now realizing the powerful and beneficial affect that religion has on our marriages and communities.
Let’s hope it’s not too late to convince millions of young people that they’re looking for happiness in all the wrong places.