Marriage, also known as matrimony or wedded marriage is a legally recognized union between individuals termed as married couples. It clearly sets forth duties and rights between them, and also between them and their minor children, who are regarded as dependents on the parents. Marriage in the widest sense can be defined as the voluntary union of two adults with the intention of having a permanent marital relationship.
Marriage, though different from heterosexual relationships, shares some of the same traits that define marital relationships. There are several societal pressures that encourage the institution of marriage, which tend to differ from those found in opposite-sex relationships. These include cultural expectations regarding gender roles, norms regarding age differences and sexuality, the role of marriage in society, and the role of the family in reinforcing these various aspects of society. These societal pressures have helped to create the conditions that lead to the increased frequency of marriage, both among married couples and among single people.
The factors that contribute to the increased frequency of marriage vary according to the location and culture of each country. For instance, while it has been seen in some developing countries that the frequency of arranged marriage is far higher than in developed countries, this is not the case everywhere. Similarly, age differences have been noted between married couples of the same age and in same-sex marriage relationships, which appear to be genetically-related, though there may also be other underlying factors contributing to such a phenomenon.
Marriage in the United States has also become somewhat more common over time, with same-sex couples increasing the overall number of marriages. This trend is particularly noted in states that have traditionally had lower marriage rates. States in which same-sex marriages are more common have fewer divorce cases, more stable unions, and higher rates of happiness and overall psychological health. While it is still illegal in many states for same-sex couples to wed, the trend toward same-sex weddings has been especially rapid in the United States, where it has become a hot topic in political debates over the past decade.
The increasing occurrence of same-sex couples and the decreasing marriage rate in the United States are not isolated phenomena. The recent political debate about same-sex marriage has spurred an interest in understanding why same-sex couples are more likely to have successful relationships and have a better chance at creating a successful family unit. It is no secret that there are many challenges that face gay and lesbian people and families, and marriage is often cited as one of the best ways to deal with the unique circumstances that face so many diverse groups. Although the desire to marry is something that is shared by a significant proportion of gay and lesbian people, the pattern of results when this desire is pursued is still relatively weak. A possible reason for this discrepancy could be the pattern of differences between states that legally allow same-sex marriages and those that do not; while same-sex couples do enjoy marriage equality in many states, the actual numbers of same-sex weddings performed in these states is lower than the national average.
There is a wealth of empirical research on the question of whether or not same-sex couples have a higher chance of experiencing emotional and relationship problems than their heterosexual counterparts. Much of this research comes from Dr. Patrick Sussman’s two volume work, Same Sex Marriage: A Scientific Look at the Problems and Benefits of Marriage for Gays and Lesbians. In his study, Sussman examined over half a million married couples in the New York State between 2004 and 2009. While he found no difference in the amount of relationship stress experienced by the men and women in the sample, he did note that the men in the sample had a significantly greater number of relationship complaints than the women. The difference in complaints was notably greater for the women than it was for the men, which Sussman said might be due to the fact that traditionally, gay men are more likely to be involved in relationships that are considered to be less conventional and involve more complex dynamics.