As a researcher interested in love and relationships, I have been doing a study on attitudes toward romantic love among Newars in Kathmandu. All of my respondents are married and one of the findings I have so far is that marriage makes the difference, what type of marriage was it: love or arranged is secondary. I will write in detail about this finding in my thesis.
Today, I would like to discuss about the relationship between Marriage and psychological well-being. How are they inter-linked and how do they affect our well-being? I will review some of the research that has been conducted on this topic. This topic drew my attention upon reading the news of our actor, Hari Bansha Acharya, one of the most successful and respected actors in the Nepalese entertainment industry, marrying for the second time after his wife passed away about a year ago. He married a woman who had lost her husband a decade ago.
Most of the reports that came out in the media just gave the mere news of his second marriage; very few of them had the background and the analysis behind that event. The Nepali weekly, Sapthahik, published the detailed story titled “Why did Hari Bansha marry again?”He admits that due to untimely loss of his life partner, he was slipping into depression and being unable to concentrate on his work as usual. He recalled his last year marked by sadness, and lack of interest. He recalls, “I was becoming a victim of depression.” He was advised and encouraged by his friends to marry again to regain his psychological well-being.
Does marriage really matters for our psychological well-being?
Yes. Research has shown positive correlation between marital status and psychological well-being. Happily married adults report fewer depressive symptoms than all other marital groups. Separated and divorced adults report more depressive symptoms.
Longitudinal studies indicate that marriage makes people far less likely to suffer psychological illness; marriage makes people live much longer; marriage makes people healthier and happier; and both men and women benefit. However, in case of bad/unsatisfactory marital status, it has adverse impact upon the psychological well-being increasing the risk for problems (Wilson and Oswald, 2005).
Researchers have consistently found the highest rates of mental disorder
among the divorced and separated, the lowest rates among the married, and
intermediate rates among the single and widowed. A cohabiting partner does
not replicate these benefits of marriage (Malzberg, 1936).
Why is marriage so important?
Need for Belonging
Human beings are born with an innate need to be loved and love others that leads to fulfillment and well-being which the psychologists have called the need for belonging(Maslow, 1970). Unfulfilled need of belonging is linked to variety of adverse effects on health, adjustment, and well-being (Baumeister and Leary, 1995). Deci & Ryan (1985) have termed the belonging need as “need for relatedness” in their self-determination theory which is a macro-theory of human motivation, personality development, and well-being. According to them, human beings are intrinsically motivated to fulfill need for relatedness, autonomy and competence.
Attachment, love and flourishing relationships that fulfill universal human need for belonging and contribute to psychological well-being (Synder & Lopez, 2007).
Baumeister, R.F., & Leary, M.R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.
Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and personality (2nd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
Snyder, C. R. & Lopez, S. J. (2007). Positive psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths. London: Sage Publications.
Wilson, Chris M. and Andrew J. Oswald. (2005). How Does Marriage Affect Physical and Psychological Health? A Survey of the Longitudinal Evidence. University of East Anglia, UK, University of Warwick, UK, and Harvard University.
Malzberg, Benjamin (1936). “Marital Status in Relation to the Prevalence of Mental Disease.” Psychiatric Quarterly 10: 245-261.