So, you just learned that love is dead and that you will probably be single and lonely forever, and now comes the news that not only will you die alone, but also that you will die poor and alone, which might just be the very worst way to die. Or, actually, that would be a perfectly fine way to die. Because, who cares, you're dead. But it would be a horrible way to live. And that's what this is all about, right? Living. Life. Seizing the day and not being poor. Nothing is worse than being poor.
The Atlantic has a piece explaining how an unmarried woman who can't find anyone to love her or take her on a real date will spend "more than a million dollars just for being single" over the course of 40 years as compared to her married counterpart. Now, let me break that down for you. That's a lot of fucking money. Like, a lot. The article, titled "The High Price of Being Single In America", was written by two women—Lisa Arnold and Christina Campbell—who are unmarried and plan to stay that way. So, they decided to sift through what is, to me, a prohibitively large amount of numbers and statistics in order to determine what exactly the financial benefits are to being married and what that really means.
What they found was not exactly surprising because, well, of course it's more expensive to shoulder every financial responsibility by yourself rather than share the costs with someone else. But the huge disparity is disheartening in its comprehensiveness. I mean, sure, it's more expensive to live alone than to live with someone else—that's why roommates are such an integral part of the New York City living experience. But also, married women reap financial benefits when filing income taxes, when receiving Social Security, when collecting benefits from an IRA, and on healthcare expenses. So, even if you never had any fairytale dreams of a wedding and marital happily-ever-after, probably you should just suck it up and find someone to share your life with or whatever because it will make everything so much more affordable.
There are a few reasons why the economics of mariage is in the spotlight right now. First, is the ongoing civil rights struggle to make same-sex marriage universally legal. An important talking point in the fight for same-sex marriage is the reality that when gay couples don't have the same legal rights as married couples, they can't benefit from things like health insurance or Social Security. Another reason why the economics of marriage is in the news is because of the fact that divorce is incredibly prevalent and—especially when children are involved—a newly divorced couple's economic reality is severely compromised. Finally, more and more people are choosing to have children outside of marriage which necessarily impacts their financial stability in a way that is exacerbated by parents not having legal ties to one another. As the writers of The Atlantic piece point out, the reason that "these policies exist is to encourage people to get married, because being married was—and still is—considered a social good." In other words, it is not a coincidence that marriage is a more economically viable situation, the government knowingly incentivizes this institution in order to potentially benefit from what is perceived as a "social good."
Frequently, the issue of marriage is framed in emotional terms, but it is fundamentally a practical one. And, really, there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with saying that you want to get married for economic reasons—that's why people have been getting married for centuries, it is only recently that people have thought to get married for "love." However, it also used to be difficult to leave a marriage and so there was an economic safety net in place just by virtue of getting through that wedding. Now, though, with so many marriages ending in divorce, people can easily find themselves in very precarious financial positions even after thinking they've committed to a certain lifestyle. There are all sorts of specifically modern issues at play right now, including our current obsession with wanting personal happiness, which, is virtually impossible in a marriage. Sorry, but that's just a fact. Especially when children are involved. Ugh. So, now the choice that people are faced with is compromising personally by getting married and compromising financially by staying single. This is not the most fun choice to have to make. I mean, obviously, some people are happy in their marriages. But for those that aren't the alternatives are pretty grim. Luckily, personally, I'm totally satisfied with a box of mac 'n' cheese and a bottle of whiskey and who really needs health insurance anyway? Not me. Not me.
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