Guys: work on your marriage or drop dead

Updated: Jul 3

And no, I’m not kidding

The article I want to talk about today is Unsuccessful marriages a high-risk factor for premature death among men. This is a good and important article, and its claims are well established by many other studies.


But a huge disclaimer before we go any further because I don’t want any misunderstandings going in. Women have sacrificed themselves and their lives for their husbands and their marriages for literally thousands of years. This sacrifice has been unnecessary and unfair.

The last thing in the world I want to do—or to even seem to be doing—is to issue a call for women to sacrifice themselves to keep a marriage alive on the chance doing so will keep their husbands alive a few more years.

And so while I hope women will read this—it takes two people to make a marriage work—I’m addressing this to guys, because...it takes two people to make a marriage work, and if you guys don’t do your part, you are lowering your life expectancy.


And not just your life expectancy. Even if you don’t die you risk disability and a seriously degraded lifestyle.


This is no exaggeration. From the article:

  • the relative risk for death for any reason among the unhappily married versus the happily married was a fifth higher among those dissatisfied with their marriages.


  • the number of participants who died from a stroke was 69% higher among those who ranked their marriage as unsuccessful.

The risk level from being in an unsuccessful marriage is equal, it turns out, to that of being a heavy smoker.


And in case you’re interested, “unsuccessful” is simply defined as being unsatisfied with the marriage on a four-point scale.


Now if you’re a guy, you might say, “Oh, well, I’d better just pull the trigger on getting that divorce.” Hah! Guess what, buddy? Men don’t do well after divorce. On average, in general, men’s mental and physical health goes down and stays down after divorce.


So sorry, guys, there’s no exit. There’s only one way to go. Take your wife seriously and your marriage seriously and work on it and make it a priority or...else!


Now let me ask you: do you think I’m suggesting a ton of sacrifice on your part? Not really! On page 48 of our book Why Couples Fight we talk about what our ideal is. Not that people follow a set of rules. Not that the guy kisses his wife’s ass. Not that people spend their time talking things to death.


No. The ideal is making room for two whole people in your relationship. All of your wife as she really is—it ain’t gonna work without that. But also all of you as you really are. There has to be that too. Now okay, maybe there can’t be totally all of both of you. But as much as possible, and a lot more than there is now. Plus, it should be fair. There’s just going to be resentment and struggle if you get to have 85% of you in your marriage, but your wife only gets to have 45% of herself. And there’s your unsuccessful marriage.

Figuring all this out is hard, but way easier than misery and death.


And you’re not alone. There’s real help in Why Couples Fight. How to understand what you’ve been doing wrong. And how work together so you can both get your needs met. And while it does take some work, I can promise that doing it right takes less work than keeping on making a mess of things.

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