I’ll start with bad news, and then get to good news before explaining why all of it belongs in a business magazine.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, the most depressing news for me does not involve violence or political deadlock, but love. Specifically, the news that the joy of romantic love – or, to be crude, lust – lasts only about two years. After that, people return to their normal level of happiness.
That’s actually old news. The original study of 1,761 people who married and stayed married for 15 years was published in 2003, though I just learned about it when a psychology professor discussed it in the New York Times. Other studies have reinforced the evidence that increased happiness from love is short-lived. (Read the article attinyurl.com/cv4l3mw.)
The biological end of lust is a big reason there are more than a million divorces in America each year. If the proverbial seven-year itch needs scratching after just 24 months, we should be more surprised by how many marriages last than by how many fail.
But here’s some good news about love and marriage: In the states of Maine, Maryland and Washington, where gay marriages were legalized, many gay couples who had been together for decades chose to marry. Long after the intense fire of romantic love had burned out, these people had built something more enduring and wanted to stay together, despite a society that long insisted they didn’t belong together. Those couples have created a very powerful love, just as many traditional couples have built long and flourishing marriages.
Here’s why this talk of love belongs in a business magazine: Failed relationships and broken marriages are not just personal tragedies. They carry social and economic consequences for all of us. A good marriage can help people survive disability and unemployment in a modern world where job insecurity is a way of life. In a time of stagnating wages, a household with two incomes is more stable than a one-income household.
Strong marriages often lead to shared entrepreneurship, home ownership, ties to a neighborhood, volunteering and many other things that make our economy and society strong. And, of course, children flourish in strong marriages. That’s why civilizations and nations have long supported marriage with laws and morals.
Hawaii must now recognize that gay marriages reinforce our society and economy in exactly the same ways as traditional marriages. I could spend pages arguing the powerful moral case for same-sex marriage, but in this small space I want to simply state the undeniable truth that the marriage of two people is good for our economy and our society. We have known that for centuries. What we need to do today is allow it for this group of people who have been excluded in the past. It will make us all stronger.