So now marriage makes you greedy…

Two sociologists who have published a paper called “Marriage: the Good, the Bad, and the Greedy.” They reached the conclusion that married people are more “greedy” than single people because they “spend less time than singles calling, writing, and visiting with their friends, neighbors, and extended family.”

They did note that once married couples have children, their social interaction and support network actually increases, although you might think it would be the opposite.

To me the study seems inconclusive, and parts of it can be explained positively and not at all portrayed as “greedy.”  I think it is normal and healthy for a newly  married couple to focus on themselves in the beginning of their marriage, thus building the most important relationship they have. If the experts are right in asserting that marriage is work, then good one is not built overnight. Each spouse needs to devote time and effort into building trust, friendship, and love. So if a married couple chooses to spend much of their free time with each-other, who’s to say that’s being “greedy?”

Once they have kids, it’s understandable that they start reaching out to others for support and friendship. Actually, I think that if a couple takes the liberty of some seclusion in the beginning of their marriage, then once the kids come along and the parents have built a strong, happy, selfless marriage, they are more prepared to be an active and devoted member of the community. 

Which brings me to the next point. “What is this community the authors are talking about?” asks one critic of the study. “It is a somewhat muddled portrait.”

It would seem that the “community” they speak of is not much of a community at all. Interestingly, they noticed that “when it came to helping friends, the marriage gap showed up only with white couples, not among African-Americans or Hispanics.” I would venture to say that these two groups have a stronger sense of community to begin with. It’s hard to be part of a community if you don’t really have one. Once someone is married, his interests do shift. If his “community” before marriage was made up of other like-minded singles, it’s no wonder that they don’t have as much in common as they used to. But if one has a community in the true sense of the word, it seems more likely that they would stay connected.

You can’t measure characteristics such as “greed” or “generosity” by how often someone hangs out with his friends. You can’t measure involvement in the community unless you first ascertain what a community is. I think the authors of this study have their work cut out if they choose to revisit and clarify this issue, before making silly generalizations like this one.

Read more in this Boston Globe article.


  1. marriedlady says:

    I agree with your analysis of this article, especially the defining of community. The researchers seem to define community as America and being politically active at one point and then as being composed of relatives and close friends at another. There is a problem here with definitions. A clear example of this is in the title itself, “The Greedy Marriage.” Greedy as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary is: “Excessively desirous of acquiring or possessing, especially wishing to possess more than what one needs or deserves.”

    Devoting more time to one’s spouse, especially early in a marriage, is to my thinking (and I think from your comments, yours), not at all greedy,or excessive but wise. Maybe it should be called the “Invested Marriage”