Orthodox marriages are 'happier', US survey shows

By Paul Berger, January 21, 2010
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Three quarters of frum spouses “would marry the same person again”

Three quarters of frum spouses “would marry the same person again”

Orthodox marriages are happier than the average American marriage, according to a new survey.

The Aleinu Marriage Satisfaction Survey, conducted by the Orthodox Union, found that 72 per cent of Orthodox Jewish men and 74 per cent of Orthodox Jewish women rated their marriage as excellent or very good.

A 2008 General Social Survey found that only 63 per cent of American men and 60 per cent of women are very happy with their marriage.

“Spirituality is an important component of marriage,” said the Orthodox Union’s Frank Buchweitz, who co-coordinated the Aleinu study. “The shabbos meal, the opportunity to be together as a family, are all positives.”

However, Mr Buchweitz cautioned that the survey revealed many challenges, such as financial pressures, sexual and intimacy issues, and the stresses of raising children.

It showed that baalei teshuvah, or returnees to the faith, faced additional pressures, including at-risk children, conflicts regarding education, religious differences and lack of a social network. And couples earning $100,000 and up seemed to have heightened stress in their marriage, which researchers attributed to “affluenza”, or absence from the home due to work and time pressures in the digital age.

The survey also found a U-shaped curve showing that marital satisfaction dips between 20 and 30 years of marriage.

The survey, the largest of its kind among the Orthodox community, gathered more than 3,500 responses via a two-month online survey last year. More than 80 per cent of respondents were from the USA and over 10 per cent were from Israel. The remainder were from Canada and the UK.

The methodology of the study has been questioned by some specialists.

Tom Smith, Director of the General Social Survey, said that because the participants were self-selecting they were not a representative sample. He added that it was “problematic” to compare the Aleinu survey results with the General Social Survey because different questions were used.

However, Mr Smith said the results bore out previous General Social Surveys, showing that Jewish marriages are consistently rated happier than non-Jewish marriages.

Glenn Norval, professor of sociology at the University of Texas, questioned the OU’s interpretation of the U-shaped curve, that marital satisfaction improves after 30 years of marriage. He said that the rise in marital satisfaction was most likely the result of longer marriages being better marriages.

However, he said this ought not to detract from the main conclusion of the study, which is consistent with findings about religion’s positive effect on marriage.

“At least in the US,” Prof Norval said, “religious traditionalism is associated with marital success in all of the major faith communities. And Jewish marriages, on average, are more successful than Christian marriages.”

    Last updated: 3:54pm, January 21 2010