Ninety-five percent of Americans are married by age 55 — yet half of all marriages end in divorce. A divorce rate that high begs the question: Why get married at all?
Well, experts say that one of the most fundamental drives that humans have is the drive to be attached to somebody. Other benefits include family stability, having an emotional outlet and partnership. Take it from Finesse Mitchell — a comedian and newly married man who is also the author of "Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much: A Brother's Take on Dating & Mating for Sistas" and a relationships columnist for Essence magazine. Here, Mitchell gives a personal peek into his recent transition from single to married life.
Q: You got married just two weeks ago. So far, what advantages have you noticed as a married man? Disadvantages?
A: I do feel that people have been extremely nice to me since the wedding. Everyone has been calling me to check on me to make sure I was either still alive or to reinforce that I did a great thing with my life. Or they call to compliment me (us) on how nice the ceremony was. Since we have been traveling together since the wedding, people have complimented us a lot, describing us as a “nice looking couple,” and we’ve had the opportunity to skip a few people in lines at the airport. It’s actually cool to say, “I’m sorry but do you mind if my wife goes ahead of you, we got separated?”
Disadvantages? Well, I haven’t really been in the mindset of thinking negatively about being married. It’s only been two weeks so I figured I better pace myself! But my food is definitely her food whether I tasted it first or not. It’s not cool to hear someone stick their fork in your plate while you are saying grace. And when I look up to say something, she has a smile on her face like “I’m your wife!” And she also doesn’t think I realize it, but she has been trying to dress me lately. I’m not having it!
Q: Has married life so far aligned with your expectations? Have you made any surprising discoveries?
A: We never put any unrealistic expectations on each other and I think that’s why we made it this far as a couple. In the beginning, we both started out saying, “see ya, when I see ya.” Now, we hate to leave each other’s side. My wife has always treated me well. And when we are apart, she has always made me feel like I am responsible for myself and every decision I make affects the both of us, without having to say it or treat me like I’m her child. Now that we are married, she is still the same woman and I love that about her.
Another nice surprise is that my taxman told me marriage is a good thing!
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Courtesy of Finesse Mitchell
"The truth is," says Mitchell, "I am so in love with her. I couldn’t picture myself living without her."
Image: Finesse and his wife Jessica
Q: What ultimately made you decide to take your status from single to married?
A: I wish I could say something cool, but the truth is … I am so in love with her. I couldn’t picture myself living without her. So since we dated for over a year and then lived together for over two years, and since she passed all my tests (which was putting up with me and my moody Gemini ways) I knew I wanted her to be my wife. I haven’t been single in a while so making it official was a no-brainer. Plus she makes great eggs in the morning.
Q:Are most of your friends single or married? What — if any — impact has being married had on your other relationships?
A: The single to married ratio is pretty equal with my close friends. My single friends are looking to find what Jessica and I have found together. Or they have no desire to settle down but believe that finding love is possible because I use to really enjoy my single life and hanging out in clubs. Overall, all my single friends are very happy for me and said I would be crazy not to marry Jessica.
My married friends are saying “welcome to the club. Marriage is what you make it.” Jess and I definitely have impacted everyone’s lives in a good way.
Q: Do you think your single friends would be better off married? Why?
A: Some of them definitely would. They have everything but the right someone to share things with. It’s frustrating because dating is not easy when you are ready for the big dance. The more “stuff” you have, the pickier you get without even realizing it. When you are broke, you will date anyone with a car! But I encourage all of my single good friends to stay single until they can get as close as possible to “the right one.”
A: In your experience, are the happiest people usually married or single?
A: The happiest people are the ones who feel like they don’t need to be either married or single. They just live life. When the right person comes along, it’s good that they were already happy because that makes the relationship go a whole lot smoother. And you realize a whole lot quicker when someone is making you unhappy. In my experience, the happiest people are the ones that feel good about the choices they have made.
Real-life lessons on marriage
Sept. 25: TODAY’s Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford talk to Finesse Mitchell, author of “Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much,” and psychologist Judith Sills about love and marriage.
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Why ‘I did’: One man’s case for marriage
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Q: What are you most looking forward to about being married?
A: Knowing that I don’t have to leave the house or invite someone over to “play.” I have the best playmate in the world with my wife and we always keep each other laughing and give each other space at the same time. She has her TV shows like "Bridezilla" and "The Nanny," and I have ESPN and MSNBC. We meet in the middle if "SpongeBob" is on and never have to worry about the outside world if we don’t want to.
Q: What will you miss most about being single?
A: I will miss hanging out 'til all hours of the night. When I was living in New York [working on] on "Saturday Night Live," it was easy to stay out all night 'til dawn. Sometimes I have the urge to just hang out now but that’s just my ego saying, “You’re still young! You can do it!” But wifey gets sleepy around 9:30 pm and I get sleepy by 11 pm unless I am already out of the house. Playing Texas Hold’em is the only thing I can stay up all night to do and not get tired.
Q:What are your thoughts on the social trend where people are getting married later, or forgoing marriage altogether?
A: I think all men should wait to get married. At least until 30. Women should wait until they know they have the right man and that can be at any age, but hopefully after 24. Then people can make a wise decision and not a rushed one.
Men will always have no rhyme or reason for their actions but at least in your 30s, you are more mature (I hope) and understand why you do the things you do. I am not saying that marriages between young couples don’t work out — but they are difficult to sustain. Men need that time to grow up and get something going financially. No matter what people tell you, women hate to carry the load by themselves and they hate to be attached to someone and still struggle to make ends meet. More importantly, forever is a long time. It really makes sense to know what and who you are settling down with and be able to adjust when people begin to change over the years.
I hear more people — especially women — say, "I regret not doing this or that before I got married" or "I had kids and went right into mommy mode." Well, I say take your time. Life is long.