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It is customary to test Coser’s greedy marriage thesis by comparing marital status groups. We propose a new approach that uses the marital dyad as the unit of analysis and examine whether investments in the marital relationship discourage community involvement through formal volunteering. Data from a U.S. national sample of 1,368 married couples revealed mixed support for the proposed relationship. Consistent with the greedy marriage thesis, wives’ soulmate view of marriage was negatively associated with their own and their husbands’ reports of volunteering. Although these associations were attenuated by religious service attendance, wives’ soulmate view had a more dampening effect than husbands’ soulmate view on their own and their husbands’ volunteering. However, the time couples spend alone together was positively associated with husbands’ reports of volunteering, which counters the greedy marriage thesis. These findings suggest that the greedy nature of marriage is, in part, determined by its participants—how they define and manage their marriage.


Originally published in Sociological Perspectives 2016, Vol. 59(4) 743– 759 © The Author(s) 2015.

DOI: 10.1177/0731121415601270