As a 30-year-old woman who has never had so much as a boyfriend, I have spent a great deal of my life feeling like I’m missing out on the greatest happiness life can offer. I mean, doesn’t almost every single movie and book point to being in a romantic relationship as the happy ending, the goal of one’s life narrative? I love love stories, I love romance, and I have always wanted to get married (though I’ve never wanted kids). Until recently (when not having a full-time job was my biggest stressor), this has been my biggest disappointment in life: that I’m still single.
But this has been changing recently. I’m starting to really value my singleness.
A number of factors have gone into this, including my full realization that I’m actually demisexual: that is, I don’t feel sexual attraction as often or as intensely as the general population. But what’s put the final cap on it was an article I read the other day. Here’s one gem:
In fact, according to research, the average married woman is less happy than the average married man, less happy than single women, less convinced that married people are happier than single people, and more likely to file for divorce. Once returned to single life, women’s happiness recovers, whereas men’s declines, and divorced women are less eager to remarry than divorced men.
Was this really true, I wondered? I wondered a LOT, because the author unfortunately had not cited a study with this paragraph, and the one cited in the previous paragraph, I would have had to pay for. And this is the internet, I ain’t payin’ for nothin’.
So I did some of my own research: ie, did some good googling. Here’s what I found about marriage and happiness.
An analysis of 18 longitudinal studies on happiness and marriage found that, for both men and women:
For happiness, there was no difference in happiness from just before the wedding until just after. Over time, on the average, happiness did not change. Participants did not get either happier or less happy as the years of their marriage marched on.
Satisfaction with life did increase from just before the wedding to just after. But then it decreased continually over time.
Compared to life satisfaction, relationship satisfaction decreased from just before the wedding to just after. As time went on, relationship satisfaction continued to decrease at about the same rate as overall life satisfaction.
Here’s what did not happen: Except for that initial short-lived honeymoon effect for life satisfaction, getting married did not result in getting happier or more satisfied. In fact, for life satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, the trajectories over time headed in the less satisfied direction. [And that’s only for people who STAYED MARRIED over the course of the study–it doesn’t even include the couples who got separated or divorced!]
I CITE my sources, because I am a GOOD SCHOLAR!
(Also, I’m really upset that when I put “professor” into google images, all that came up were pictures of men…)
This article also pointed out that the vast majority of marriage research is actually improperly calculated or is actually biased: the study above was actually trying to prove that marriage makes you happier, and STILL that was the best result they could get! This casts doubt on a lot of what I’ve heard about marriage making you happier and healthier.
Another scholar, Bella DePaulo, has done a great deal of research on singleness vs. marriage and what kinds of studies have been done on it (and her book looks excellent). Some of her findings:
“Research comparing people who have stayed single with those who have stayed married shows that single people have a heightened sense of self-determination and they are more likely to experience ‘a sense of continued growth and development as a person,’” DePaulo wrote.
Here’s another tidbit to take to your marriage-pushing grandmother: Self-sufficient single people were less likely to experience negative emotions. And according to DePaulo’s research, they might just be healthier, too:
According to a Canadian study of more than 11,000 people, lifelong single people reported better overall health than married people.
In a study of over 30,000 Italians, lifelong singles had lower or no different rates of cancer compared to those currently married.
An Australian study of more than 10,000 women in their 70s found that lifelong single women without children had the fewest diagnoses of major illnesses, the healthiest body mass index and were least likely to smoke, compared to married women, or woman who had been married in the past.
“I like to say if you like your single life, live it joyfully and apologetically,” DePaulo advised.
Another Italian researcher, Caterina Trevisan, found that
there’s a lower risk of depression in unmarried women [than married women].
Single women also have less anxiety, greater job satisfaction and higher activity levels at work.
They also maintained stronger relationships with family or friends.
A 10-year study done in Australia found,
The study also showed men’s sense of wellbeing and health benefited from being married, while women’s was not affected either positively or negatively by being married. The finding that marriage makes men happier but doesn’t affect women in the same way echoes other international studies.
Researchers at the University of London found single women generally have fewer mental-health issues. “Marriage, in many ways, seems to benefit men more than women,” says psychologist Davis. “For women, there’s more of a loss of self.” And, of course, today’s women often feel like they need to do it all — have a career, take care of the kids and perform other traditionally “female” responsibilities. “People who aren’t married are still investing in themselves,” says Dr. Davis. “It’s not selfish — it’s giving to yourself, and that’s something married people can learn from single people.”
The Queensland University and Queensland University of Technology study – Marriage dissolution and health amongst the elderly: the role of social and economic resources – was based on a sample of 2300 Australians over 60 and will be published in the forthcoming issue of the journal Just Policy.
It shows that divorced, widowed and never-married elderly women reported significantly better general health than married women, challenging long-held beliefs that married people had better overall physical and mental health than non-married.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. The bottom line is, being married will not make a woman happier or healthier. Getting married will not give me a better life.
I don’t have to deal with my husband’s bullshit! Because I don’t have a husband!
Why am I spending time on OkCupid looking desperately for The One? Why am I expecting a romantic relationship to fix all my problems? Why am I pressuring myself to look more attractive in order to nab a mate, who will eventually see me at my worst anyway? WHY AM I DOING ALL THIS TO MYSELF?? I am not unfulfilled as a single woman. I am a published author with lots of hobbies, a good family, great friends, and a God who fulfills me spiritually. Why do I think I need a MAN to make me happy? I mean, seriously? All this research has just totally changed my view of my goals and my future.
Being a single woman does not make me a failure. It doesn’t mean *anything*–except that I’ll probably live longer and be happier than many of my married friends. I mean, if I do happen to find The One and have some amazing romance and get married and live happily ever after with my Gorgeous Husband and our ten cats, great! But if I don’t–great! I’m going to stop making Finding a Man one of the great goals of my life, and focus instead on being a happy and fulfilled single woman. Because why waste my present for a dubious future?