Why Married Women Are Happier Than Single Women

After reading the University of Virginia’s study of nearly 3000 people to evaluate what makes marriages work, I was delighted to get validation for most of my theories that I espouse on this blog.

Among the highlights of the comprehensive report:

Women who are married are twice as likely to report they’re very happy than single women. 50 percent of married women say they’re “very happy” vs. 25% of single women.

65% of cohabiting parents break up vs. 24% of parents who had a child while married.

People who are married with kids are 8% less very happy than childless couples, but both relationships end up with the same marital satisfaction after 8 years.

People without college degrees get divorced 3x more within the first 10 years of marriage than people with degrees. Divorce has more to do with lack of employability and financial stress than education itself.

58% of married women prefer part time work once they get married. 78% of married men prefer full time work.

Regular church/temple attendance increases “very happy” reports by 9%. People who feel “God” is the center of marriage goes up by 25%. This has more to do with these people being commitment oriented than religious, per se.

Top 5 Predictors of Marital Success are almost identical.

Women:

1. Above average sexual satisfaction
2. Above average commitment
3. Above average generosity to husband
4. Above average attitude toward raising children
5. Above average social support

Men:

1. Above average sexual satisfaction
2. Above average commitment
3. Above average generosity to wife
4. Above average attitude toward raising children
5. Above average marital spirituality

Thus, this report suggests that one path to wedded bliss may be found by embracing an ethic of generosity that encompasses a spirit of service, frequent displays of affection and a willingness to forgive the faults and failings of one’s spouse. This spirit of generosity is all the more important as couples confront the challenges of parenthood together.

Remarkable, it’s everything I’ve been writing about for five years (apart from the God thing) and I didn’t even have to interview 2870 people!

So, to all you people who are perfectly happy being single, I’m thrilled for you – but the reason that people keep coming back to romantic love is that it has the capacity (not the guarantee) of giving your life greater meaning and satisfaction. There’s nothing wrong with being “single and happy” (since, of course, ALL of my clients are single) but, according to this study, women who are married are twice as likely to report they’re very happy than single women.

Why do you come back to the possibility of love, despite its chance to hurt you?

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Ray

    Thank you for posting this.  I completely agree!  I also believe that there ARE commitment minded men out there who fully embrace the concept of marriage (inspite of past attempts or heartbreak) and are actively seeking to be married… 

    I do believe that happiness, to some extent, is a choice.  There are other studies that show that people who are well adjusted emotionally, financially, etc (for the most part) are also able to maintain and be happy in marriages.  So, it could be a chicken/egg thing.  Were they happy people first?  And that is why they are married and happy?  Or did they get married, and become happy? 

       

  2. 2
    still looking

    “The percentage of divorced persons is higher for females than for males primarily because divorced men are more likely to remarry than divorced women. Also, among those who do remarry, men generally do so sooner than women.” (pg 69).  

    Interesting finding, especially after reading the post on “Why Don’t Men Hate Being Single As Much As Women Do?” 

  3. 3
    starthrower68

    A God-centered marriage bringing happiness.  Go figure.  

    1. 3.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I know, right? I think anyone who has the fortitude to go to church regularly is also highly tolerant of all the B.S. that comes with marriage. Direct correlation. :)

      1. 3.1.1
        Helen

        Let’s not forget that many religions do not approve of  divorce and believe that wives should be subordinate to their husbands.
        The fact is most divorces are initiated by women. Sooner or later women become tired of the cooking, cleaning, physical, verbal abuse and the mandatory boring sex.
        I have divorced my abusive husband and the divorce is the best decision I have ever made. I have no intention of ever cohabitating or remarrying – I am 50 and the only men that would be interested would be geriatrics looking for a nurse/cook. The only thing a husband would offer me is extra work and loss of freedom.
        The benefits of being single are many:
        1. Better night’s sleep.
        2. Freedom to travel.
        3. Be able to relax in my own home and not have to stress about cooking.
        4. Not having to censor my opinions, thoughts, feelings and facial expressions.
        5. Not having to tolerate husband’s lack of manners and poor hygiene.
        6. Being able to work out without him making nasty comments.
        7. Freedom to wear what I like.
        8. Not having to have sex against my wishes.
        9. Freedom to socialize with friends.
        10. Not having to pretend to be a happy wife in the presence of family and friends.
        11. Being able to watch what I want on tv.
        12. Having enjoyable sex instead of chore sex.
        13. Most of all, being able to be my own person, true to myself and not to have to conform to someone else’s idea of what a wife should be.
         

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          I never said being married to an abusive husband is better than being alone. I said that married women are twice as likely to report that they’re very happy than single. You seem to think all men are like your ex-husband, instead of realizing that there are no shortage of men who have the capacity to be great partners. But, given your massively pessimistic attitude about men and marriage, I would agree that it’s for the best if you remain alone.

  4. 4
    Ray

    still looking@2,

    Oddly enough… it seems the same guys who say “I’ll never get married again!” end up getting married again sooner than the women who are actively looking for a commitment.

    Lots of reasons for this…  the arguably wider age range of men’s dating pool and the arguable fact that women who say they are looking for commitment usually are.  So the men who legitimately WANT a commitment will have a much easier time finding like-minded women than the other way around.

    Women have learned to be wary of men who say they are looking for commitment but really aren’t.  (goes back to the ‘men don’t know what they want’ post).  This makes it much harder for women to keep their enthusiasm and ability to trust level high.  Also, the pressure for women to marry before their shelf life expires… none of adds up to the ‘fun’ and ‘light’ experience alot of men seek.

    Don’t have the answer to this… I’d still argue that the best bet is to avoid men who state up front they aren’t looking for a commitment.  Given the fact that alot of men are used to being pressured for commitment, it can take some creativity to determine his real thoughts.

    There’s a commonly used trick in business and HR where they ‘lead’ a person by sharing some story (often bogus), then waiting to see the other person’s reaction. 

    I think this might be a good strategy for women who are actively looking for a commitment to use with men…. lead with some thought or story about not knowing if she wants to commit or wants to marry again, and see what he says.  If he responds with, “oh, really?  I definately want to get married someday!!.”, or if he responds with “oh, yea, marriage is for the birds!”  Well, you have your answer :)   

      

  5. 5
    Susan

    Oh I think men definitely need to be married to be happy more than women. I have met so many men online that are either newly divorced or only separated. They can’t wait a minute to begin dating again. My divorced girlfriends have been single for several years and yes, they date but none are looking to remarry any time soon.

    I have been divorced for 8 years. Although it would be nice to have a SO, there are times I am very content to be on my own. I look at married friends and see how much work it takes to compromise and think. “Gosh -been there – did that.” I also love my freedom  – as long as kids are accounted fro I am free to go to happy hour, out on weekends, etc. while my married friends are at home making dinner and watching a movie on tv. I really don’t envy them. Ihave had great opprtunity to meet people and go places and do things I definitely wouldn’t have if I was still married.  

    I think that yes – if you are married that is a great experience, but one you are divorced and have experienced independence (especially after raising kids and dealing with a marriage) then it’s a breath of fresh air of independence to be single again.  

  6. 6
    Gina

    I think that women who have good husbands are happier than women who are single. I have been married twice, and am happier being single. 

  7. 7
    Ray

    Most men are ‘takers’ in every way except their income.  I see it in alot of these posts… women are supposed to accept men going to strip clubs, porn, putting their work priorities above their partners.  Seriously.  What do most men really have to offer emotionally that a woman can’t get from her friends and  family? If women want sex, they can get that pretty easy.  

    Good husbands don’t do the above.  So sure, if every woman had a husband who considered her needs and made adjustments accordingly, then there would be more happy marriages and fewer divorces.  But cultural expectations dictate that the women make all the sacrifices and do all the emotional work of a relationship… which is why so many women opt to stay single.  Most men simply aren’t worth our time.    

    1. 7.1
      Sadie

      Exactly.

    2. 7.2
      Lisa B

      Boy, that’s a depressing post.

  8. 8
    Betsey

    In my research on the topic of relationships and families I’ve read again and again that the studies from the Marriage Project are not well done and in fact reflect a strong religious and politically conservative bias. Reason for the criticisms against the Marriage Project studies: They only include people who are currently married and exclude people who were married and then divorced or widowed (you can order the actual studies and see this for yourself). To draw accurate conclusions on how marriage affects happiness the researchers would have to do a controlled, longitudinal study that follows a group of people in all different states of relationship, track the changes, and compare the results. The analogy that explains this best goes like this–if 50% of participants in drug effectiveness study drop out  because they have negative effects to the drug (the way that 50% of marriage participants drop out), that drug would not be considered safe to use and would never be approved. In fact, people would think you were crazy and/or unethical to be hawking its effectiveness.

    There are researchers who have done longitudinal studies on marriage, and the results have been that marrieds and singles are equally  happy.  The group that seems to be the unhappiest are people who were married but are now divorced or widowed (and we’re talking long term unhappiness here, not just a temporary depression due to a major life change), though the reasons for this are not clear. Some new stats indicate that the correlation between loss of a partner and unhappiness might be changing–good news for divorced/widowed folks.       

    It could be that people who choose to marry and stay married, and people who are single and choose to stay single, are just happier in general and make personal decisions that support that state of ongoing happiness. 

    Given the global shift in marriage demographics, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of these kinds of studies not only from researchers here in the US but from those abroad, where the religious/social conservative element doesn’t get any traction. The studies I’ve read recently have come from Germany and Scandinavia–I can post references if anyone is interested and if I can still find them.   

  9. 9
    Saint Stephen

    @Betsey (#9)
    I don’t think is necessary to fault the studies simply because they didn’t take into account those who are divorced.
    Have you also considered that the study about single people is also flawed because a certain percentage of those people will go ahead to either marry or get remarried.
    And if u check the divorce statistics you will also see that most people who got divorced still went ahead to remarry. Why do you think they go back to marriage? Your analogy about drug effectiveness is useless if nearly everyone of them went back to taking the drugs despite the negative side effects.

    Given the percentage of divorced couples who get remarried and coupled with the fact that married people tend to live longer lives – I quite agree with the studies and take it to be immaculate at best.

  10. 10
    Betsey

    There might be a problem with your link above–it goes to the NMP site but brings up a study about marriage and kids, not about single women v. married women. Couldn’t find the stats you cite anywhere. Can you provide more info so we can read the report?

    I did read the key findings section of the NMP, though, and it only mentioned happiness in one place, that I could see, though again, it didn’t compare marrieds and singles. The happiness footnote cited research by these folks but did not describe or elaborate on their findings:

    For instance, see Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage (New York: Doubleday, 2000); David G. Myers, The American Paradox (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000); Steven Stack and J. Ross Eshleman, “Marital Status and Happiness: A 17-Nation Study,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 60 (1998): 527–36; and Popenoe and Whitehead, Should We Live Together?

    Maggie Gallagher is an ultra-conservative columnist, not a researcher; Stack & Eshleman talk about cohabitating couples v. married couples, not singles; and Popenoe is the son of a famous marriage advocate who went around preaching eugenics. Other than Stack/Eshleman, these are not people I’d give the time of day to.

  11. 11
    Ray

    Betsey@9

    Please do post those references.  I completely agree with your first paragraph. I enjoyed marriage and would do it again if I met the right person.  I’m pretty happy most of the time.

    I’m curious about the facts you mentioned in the remainder of the article.  I am both divorced and widowed, so I suppose that makes me a high risk of being ‘unhappy’… Personally, I feel that is more about feeling ‘different’ or stigmatized (especially if one is widowed at a young age) than it is about not having a partner.  Although, that certainly doesn’t help.       

    Very interesting… Please post them if the editors allow it.  

  12. 12
    Susan

    I am just wondering about Evan’s remark at the end of his article:

    according to this study, women who are married are twice as likely to report they’re very happy than single women.  ” 

    I think Evan and the study are lumping love and marriage into one. There are plenty of women in loveless marriages. There are also plenty of women coming to Evan or romantic advice. As I said above in #6 above, yes it would be nice to have a SO, but that doesn’t necessarily mean marriage. As I am not having any additional children nor am I interested in adoption at this stage of my life, there is no significant motive to marry at this point in my life, barring economic reasons. I actually think having a SO who lives separately from me would be the best set up. We could see eachother as much as we want but still have our own haven for retreat. I have been on  my own so long I shudder to think of “playing house” at this point. Maybe some day, but I cherish my peace also!  

  13. 13
    nathan

    I’ve been in a bit of a debate with Evan on Twitter over this study. It’s important to note that the Institute for American Values, which runs the Marriage Project where the study came from, is largely funded by two foundations, the John Templeton and the Bradley, that are widely recognized as promoting neo-conservative and Christian conservative viewpoints. Now, Evan challenged me that just because the funding sources are biased, doesn’t necessarily mean that this particular study is biased. Which is a fair point. But it’s also the case that the Institute has spent two decades successfully lobbying Congress and both President Clinton and Bush to adopt a pro-nuclear family agenda that includes demonizing divorce and single parents, and also marginalizing GBLT folks, including those who want the right to marry. Furthermore, the same Institute is fairly hostile to atheists and agnostics, and has questionable standpoints on anyone outside of Christianity and perhaps Judaism. I’m not at all convinced that the viewpoints of the people in their study represent a broad cross section of Americans, given their track record around diversity.
     
    Evan asked me what I would think if a liberal group produced a study that made opposite conclusions, and my response was that if that group had spent two decades actively lobbying political officials to adopt their viewpoint, I’d question that study’s conclusions as well. While I don’t believe there’s such a thing as totally objective research, there’s plenty of work being done out there by groups that are far less politically motivated that the Institute of American values.
     
    One thing I did support in the study was basing relationships on generosity and service. That’s quite wise, and worth upholding. Furthermore, I agree with Evan that a willingness to forgive faults and mistakes of your partner is key. 
     
    I want to note that none of my criticism of the above study is meant to be a shot at marriage. I support anyone who wants to be married and fully believe that plenty of folks find happiness through marriage. But it’s only one path, and I’m just not convinced that the kind of glowing reports coming from the Marriage Project are taking into account all the ways people find happiness and contentment – single or coupled.
     

    1. 13.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Nathan,

      We have the same politics and I have the same mistrust of the conservative agenda as you do. That said, I don’t find it to be an impossible premise to accept that people who self-report as “very happy” are more likely to be married. This doesn’t at all deny the reality that there are millions of perfectly happy single people out there. I just happen to believe that most of them would prefer, all things remaining equal, to be in a healthy monogamous long-term relationship. And usually, when people do that, they get married.

      And, as you noted, the observations about what it takes to be successfully married are largely commonsense. Even the God thing, I must concede, makes sense, because if two people put something otherworldly and mystical at the center of their relationship, it provides a level of humility to the relationship that secular people like myself often lack.

  14. 14
    helene

    I find that men who have been married before seem to fall into 2 clear camps – those who feel lost without a partner and, after a quick trip round the block, are desperate to remarry as soon as possible, and those who think “marriage….aaaagh, did that before, didn’t work out, NOT going THERE again…”. For those who do wish to remarry there is a huge dating pool, as the majority of single women are marriage/commitment-orientated. A divorced man has the choice of all the women younger than himself – if he does choose a partner way younger this only increases his social status (“he must be a great guy to attract such a hot young thing”). Equally, he has the choice of women older than him as well – which again increases his social status (“He must be a great guy to choose someone 10 years older than him, he’s not shallow and just interested in looks…”)

    As a woman in her forties wading around in all this I find it creates a difficult situation – those men who do want to remarry do so quickly, so you kinda have to date them fresh out of their old relationship, with all the fall-out from the separation that that entails – the others, who don’t want to remarry… well, you don’t really want to bother dating them at all…. ! 

    1. 14.1
      Jennifer Anne

      people are beyond cruel to women in their forties never married.  If i would of known would get this kind of reception effin forget it.   uggh what happened to human decency?  wtf? wtf? wtf?
      uggh … I love how people (mostly women) brag about how stable their lives are when in reality
      all they do is vent, bitch and hold negativity against the single woman to :
      play with their diamond rings and BITCH about people they know nothing about!
       
      your right on the money with your opinion.   Its sad how many so called friends I lost over just being
      as we fear to say it ” an old maid” when all I see myself as a decent human being.  and I do find some way to be happy during the day even though I don’t get the job or get forced out of human life.  it sux.

  15. 15
    AQ

    A good marriage is always better than being single. That is my observation of many friends that I have known for a long time. The women who are happy in good marriages are much better off. They have emotional and financial support and a lot less stress. They build wonderful things with their spouses and can imbibe in many hobbies and charitable works. A bad relationship or failure or looking to date and have a healthy relationship is the furthest thing from their mind – they can be much more happy and productive. 

    But, with that said, “good” is the key. And that is why I am here. I am working on finding a good partner who wants the same thing.

    Bless you for your work, Evan, and happy New Year! 

  16. 16
    Ruby

    Helene #15

    This has been my observation about many divorced men also, although I do believe that even those men who would like to remarry need a certain amount of time to grieve the loss of their first marriages. Unfortunately, many of the men who are desperate to marry don’t bother to look at, or try to resolve, the issues that got them divorced in the first place. No wonder that the divorce rate for second marriages is even higher than for first marriages. 

    As far as married people being happier goes, other studies have shown that marriage doesn’t create happiness. Rather, some psychologists think that people who get married have, because of their personality, genetics and life circumstances, a greater predisposition to be happy. In other words, people who are happier are more social and outgoing, and therefore more likely to meet someone they want to marry and to be able to bond with them. In addition, people experience an uptick in happiness soon after marriage, but over time, those levels drop back to where they were prior to marriage.

    Given the bias in the studies, as Betsey and Nathan have pointed out, I think we are right to question their findings.

    1. 16.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I will simply point out that you probably don’t question the findings in a scientific study if you agree with the conclusions; you only question the source if you DON’T agree.

  17. 17
    AQ

    The other thing we really forgot to mention, is the kids. Kids are much happier in a married family. Kids of divorce suffer greatly. They get stuck in a back and forth shuffle that has no regard for them and it is tiring. It is hard on them when the parents fight and date other people who don’t care about them. And when they get to be teens and college students they are often more poor – they have less resources because parents are not required to split expenses after 18. I hate that I put my kid through this. Many singles are divorced parents. Also, it is hard dating divorced parents and being one that has to date. It would be much better to get it right the first time. Where were you dear Evan?

  18. 18
    Helen

    Evan 19, that’s not completely true. From personal experience, I agree with the results of the study. However, I question the study itself because of the agendas of the funding sources.  With certain funding sources, if you give them results that they don’t like, they will try their darndest to twist your arm to say something they want to hear, or try to rewrite your report and hope you miss all the nuances that they slipped in.  You have to keep fighting them – diplomatically, of course – so that they don’t overstate or misrepresent your results. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the twisted results get published. I would be VERY surprised if that is not exactly what happened in this marriage study.

    Betsey 9 brought up an excellent point about the obvious bias of the study design. It’s impossible to conduct a meaningful study about the impact of marriage unless you draw participants from the ENTIRE population that was ever married (including divorcees, widows, and widowers).  Drawing participants from only the population that is currently married will obviously give a slant toward the mindsets of those who are in good relationships. Conversely, those who have exited bad marriages have probably been hurt worse than if they had never been married at all. That is the realistic other side of marriage. Wonderful as it may be, it is still a gamble. I love marriage but I think it’s crucial that the other side of the story gets told as well.

    1. 18.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Helen: The other side of the story – about how men suck and relationships are not worth it – is told ALL the time. That’s why I found this study interesting.

      @Ruby: EVERYONE would prefer to be in a good relationship. People who say things like “Why would I get married? 50% of marriages break up, after all!” – as if this is relevant – are missing the point. This study said that people who claimed to be “very happy” were twice as likely to be married than single. Thus, people in bad marriages are immaterial. Among people who claimed to be “very happy”…even if it’s 10% of people…twice as many were married than single. I find the premise to be interesting and validating, since I am a person who was content when single but is MUCH happier when married.

  19. 19
    Ruby

    EMK #19

    On a personal level, I don’t agree or disagree with the findings. I’m not married, but I have absolutely nothing against it. I’m not sure that my married friends, on the whole, are any happier than my single friends, but I would say that most of my single friends, including myself, would prefer to be in a good relationship, whether or not that means marriage. I’ve simply read other studies that have come up with different causalities and different results, and I think they should be noted. 

  20. 20
    Betsey

    Noble Prize winner and Harvard professor Daniel Kahneman and Princeton economist Alan Krueger  have performed some thorough tests for measuring the emotional quality of people’s daily experiences (e.g., their level of happiness). From a Princeton U article about their research, a key takeaway that pertains to our discussion: “According to their findings, more general circumstances such as whether a  woman was married, single, wealthy, educated or felt she had job security did not significant effect on daily happiness.”
    Kahneman recently published a book about intuitive v. rational decision-making (Thinking, Fast and Slow). In it he writes: “Experienced well-being is on average unaffected by marriage, not because marriage makes no difference to happiness but because it changes some aspects of life for the better and others for the worse.”
    Thinking, Fast and Slow also includes a discussion of a well-known finding showing that among people who get married and stay married, they become a bit happier around the year of the wedding, then they go back to being about as happy as they were when they were single. One interpretation of that finding is that over time, married people adapt to being married. They find it joyful at first, but then it becomes routine.
    One interesting implication that Kahneman spells out is that even among those people whose forthcoming or recent marriage is salient to them, it won’t be salient all the time. In their everyday lives, as time goes on, they will often be focusing on other things, and the fact of being married may not have much to do with their moment-to-moment happiness.
    You can google Kahneman or read his book if you want more info.

    1. 20.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Betsey – I have “Thinking Fast and Slow” on my nightstand. Just got it for the holidays. I’m familiar with studies that say people revert to the norm. People who get into paralyzing car accidents are just as happy as lottery winners, and so forth.

      Here’s the thing about me: I try extremely hard to be objective. I acknowledge my bias – even in the original article. I’m a guy who believes in marriage and was delighted to hear of a study that validated my belief. One can call that the “confirmation bias” – finding statistics to back up your own claims. But it’s still nice to have statistics, instead of just “feelings” to reinforce what I’m doing here. You can question them, but I would question you for questioning them. Not because everything should be accepted implicitly, but because clearly, if you’re questioning a source, it’s because you don’t like the conclusion. It’s like conservatives who question articles that appear in the New York Times – not op ed pieces, hard journalism. You can spend all your time second guessing sources that you don’t agree with ideologically, but at some point, you just have to accept an objective study as an objective study.

      I’m not saying that this UVA study was perfect – I’m not a scientist, nor do I claim to be. But I do have a fabulous hypocrisy detector – and it goes off on this blog all the time when “objective” women criticize me for giving them an objective viewpoint on how men think. Not because they can prove me wrong in any way – no, I’ve rarely been proven wrong on here. Most of the people who criticize me are doing so simply because they don’t like the reality that I portray. You know, the one where you do better with men by liking them, trusting them and accepting them, instead of dissecting them, complaining about them and trying to change them.

      I thought that, regardless of the methodology of the aforementioned study, it’s a relevant topic of conversation that just happens to adhere to what I already believe: you’re more likely to be “very happy” in a successful marriage than flying solo through life. Not a bad marriage; a good one. I don’t see why that would be all that hard to accept.

  21. 21
    Betsey

    EMK@19: If you’re objective you question all findings and present contrasting points of view.

  22. 22
    PosedEX

    I think that married woman can finally relax and don’t have the sense of urgency to find a man before its too late and they become too old. There is no pressure anymore and thats it!

  23. 23
    henriette

    As a single woman, I agree that a good marriage will probably lead to happiness more than being single will.  And I don’t have any issue with the funding of this study: pretty much any study is funded by someone with an agenda or bias of some kind.  UVa is an excellent school so I cannot imagine that they would be any more swayed by a conservative bias than another top school might be by a left-leaning one.
    Here’s a  thought I have about all these kinds of studies, though.  Most of my girlfriends consider themselves very open and honest and would have no issue discussing personal details of their sex lives or bathroom functions with any scientific researcher.  Most of them married guys with significantly more money than they have, and most of them let out a huge sigh of relief when their financial future improved through wedlock.   I can promise you that not a single one of them would ever admit this to a researcher.   This is still a dirty little secret among well-educated, “modern” women: for a lot of them, climbing the socio-economic ladder is a huge benefit of/ reason for marriage.  I wish that more of them would admit it.

  24. 24
    Betsey

    EMK@26: I am also puzzled–as to why it is so hard to accept that a happy person is simply a happy person regardless of that person’s relationship status. And since it’s about 50-50 regarding who in the population is married/who isn’t, who marries/who divorces, it makes sense that you have as many happy married people as you have happy single people.  

     

  25. 25
    Betsey

    EMK: Another thought–maybe you don’t meet many happy single people in your everyday life (if your social circle revolves around traditional family values people, as married folks’ lives often do), and in your work, of course, you meet only people who are complaining about being single. Perhaps you really were not happy as a single person yourself. As you point out, we all see the things that confirm our world view and reject things that don’t. 

  26. 26
    helene

    Well, I can definately say that I was much happier during my 2 marriages (well, during the good phase of each marriage) than I am being single. Whilst I believe its true that  – married or single – you create your own happiness, the difference is that now I’m single I REALLY have to work at it…. Work at keeping a positive mindset, work at maintaining a social life singlehandedly, work at planning vacations when the vacation I actually want to go on (2 weeks at the beach in Mauritius having lots of sex with a great guy who’s in love with me) is not actually an option for me… Work at occupying my evenings when what I actually want to be doing is cooking dinner and chatting to my SO setting the world to rights, work at not feeling overwhelmed when my weekend to do list consists of “call car repair shop, call boiler man, fix back door hinge, wash and iron, shop for food, sort out tax receipts….etc..etc…” 
    When I was married, I didn’t have to work at being happy and positive, because I was doing what I wanted to be doing and sharing my life and all the ups and downs of it with someone who was supportive, shared tasks, brought new social opportunities into my life and enjoyed going on vacation with me. Sure, I can try to do all this single-handedly, but the effort required to achieve the same level of happiness is enormous.

  27. 27
    Goldie

    I agree that being an in a good, healthy relationship is a huge step towards being very happy. The survey however, appears to have a real bias against couples that are not married legally: http://www.stateofourunions.org/2011/social_indicators.php#cohabitation Apparently, if you’re living together but aren’t in a legal marriage, you’re a “fragile family”. “The primary reasons are that cohabiting couples have a much higher breakup rate than married couples, a lower level of household income, and higher levels of child abuse and domestic violence.” But wait, there is more — if you’re remarried and have children from your previous marriage, you’re no better than those cohabiting shameless hussies: “The problem is that children in stepfamilies, according to a substantial and growing body of social science evidence, fare no better in life than children in single-parent families.”
     
    Ugh. There has to be a better study out there. I mean, how difficult should it be to conclude that a happy relationship equals happy people?
     
    On the subject, personally, I’m probably too grounded of a person to feel “very happy” on a regular basis, but I’d say I’ve been pretty satisfied in either situation – when I was married (if all was relatively well at home), single and not dating, or single and dating. There’s good and bad to each of these situations. I haven’t been in a really good relationship for any long period of time though, and I can imagine that being with a like-minded, supportive person would make one happier.

  28. 28
    SS

    This is still a dirty little secret among well-educated, “modern” women: for a lot of them, climbing the socio-economic ladder is a huge benefit of/ reason for marriage.  I wish that more of them would admit it.
     
    Henriette @28: I’m one who will admit it, although my husband probably doesn’t make significantly more than me. But, two similar incomes in the same household go MUCH farther than one income does!
     
    But I’ve always been a pragmatist when it came to marriage and family formation, and probably have always held a more traditional, “old world” perspective on it (although I’m not at all from an “old world” background). I always said that if I was going to marry, why shouldn’t I expect an improvement in my socioeconomic status, or at least, a maintaining of my current status? Don’t all parents want their children to do better than they did? Isn’t marriage one of the top five methods economists/sociologists cite for building wealth? While I would never marry for money alone, I don’t see why more women have an issue recognizing that marriage has never been only about love… it’s been about wealth, community and legacy building throughout history. 
     
     
     
     

  29. 29
    Suzanne

    I agree 100% with Susan’s posting (#6). I was married 11 years, on my own 4 years (divorced over 2 years), and I don’t miss it one bit. Definitely been there/done that. I am dating someone but very casually and I have no desire to jump back into anything serious. Love my freedom and love not having the stress. I’d like to meet these happy women to whom this article refers.  Of my several close friends who are married, I can think of none that would say they are truly happy with their partners or their married lives. To each his own.

    1. 29.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      You’re still not getting it, so I’m still gonna post. This study is NOT about unhappy marriages. This study simply refers to the percentage of people who say they’re “very happy” – and, as it turns out, more married people claim to be very happy than single people. This does not mean that EVERY marriage is happy; only that marriage has the capacity to make people “very happy” in a way that often being single does not.

  30. 30
    Betsey

    EMK@35: No offense intended here, but where does the study even say that? Can you point out the reference for us? That way we can decide for ourselves whether we want to believe Maggie Gallagher or other researchers. I mean, the media are flooded with coverage of bogus research all the time. And I read a lot about relationships and family, and I haven’t come across are any major studies that come up with the conclusions you cite. 

    Also, to be fair, if you’re going to study only happy marriages, then to do a proper comparison you’d have to be studying also only happy singles. Because singlehod has the capacity to make people “very happy” in a way that often being married does not.  

    1. 30.1
      Charli Renee

      Betsy, You and Evan especially have me sitting on the edge of my virtual seat. I love this debate because all of you are making, imho, valid points. Please do carry on…:)

    2. 30.2
      Shelley Lane

      Betsey…all I can say is, You Are Awesome!  Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing some logic into this conversation.
       

    3. 30.3
      JennLee

      Betsey, if women are happier being single, then why is it that we women are so interested in getting married? Frankly, I see a lot of women around me that will never be truly happy no matter what they do. They weren’t happy being single, and then they get married and aren’t happy being married. I think some of the women I’ve known throughout my life, are just plain unrealistic. They put all of the responsibility for being happy on their man, or blame the lack of a man when they aren’t happy. If they aren’t happy it is because of their man, or lack of a man. They never take responsibility for their own happiness. Then some who do just go off the deep end the other direction, acting very selfish. Always putting their happiness above everybody else. Then they blame the guy when he leaves her.

      I have had some of those same qualities, as I think we all have. Personal growth helps alter a lot of that allowing us to become better people.

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