Why You’re Happier When You’re In A Relationship Than When You’re Not

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Mostly (single) people read this blog. And yet, I’m always surprised when those who have voluntarily found their way here because they were looking for dating and relationship advice insist that not only do they have it all figured out but they would rather be single than in a relationship. It’s like going to the doctor when you’re sick and telling the doctor that you don’t need his counsel; you are perfectly happy with the cough that inspired you to call the doctor.

There is no debate: people are happier when they are in love… than when they are not.

This is not to say that one should be in a BAD relationship, nor that one should not find joy and contentedness in being single. If you don’t have a partner, you’d better find a way to create a rich, full single life. However, there is no debate: people are happier when they are in love (and have closer relationships, in general) than when they are not. Loneliness is an epidemic. The least we can do is acknowledge that and try to treat it.

That’s why I’m sharing this piece called “How to Instantly Create Intimacy With Any Person You Meet.” 

The author starts by asking who you would call if it were 3 AM in an emergency? If you don’t have a spouse and don’t have living parents who reside nearby, who DO you list? A lot of people are paralyzed by this question. And that’s why it’s important to not just have acquaintances (as so many men do) but actual FRIENDS (as so many women do).

Why have intimate relationships when being alone is easier? Here are a few reasons:

“People (especially men) wished that they hadn’t worked so hard and had invested more in their relationships. They wished that they had stayed in touch with their friends and had given those friendships the effort and time that they deserved. They wished that they had the courage to express themselves and many developed illnesses as a result of not doing so — which brings me to my next point.”

“The mental health benefits of having friends are well documented, but did you know that having strong social relationships has the equivalent effect on your life satisfaction as increasing your income by 150%? This effect is described in a  study on life satisfaction by the Gallup World Poll. Other, more commonly-known reasons are that relationships help us deal with stress better and provide comfort.”

“The key takeaway in all the studies above is that the quality of relationships matters far more than the quantity of relationships. Relationship intimacy is key…If you are someone who finds yourself frequently reaching for your phone to find a sense of connection only to feel a sense of emptiness after a dozen left swipes and endless scrolling on feeds, then this article is for you.”

Click here to read more – not just WHY intimate relationships are vital but HOW to actually create them. Give more to your friendships and they may give more back to you.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

Join our conversation (17 Comments).
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Comments:

  1. 1
    Deanne Overvold

    First, thanks Evan. I read all of your emails and have spoken to you which was a pleasure.
    I am a 66 year old widow who can’t even get s a date. I was married for 30 years and each day was happiness. Now the loneliness is just all encompassing at times. I am motivated by you. I won’t give up. And I know that I was happier when I had someone to love who loved me. I can’t wait until the time I can write to you and tell you I got a second chance and am happy again.

    1. 1.1
      Lynn

      Deanne, I’m sorry for your loss. Why can’t you get a date?

  2. 2
    Emily, to

    “The author starts by asking who you would call if it were 3 AM in an emergency? If you don’t have a spouse and don’t have living parents who reside nearby, who DO you list? A lot of people are paralyzed by this question. And that’s why it’s important to not just have acquaintances (as so many men do) but actual FRIENDS (as so many women do).”
    Most friends, even close ones, don’t want to be listed as an emergency contact. They don’t want the repsonisbility, particuarly if they are married with kids. They don’t want to be awakened out of a dead sleep at 3 a.m. to pick a friend up at the hospital. You have three options — your spouse, your kids (if they are grown) and your family of origin.

    1. 2.1
      sylvana

      Emily,

      If they don’t want to be listed as emergency contacts, then you don’t have any close friends.

  3. 3
    Mrs Happy

    From Pang’s article
    “..Bonnie Ware shares that of the top five regrets that people had — three involved the lack of intimacy in their relationships.
    People (especially men) wished that they hadn’t worked so hard and had invested more in their relationships. They wished that they had stayed in touch with their friends and had given those friendships the effort and time that they deserved. They wished that they had the courage to express themselves…”

    I have occasionally asked elderly people what they most regret in life. I’ve said this before.
    The women who worked in paid work say they regret having prioritised working, to make extra money the household probably hadn’t really needed, over spending time with their kids when the kids were little, because those kids-young years raced past and they never got them back. Other women, who conformed to society’s expectations, say they wished they’d not put so much weight into doing what others expected of them, wished they’d spent less time on looking or seeming correct to others, wished they’d been more individual and worried less about fitting in with the group.
    The men give varying answers. One quite honestly answered me that he wished he’d had more sex with more people (married from a very young age and for most of his adult life), and others waft about with what I consider are pretty crappy dishonest answers.

    When I’m bored out of my brain pushing my kids on a swing in the local park, I reflect on the fact that all this lip service is given to, “nobody wishes on their deathbed they’d spent more time at work,” with the inference being, spend time with your loved ones, e.g. at the park, or playing with the kids.
    But then I think, well, in every society with strata layers throughout time, the least powerful and least well paid people, are the ones minding the young children, and that is basically because it is boring, repetitive, mind numbing, extremely tedious and emotionally exhausting work.

    Overall, I really doubt that what people say they regret, is actually what they truly regret. If I wanted to stop paid work and stay home and home school my kids and spend all day and night with loved ones, I could, because technically I could financially survive on a man’s income or welfare. But I don’t and why not? Gosh a myriad of reasons, not least of which everyone under lock down now appreciates – it’s stimulating to leave the house and interact with people other than those few you love closely. But how easy, when I’m elderly, to sprout some line about how fast the years go, so be with your loved ones. All the people with loved ones with choice, spend no small amount of time away from them, as far as I can see. Captains of industry don’t stop a stimulating important work meeting at 4pm to be home for 5pm dinner and bath time. Adults in lock down don’t get off their screens to converse more or play scrabble with the family.

    Same with this article’s points. Yes intimacy and friendships and connection are great, but a whole lot of people who might in the future say they regretted not having such intimacy, currently have the choice to have some connection with others, and just don’t, for all sorts of reasons. I think a lot can’t be bothered, because really they prefer lying on the couch of an evening, to going out and connecting, because the latter is work. Or they want to avoid being hurt, so don’t risk connecting. Or they prefer working extra hours and rising in their career to making new connections or strengthening present connections further. All of those are reasonable stances.

    These people might say, “wish I wasn’t so lonely,” but when offered an opportunity to change that, they just keep on being lonely. For example, the author says men wish they’d stayed in touch with old friends and put more effort into those relationships. I call BS. If they’d wanted to work on old friendships they could have. At the time I strongly suspect other things were more attractive to do. It’s false retrospection in my opinion.

    You need to have asked at the time, “Mr Jones why aren’t you calling your lifelong friend Terry back, he has left 2 messages,”
    for Mr Jones to honestly reply,
    “I’m just too tired after my week at work, and I’d rather watch the game on TV, plus, Terry is going through a divorce, so his conversation is a downer, and I can’t be bothered with that right now.”

    All too easy for Mr Jones to later forget that his mind needed that downtime TV watching to stay sane for the busy week ahead, and for Mr Jones to in 30 years time make up some, “I really regret not staying in contact with Terry” position, honestly forgetting how much effort Terry really was.

    Having people to call at 3am in an emergency, usually requires the reverse, i.e. that you can be the one being called at 3am by someone else, and people just don’t want to put that much effort into too many of those connections, because intense connections are draining (while also being stimulating) for most people. Being a real friend, with an intimate connection, involves being there for Terry every week over 2 years with him regularly moaning about the divorce. You can’t carry too many Terry’s at once.
    That’s what Emily, to, is saying – people carry the Terry load for their immediate and extended family, and maybe a few close friends, at most, and then they’re full.

    1. 3.1
      Jeremy

      There is the experiencing self of the present and the remembering self of the past. Each one’s happiness depends on totally different things. And when most of us are “nexting” (thinking about what we should do in the immediate future), it’s the happiness of our experiencing self that we tend to prioritize. Unless we have a modicum of foresight and understand that the remembering self largely sets the tone of our self esteem, life satisfaction overall.

      The person in lockdown doesn’t get off screens to play scrabble with his kids? He does if he can think of his remembering self. I ordered scrabble and other games last week, play them with the kids almost every day. Ordered books to read to them. Play basketball in the driveway with my son, in spite of the fact that I don’t enjoy it…. HE does. His happiness will make me happy in retrospect, the memory he will build of this time will be meaningful to me, will make me happy. My screens, addictive in the moment as they are, will give me no satisfaction in the future. So while it might be effortful, I put the one aside for the other… sometimes.

      This to say, I think you’re right when you describe how the people who wish they’d done certain things in the past would likely not have actually wanted to do them in the present. But that is the human condition for all except those lucky few whose two selves better mirror each other’s wants. The solution is not to prioritize only the present, experiencing self, not to give it dominion. Because your future self will wish for something else, and it’s fairly predictable what that will be. Won’t always be for relationships, depending on personality and on what one has had and not had in life. But for a person who has eschewed relationships, the lack thereof will be a fairly predictable regret.

      My son, who had my wife’s personality, was sick earlier this week, couldn’t breathe. I had to rush him to emerg, everyone in masks, lots of fun. Later in the week, he was getting get well soon messages from tons of kids in his school, with whom he communicates every day. My daughter, who has more of my personality, saw this and complained that no one from her class is calling her. I asked whether she had called any of them, and she was surprised. “Well no,” she said, “because none of them called me first.” The inertia, the lack of initiative…. and the regret are very predictable, and correctable in prospect with effort.

      1. 3.1.1
        Mrs Happy

        Is he okay?

        1. Jeremy

          Yes, he’s ok, thanks for asking. May have been Covid, may have just been another respiratory infection, I’ll never know because his symptoms didn’t qualify for testing. Just had shortness of breath, and his pediatrician told us to take him to emerg, so I did. Today he ran rings around me playing basketball.

          The extraverts in my household are having a harder time with the quarantine than I am. One in particular. I wonder about the mental health of all the millions of people in self-isolation. We are social animals, not meant to be cooped up. I wonder how long this can go on before people start to burn out and say that they’d rather be sick than continue this way. My estimate is 2-4 more weeks. People’s moods, especially the extraverts, will continue to be fragile, anxious, and less and less reasonable. I wish I could do more to help. Trying. Sometimes, the best way to conquer one’s own anxiety is to help someone else with theirs. Better than any CBT or mindfulness over tried. But only works one way.

        2. Mrs Happy

          I’m glad. Thank god kids are generally ok.
          Any time anyone in our house so much as sneezes once I go on high alert.
          We live in fairly sparsely populated area so even while isolating can go to the park etc and not see anyone (I got lost on a 3 hour bush walk yesterday and didn’t see a single soul, not even a lizard, it was like the apocalypse had hit); the other day at the park the local postman was sitting eating his lunch, with the postal bags on his motorbike, and he coughed twice as we cycled past, so I haven’t removed the mail from the mailbox for days. I’m leaving it there until any virus particle is dead.
          We have all become anxious hypochondriacs.

        3. Jeremy

          Most of us have become anxious, but not everyone. I had to have an hour long conversation with my sister this morning. She apparently had decided to go shopping at Costco for groceries. Wtf? Stage 4 cancer with lesions on her lungs – if she needed a ventilator she’d be at the absolute bottom of the triage, least likely to survive. I had to convince her that she could order good fruit to be delivered, didn’t have to go and pick it out herself, and even if she did not get exactly what she hoped for, it would still be ok. She’s also still going on to work. As a naturopath/homeopath, she believes that she holds the natural keys to defeating the virus. Apparently they teach them in homeopathy school that no homeopathic patients died in the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918. So covid-19 patients should all flock to homeopaths. Oh, and development of a vaccine would, of course, be disastrous because, you know, vaccines are harmful. Sooooo frustrating.

          Meanwhile, I’m buying everything online to be delivered, wiping everything with hydrogen peroxide before it comes through the door. Would ensconce myself in a full-body condom lubricated with peroxide if only I could find one on amazon (in my size). Paranoid about every contact just like you. Trying to remain positive and focus on what’s in front of me. Trying to stay away from the news and social media. Trying to focus on time with my family. Remove the anxiety and there’s a lot of good in the time together. Time I’d not otherwise get.

        4. Mrs Happy

          How frustrating for you. I imagine it’s not easy for you to tolerate idiocy. Having it in someone you really care about is complex. I hope she stays well. Not getting onto a ventilator might not matter much in the end anyway, stats are that somewhere between 70-86% ventilated people die anyway. The different strains will probably have different survival rates, so some of it is going to be geographical; I’ve not read about your area’s strains.

    2. 3.2
      jo

      Mrs Happy, I agree with your careful analysis of this. Maybe even on people’s deathbeds, this is yet another example of: ‘The grass is always greener.’

      Throughout our lives, we make choices based on what we believe will make us happy, but are always aware that we could have chosen a different option. Of course, all of us, if given a chance, would live every good option to its fruition. But we can’t do that. Maybe it’s THAT that we really regret: that in one lifetime, we cannot live multiple lifetimes, we cannot do the impossible. Two roads diverged into a yellow wood…

  4. 4
    Emily, to

    Mrs. Happy,
    “That’s what Emily, to, is saying – people carry the Terry load for their immediate and extended family, and maybe a few close friends, at most, and then they’re full.”
    Nobody really wants to “carry the Terry” for a friend. (I like that. I’m going to use that.) It’s just the way it is. As a general rule, I think having expectations for friends is a recipe for disappointment. Friends can be there for you, but it’s maybe for a few months, and then they disappear for a few months. The support is not consistent.

    1. 4.1
      sylvana

      Emily,

      I have to say I’ve been blessed in that regard. I even still have friends from 20 years ago, who I stay in touch with from time to time, who’ll do whatever they could to help if needed. I just happened a few years ago, so I know it’s true.

      With this corona virus, I was surprised at how many people actually have my back (and they know I would have their in return).

      I think the “intimate” part of those relationships, though, is not so much the 3am emergency call or the emergency, in general, but rather the emotional part. People will loan you money, help you move, get you out of jail at 3am, come to the hospital when something happens, take care of your animals in a snap..

      But, listen to you talk about the boyfriend who just left? Much harder. Supporting someone through grief over losing a lost one or anything else – once again, much harder. Very few people have the skill to actually be supportive in that way. So they do what they can in other ways.

      1. 4.1.1
        Emily, to

        Slyvana,
        “People will loan you money, help you move, get you out of jail at 3am, come to the hospital when something happens, take care of your animals in a snap. … But, listen to you talk about the boyfriend who just left? Much harder. Supporting someone through grief over losing a lost one or anything else.”
        Actually, I find the former much harder to find. I have people I can go to dinner with and they’ll listen and be supportive but then I don’t hear from them again for 2-3 months. So it doesn’t feel all that suportive and when you talk to them again, they can barely remember what you talked about. I think to be part of someone’s life you really have to have at least weekly emails/texts and then a phone call every few weeks. Otherwise, you’re just on the periphery of their lives.

  5. 5
    sylvana

    Friendships are vital. No doubt about that. And that is the biggest reason for loneliness. Too many people mention that they have no one they feel comfortable confiding in. Emily mentioned the 3am emergency phone call. But it’s not so much about just that (although that’s important too). I think the psychological and emotional support is what people are truly missing. Having someone to discuss your situation (whatever it may be at the time) with. Sometimes just for sympathetic ear, sometimes to brainstorm. I think that’s also why you hear so many people mention that they feel lonely even in a romantic relationship. It’s not necessarily just sexual intimacy, but that emotional support.

    The part that was a bit surprising to me when Mrs Happy mentioned looking back and regrets (or jo’s grass being greener), was that the first thing that popped in my mind which I regret are the few romantic relationships I had. Everything else, I’m pretty ok with. Might be the early Aries personality. We tend to make decisions quick ,then stick to them, and we rarely regret them. We wouldn’t have made the choice if it wouldn’t have been the best choice for us at the time.

    The only thing I truly regret is wasting so much time and focus on trying to find romantic relationships before I stopped at 35. And ever having the few romantic relationships I had. Those are really the only areas where the price completely outweighed the rewards. Might have been different if I didn’t have to change just about everything about who I am and what makes me feel comfortable, safe, and secure in order to appeal to men on a romantic level.

    By now, I’ve been single (no dating, either) for over 20 years of my adult life. It’s so normal by now, I can’t even relate to having a romantic relationship anymore. You hear people talking about their spouses or girlfriends/boyfriends, and all I can think is “good grief, why do you put up with that?” lol

    I will readily admit that I’m one of those people Evan had mentioned in another blog post. I definitely like the fantasy romantic relationship. The reality of one, on the other hand, not so much. And following this blog certainly confirms that repeatedly. This blog is also a wonderful way to learn more about people, in general. I think I’ve learned more about human behavior here than anywhere else. That’s why I keep coming back.

  6. 6
    Noquay

    Since I moved here, nope, there’s no one I could call at 3 am but I have some wonderful woman friends where I used to live that I stay in touch with. Actually, as I am pretty self-sufficient, live in a remote place, live simply, and an semi retired, I am doing far better than most. Although I have those awesome aforementioned friends, I regret not being able to leave my previous job and town sooner. However, like many, I had responsibilities for others (my chronically ill father) so leaving wasn’t an option for a long time. Yep, it’s be nice to be partnered but not all of us can find someone compatible. Not many older men want a very educated Brown woman who reads extensively, doesn’t watch tv or leadmuch of an “American” life, who’s health and environmentally conscious. Yep, one such as I can attract a lot of down and outers, meal ticket or mommy seekers but such is not a relationship. Living a life that is not yours just to be able to be partnered is no better. In the meantime, I’d better work on being content and single.

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