From a young age, fairy tales and happily-ever-after stories are pushed into our heads, leading us to believe that the key to happiness is to find “the one”. However, with divorce rates skyrocketing it’s becoming increasingly popular to remain single for long periods of time. Whether you’re looking for a fairytale ending or prefer your solitary lifestyle, experts are saying that the key to happiness must be found on an individual basis.
The single life has long been associated with freedom, and the ability to focus on oneself. Singles are strong in their ability to thrive in their solitude. They have time to spend with family and friends, and the ability to focus their attention on things that will benefit them as an individual.
Yet despite these positive qualities, people who stay single for long periods of time typically face pressure, both internally and externally from their loved ones, and through media. This pressure leads many people to jump into marriage, with the belief that they will be happier. Yet, studies have shown that marriage will not, in fact, make an individual happier in the long run.
Revealed: Marriage Does Not Increase Happiness
Matthijs Kalmijn of the University of Amsterdam & Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute conducted a study to find out what the real effects are of entering and exiting a marriage on general health and life satisfaction.
To do this, Kalmijn conducted telephone interviews with 5,074 households in the Swiss population between the years of 1999 and 2014 and asked a series of questions relating to their family life and relationship status to discover the long-term effect of marriage and divorce.
The results were not as expected.
Effects on General Health
Over the course of the study, Kalmijn found that while entering a marriage leads to a decline in depressive feelings, that decline doesn’t continue over the course of the marriage.
In Kalmijn’s own words: “Health does not improve during marriage, nor does it deteriorate while being single after divorce. Especially after divorce, we find recovery over the years.”
So, this supports the common belief that newlyweds tend to “glow”. While you can expect a rise in happiness during the honeymoon phase of marriage, that happiness will sadly not continue to skyrocket throughout the entirety of the marriage.
Effects on Life Satisfaction
In terms of overall life satisfaction, the study shows that marriage entry leads to an increase in life satisfaction, and a decrease as the marriage goes on. Interesting, life satisfaction was higher in older persons than younger (however, persons over the age of 65 were not interviewed).
Ed Diener, author and psychology professor at the University of Illinois has come to similar conclusions in his own research.
“Some people are happier than others, that’s clear. And there are
things you can do to make yourself happier, but something external like
getting married isn’t a royal road to changing your set point,” Diener
The result of Kalmijn’s study shows that the effects of gain through marriage entry are very small. While health and life satisfaction improve through the act of marriage, it does not sustain throughout the course of the relationship.
Yet, despite research proving otherwise, many people are eager to run to the aisle in the belief that it will make them happier when perhaps they should be looking a little bit closer to home.
What It Takes To Be Happy
Psychologist Dr. David Ludden states that there are 3 key factors that make people happy:
Sufficient Material Resources: Food, clothing, shelter, health, etc
Sufficient Social Resources: Family and friends
Stable Environment: Knowing our place in the world. Faith and spirituality. Having a purpose in life.
You can achieve all 3 aspects, yet still be unhappy. Why is this? Because these three key points represent external causes of happiness, but there is an internal cause as well-a positive attitude.
Harvard Psychologist and best-selling author of “Stumbling on Happiness” Daniel Gilbert states that “Time spent resting, the dream of so many working people, simply doesn’t deliver happiness. People are happiest when the mind is engaged, whether talking, creating, or having sex.”
So, don’t rely solely on a marriage to make you happy, because that initial rush of honeymoon joy will fade over time. Whether you’re married or single, it’s social interactions and the act of doing something fulfilling as an individual that will keep you happy in the long run.
No one should tell you what is “normal”. If you want to get married, get married! And if you want to be single, be single! Listen to yourself, be creative, grow as a person and your fairy-tale ending will follow.
-  The Ambiguous Link Between Marriage and Health: A Dynamic Reanalysis of Loss and Gain Effects. By Matthijs Kalmijn
-  David Ludden. (September 21, 2016). What Does It Take To Be Happy? Retrieved on September 25, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/talking-apes/201609/what-does-it-take-be-happy
-  Chuck Leddy. (February 21, 2013). Money, Marriage, Kids. Retrieved on September 25, 2017 from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/02/money-marriage-kids/
-  Anne Becker. (March 18, 2003). Marriage Is Not the Key to Happiness. Retrieved on September 29, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200303/marriage-is-not-the-key-happiness