Married people live longer, happier, healthier lives.
At least that’s what we’re told the research says.
But Bella DePaulo — a social psychologist based in Santa Barbara, Calif., and the author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized and Ignored and Still Live Happily Ever After — says that, scientifically, this simply isn’t true.
For example, she says, much of the research looks only at those who are currently married.
“Those who divorce — well over 40 per cent who marry — are set aside,” she explains.
“Those who got married and hated it get to leave the married group. But when those researchers compare the currently married to, say, the people who have always been single, they do not look only at the 50-some per cent who are most satisfied with their single lives.”
DePaulo further challenges this research in her book and through her Living Single blog for psychologytoday.com.
So, why do we perpetuate the idea that marriage makes us happier and healthier? DePaulo believes that, as a society, this mythology about marriage is very appealing and comforting.
“The mythology says that if only you get married, you will live happily ever after and you will be healthier and live longer, too,” she says.
“The mythology presents marriage as a magical solution: Find ‘The One’ and all of the important pieces of your life will fall into place.”
And, in an age when women have more control than they used to over their financial security, their sex lives, and their reproductive potential, and that they can pursue all of those possibilities without marrying, adds DePaulo, the only way to continue to sell this myth is through psychological arguments.
“The mythology is that you can never know true happiness or the best of health unless you marry.”
In fact, one could argue that marriage can even be detrimental to one’s health.
As at least one happily married man I recently posed the question to can attest, the only health benefits he’s discovered through being married is a “healthier” waistline.
While being happily married doesn’t guarantee better health, there are things you can do to maximize the health benefits of being married.
Josey Vogels is a sex and relationship columnist and author of five books on the subjects. For more info, visit joseyvogels.com.