For as long as most of us can remember, one particular way of thinking about single people has prevailed. In the media, in popular culture, and in scholarly writings, too, the story that is told about single people is that they are sad and lonely. If only they would get married, the narrative insists, that would make them live longer, healthier, and more socially connected lives.
Having a closer look at marriage:
Shawn Grover and John Helliwell studied marital data over long periods of time. They believe that marriage buffers you against life stressors. Especially if your spouse is your best friend: “those whose spouse or partner is also considered their best friend get almost twice as much additional life satisfaction from marriage or cohabitation as do others.”
In the graph, describing the life satisfaction experienced by adults, we can see a U-shaped form for both groups.
There is a decline in well-being from early adulthood to a bottoming-out period in middle age (late 40s and 50s) before happiness rebounds later in life. Other potential explanations for the U-shape: - The U-shape is driven by unmet aspirations which are painfully felt in midlife but beneficially abandoned later in life
- Neuroscientific finding: emotional reaction to missed chances decreases with age so that the elderly might feel less regret about unmet aspirations
Grover and Helliwell conclude the greatest benefit of marital satisfaction occurs precisely at this most stressful time of life. According to their study, the low point is much less dramatic for those living together than for single individuals.
„The most important decision you will make for happiness over the course of your life is who you decide to partner with — not professionally, but personally: your mate, your spouse“ Scott Galloway