Married Couples are NOT Necessarily Happier

Monday, Aug. 22nd 2011 2:07 PM


Folks love to tell single people that they should get married. There are all sorts of reasons for this sociological phenomenon, many of which are comprised of good intentions – and so, they say, is the road to hell.

The next time you feel compelled to tell someone you think he/she should get married, consider this: Research shows that while married people who are satisfied with their relationships generally experience better physical and mental health than their unwed counterparts, unhappily-married individuals report lower levels of well-being than single people. And according to Gregory M. Herek, a researcher and psychologist from the University of California at Davis, “Marital discord and dissatisfaction” can even lead to “negative health effects.”

Many years ago, when I was dating the woman who would become my first wife, two well-meaning friends independently encouraged me to propose. We had a little girl on the way, and these individuals were strong proponents of having children in wed-lock. One person knew me; the other knew her. But neither of them knew both of us well enough to effectively gauge our compatibility over time. As fate would have it, we divorced after years of acrimony and misery.

Don’t get me wrong. I would have married her anyway. I had the same beliefs and was as stubborn as a goat. And I have no regrets about my decision. But if you choose to advise someone on such a serious and life-altering choice, it’s important to first evaluate the chances that the parties in question will be satisfied with each other as spouses. When we blindly advocate for marriage for the sake of children or simply for the “normal” experience, we may unwittingly become accessories to another person’s unhappiness and even unhealthiness. And as for the children, there are many healthy, happy kids with unwed co-parents. And isn’t that better than having two unhappy parents sharing a house?

Thinking about advising someone to take the plunge? Whether you’re doing so because you’re happily married and want someone you care about to have the same positive experience, or because you feel it is the “right” thing for him/her to do in a particular situation, it’s only fair to share the full picture and to accept that the final decision has nothing to do with you. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Admit your own imperfections. One of the people who advised me 12 years ago has since ended his relationship, and the other’s marriage has been “challenged” for some time. If you’re telling people to take a path that you have traveled, even if you have enjoyed it, also warn them about the bumps and bruises you got along the way.
  2. Explain your religious, philosophical and other personal beliefs about marriage. It will help the person you’re counseling (and you) understand your biases and where you’re coming from. After all, your friend may not agree with your fundamental ideas about relationships.
  3. Give your advice and explain if you think these two individuals would make good partners, including why and how.
  4. Offer your support no matter what decision your loved one makes. After all, it’s not your life. What matters to you and makes you happy is not necessarily right for someone else.

      

If you are considering marriage and are getting advice from well-meaning friends and family members, understand that every relationship is an experiment. There are so many variables involved in your future and that of your mate that it is impossible to guarantee much of anything. Listen to advice and consider how it might apply to you, but at the end of the day, it’s your decision how to move forward. You know better than anyone else what you want and need to be happy. Make the best decision that you can with the information you have, and if you say “I do,” accept that there are no guarantees in love. Doing so will make you a more Powerful Person in a Partnership.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love
www.FrankLove.com

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How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

19 Comments on “Married Couples are NOT Necessarily Happier”

  1. SAMUEL Nii Tettey Says:

    Why marry if marriage is not going to bring happiness into your life? Marriage is for companionship and expected to bring joy and fulfillment into the lives of the couple. But unfulfilled expectations (dreams) bring in its wake unhappiness. Expectations may not necessarily be realistic and that is where the problem lies. Desires are turned into wants and they are pushed on to become needs in selfish lives and the real needs of the relationship are neglected because of selfish desires. Cut back on selfishness and there will be happiness in marriage.

  2. Greg Hilliker Says:

    Frank-

    I have been enjoying your blogposts for some time, and my thoughts in response to this most recent post prompted me to comment for the first time:

    You mention that “every relationship is an experiment.”
    To the extent that one is carefully manipulating the variables, understanding the constants, closely observing the effects, and learning from the experience, I agree;
    to the extent that it represents a “less-than-real” (like an expensive “concept car” that never makes it to the production phase) or a tentative venture, I would suggest that the “experimental” relationship is built on a shaky foundation. The elevated statistics on divorce rates after cohabitation seem to support this interpretation. Commitment is critical.

    Another thought has to do with the nature of “happiness”, which shares its roots with “happening” or “happens” (an ancient word for “fate”). Many people believe that happiness “happens” (or not) by fate, and yet they somehow keep this as a personal goal. I suggest that “joy”, which is something one can “take” or “find” and has at least two verb forms (“enjoy” and “rejoice”), is a more appropriate way of addressing our positive desires while acknowledging our responsibility for personal choice.

    Happiness, like intimacy, is likely to be more a product of our decisions, priorities, and commitments rather than their cause or reason.

    Keep up the great work on your posts!

  3. Joseph Nkole Says:

    Hi Frank, nice thread here. I think people make a mistake, they try to find happiness ….meaning “I am going to get married and get happy then”.Happiness is a self service. We all have it inside us and we are to decide to feel happy.

  4. Mark Kaplan Says:

    Well that’s a big “DUH’! I was happy single, but nothing beats being married to the right one. Friendship, constant growth, intimacy, family….it’s all in there. Just take your time & choose well. If you didn’t, then listen to Frank.

  5. Myra Taylor (Lifecoach Myra) Says:

    Great article Frank! Many of us are guilty of encouraging singles to get married to live a “happier life.” The next time I am tempted to do this I will think about the excellent advice you gave!

  6. Amy Lewis Says:

    Marriage is BEAUTIFUL when you marry the right one…. so simple but so difficult to achieve! Both my husband and I had a “practice” marriage before we met each other. The difference is night and day. And, I still wouldn’t trade my first marriage in, it taught me how to BE married and to hone what I wanted from a man and a marriage….. its all a process 🙂

  7. Eric Overton Says:

    Has anyone experienced this before? You meet someone and during the early stages of the romantic love phase you become so overcome with infatuation you run out of ways to express your feelings so the only thing that comes to mind is to tell that person that you want to marry. Not because you want to be in a long term commitment. Not because you want to start a family. Is it simply because we don’t have the language skills to express our feelings or a true understanding of the concepts of infatuation, physical attachment, romantic love, and true love? Or could it simply be a desperate attempt to possess the person so that they will only be available to you? The next thing you know, you wake up and realize that you got married for the wrong reasons. It’s not to say that it won’t work out but it originated for the wrong reasons. I believe that many marriages began this way. How else could it begin? We’re not experts in relationships. We are, in most instances, slaves to hormones and pheromones. I imagine that from the time when marriage first began until the past 30 years we never gave it this much thought.

  8. Chittranjan D Says:

    What is there to discuss about it? That is there for every one to see around them.Topic should be read as>> “Married Couples are NOT Necessarily Unhappier”. 🙂

  9. Al Rosenblum Says:

    James – great discussion. The rest of your story and mine is that that old nature produced an old belief system with self as the center. We not only bring our old nature into the Christian life with us, but all of our initial beliefs, expectations and relational strategies that we formed while growing up without God. The old man is much more than the old nature, it is a full blown operating system that we used trying to make life work before we knew Christ. Now, those same old beliefs are still the default ideas programmed into the subconscious control center. As long as they remain in the heart, you will struggle with an inner conflict between the 2 belief systems. Paul explained that we must take off the old man (old beliefs, one at a time) and replace them with the new man (beliefs of Jesus in his earthly life). This taking off of our initial beliefs is a critical aspect of transformation that is often missed. If these beliefs are not unlearned, taken off or removed, we try to build the new in over the old. When we remove the old beliefs, the new beliefs can become the natural dominant view of life and relationships where the inner conflict diminishes as we are freed from the old way. Love to discuss this with you, i am writing a book about this issue now.

  10. Nina Wilson Jones Says:

    Nice article.

  11. Anuradha Rai Says:

    i am agreed with Chittranjan .
    marriage brings happiness
    but of course sometimes with some people this may not work .

  12. Chittranjan D Says:

    There are huge individual and circumstantial variations (in Psychological language Individual Differences) to warrant any generalization. Married or unmarried status does not guarantee either way.

  13. Al Rosenblum Says:

    Ricardo, great post about the habitual nature of the old man and also the new man in Christ. I would like to add a thought about taking off the old man. If you read the New Testament and especially Paul’s writings, you find that he gives us the steps of taking off the old man, being renewed in our minds and then putting on the new man. I have found that when we discover an old false belief that is causing us to think, feel, speak or act in a non productive or ungodly way, that if we will STOP-TALK the old belief, it will quickly lose its power. STOP-TALK means to interrupt the habitual pattern of using the old idea as it is in process. In the moment we catch our self using the old belief by visualizing its meaning or by verbalizing it and in the moment we tell self to STOP! believing that, that it is a lie, then the mind and even the brain will cut out this pattern from our stored ideas. We actually give the false belief the boot and throw it out of our hearts by calling it the lie that it is and by telling self to never believe it again. This confrontational approach is more in line with the biblical instructions given by Paul about this area of life. As we are booting the lie, we replace it by embracing the truth through visualizing the truth and telling self that we now believe the truth in place of the lie. Rehearsing both sides of this issue causes us to quickly change our subconscious belief in any given area of life. it is the same process used by cognitive-behavioral counselors to change an irrational belief causing a client to experience unwanted symptoms, except we include God and His word in the process. Thanks!

  14. Anthony Raimondo Says:

    I agree they are not necessarily happier. I also think that people marry for the wrong reasons.

  15. Ricardo Ibarra Says:

    Al,… Thank you for your insightful thoughts. I have a Master’s in Counseling and am an ordained minister (non-denominational) and over the years I have found the STOP-TALK does work very effectively but I encourage my clients to quickly change their behavior to the new chosen one that is supposed to replace the old man. the less attention the old gets the wealker it grows. I find this works very well on behavioral modification BUT in dealing with major traumatic events the event should be faced head on and worked through over a period of time for as I tell my clients, “you didn’t get into this situation overnight and you won’t get over it or better deal with it overnight either BUT it is a qualitative belief substitution and transformation not a quantitative one. Like sleep deprivation. One may have a 5 day and and night high on crack but it does not require 5 days and nights to restore the lost sleep benefits. I am one of those cognitive-behavioral counselors as I seriously believe the vast majority have a very skewed perception of Reality so I offer alternatives for them to explore and consider. This also allows the old man to die more as he no longer receives the attention he once did even in the early stages of exploration. In the Passion of the Christ, Ricardo

  16. Robert Wagner Says:

    Don’t tell my wife that. After 33 years I can honestly say, I found the right one. My parents were married 68 years until my day passed away. Define happier.

  17. Anthony Raimondo Says:

    God Bless you Bob. My uncle died one month before his 75th.

  18. Robert Wagner Says:

    Thanks Anthony,
    Much appreciated. I miss him.

  19. How Other People Can Ruin Your Relationship | Frank Love on Relationships Says:

    […] can make it work.” He looked at me like I was crazy and got his divorce. Today, they are both much happier, and I believe he did the right thing – if only because he did what was right for […]

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