At the Very Least, Marriage Might Keep You From Becoming a Wretched Pile of Misery

Illustration for article titled At the Very Least, Marriage Might Keep You From Becoming a Wretched Pile of Misery

Marriage must be pretty great, considering it's the goal of nearly everyone in every romantic comedy ever written. Except then sitcoms teach us that, in fact, marriage is a huge drag that only leads to a lifetime of bickering and misery. So, which is it? Well, kind of both, according to a new study. Researchers found that marriage doesn't necessarily make you happier, but it keeps your happiness from declining over the course of your long and miserable life. So it's kind of like happiness insurance? How romantic.

Researchers looked at data for thousands of people in a long-running British survey in an effort to determine whether people's personalities help them adapt to major life events like marriage. It turns out that in fact they did not. Things like conscientiousness or neuroticism had nothing to do with how well people dealt with changes like losing a job or giving birth. They did discover, however, that people who were single experienced a gradual decline in happiness over the course of their lifetime. Fantastic. Just keep plugging away at life, people, because it's only going to get… worse?

But there is an antidote to increasing misery as one ages: being married. The researchers found that it was the one thing that stopped the decline in happiness. What's odd is that married people didn't have an increase in satisfaction at any point; instead marriage just kept satisfaction stable over time. So why does this happen? Well, the study doesn't offer any clues, naturally. But perhaps it's a good old-fashioned case of misery loves company. If you're both going to be getting progressively more unhappy, maybe doing it together provides some small measure of relief and comfort, which in turn lessens your suffering slightly.


Boy, this finding really does a number on that whole happily ever after fairy tale business: And then the Prince and his beautiful Princess lived together for a long, long time. As they slowly withered away, they didn't exactly enjoy it but at least they had each other, so they could fight over what temperature to set the castle thermostat to and distract themselves from their imminent deaths. The end.

Marriage May Make People Happier [ScienceDaily]

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My assumption:

When you have a partner you truly love (bonus points if you've been together a long time) and bad things happen (as they inevitably do, the longer you live), you face your problems like this:

"This sucks, but at least I have My Partner. That's what's important. We'll get through it. We always do."

You've got all this history, this stability, and this other value system to default to. It's like dropping your hot dog on the street, but knowing that you have a hamburger in your purse. (Why the fuck do you have food in your purse? Who cares.) And when you are single and face those inevitable Bad Things in Life, it can be easier to feel all:

"Well, this sucks. I guess life's just getting suckier. Suck a dick, life."

You have this other bigger, more intimate reference point against which to face things. Also, most hardships in life are easier to deal with if you have a built-in support person. Financial probs? You have another person! And twice the family! Health probs? Guess who's obligated to tend your gross, weakling self? Emotional struggle? You're going to take them down with you, but they'll help you back up.