In the last two articles, I introduced the concept of achieving happiness following the five W’s that I have thought through. These are
- Well-being of ourselves: physical, mental, and personality
- Working partner/Spouse/Love
- Work and retirement
- Wealth or absence of poverty
- Well-wishers (Friends, Family, Culture, Religion, institutions)
Let’s look at the impact of spouses and long-lasting relationships on our life. The last 45 years of studies show that being married has been thought to affect well-being by elevating financial resources, fostering better physical health, and providing more incredible emotional support. The quality of the relationship is essential. Imagine being stuck with someone that you hate for the next 50 years. Ample evidence suggests that the quality of marital relationships also impacts health, with higher quality marriages being associated with higher levels of health and well-being. One study also indicates that the life satisfaction advantage of being married decreased over time among men but not among women!!
Is there a thing like a honeymoon phase in a marriage?: Studies by Lucas and colleagues have shown that, on average, most individuals react positively to the wedding and then revert after two years. However, a subgroup of people remained happy, and their life satisfaction improved as years went by. Those who gain a lot (financial stability, status elevation, introverts) from marriage remained happier. One unexpected finding in the current study is that the most satisfied people (before marriage) reacted least positively to marriage and most negatively to Divorce and widowhood. Those who gain a lot (financial stability, status elevation, introverts) from marriage remained happier.
Married people are healthier and live longer than those who are single, separated, divorced, or widowed: Marriage promotes better physical health in several ways. A spouse can promote better living and a healthy lifestyle and discourage risky behaviors. Marriage offers more protection for men than women. A 2011 study proved that married people were 2.5 times more likely to be alive 15 years later than unmarried after coronary artery bypass surgery, and the happily married fared better than those in unhappy marriages. But there’s a catch: Men in the study seemed to benefit regardless of whether their marriage was good or bad (although happier unions were even more protective than unhappy ones). The picture was less clear for women. Marriage also brings better mental health and less risk of suicide.
What happens to your health in an unhappy marriage?: Those who were “not too happy” in marriage were over twice as likely to report worse health and almost 40% more likely to die over the 20 years follow-up period.
How does Divorce affect your health? Almost all studies conclude that the divorced report lower levels of mental health and more often exhibit problem drinking and problematic behavior compared to the married. The most prevalent stressors after Divorce include having to face financial restrictions, moving, having sole custody of children or losing contact with children, and experiencing major reductions in social networks. Ongoing conflict with the ex-spouse is also damaging to mental health. In contrast, prior marital conflict relates to slightly higher levels of life satisfaction after Divorce. The rate of suicide among divorced or separated persons is about 2.4 times greater than the suicide rate for married persons. Males are at nine times higher risk of suicide (M: F ratio 9:1). It seems that a successful marriage can be a protective factor against death by suicide.
What is the data on those who Cohabitate? As marriage rates have fallen, the number of U.S. adults in cohabiting relationships has increased, reaching about 18 million in 2016. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, this has been up 29% since 2007, when 14 million adults cohabited. Early research established that cohabitors were less happy with their relationships, perceived lower levels of fairness, had more disagreements and more significant conflict (and violence), and were less confident about the stability of their unions, on average, than married. Those who married directly enjoyed the lowest levels of relationship disillusionment and, among women, the highest levels of relationship happiness. Cohabitors without marriage plans reported the lowest marital quality. Some recent data on older couples who cohabitate do not show much difference.
Hopefully, you will spend the most significant amount of time with the person you love, so why not invest in it as you did in your studies and carrier and learn to enjoy every moment of your life with them. Marriage and love are two-edged swords. It can make you the happiest person, but if you do not work towards it, you may be the most miserable person in the world.