Whether you never want to get married or you afraid you’ll never find someone to say “I do” to in the first place, here’s some good news: science has proven once and for all that tying the knot won’t really add anything to your life, so you can stop stressing about it either way.
This isn’t down to one study. It’s not like one group of researchers got together and decided that marriage was a sham. Instead, this result combines several wide-ranging studies performed over several decades to come to the conclusion that if you’re looking for happiness, finding a spouse isn’t really the way to do it.
It’s great for the first year. According to an award-winning German study of over 24,000 people, the first year of marriage allows couples a second go at the honeymoon period. Life is grand and your happiness levels might skyrocket but it’s a totally temporary effect. However, after a year or so passed, the participants’ happiness levels resumed their regularly scheduled programming, so to speak, as they’d adapted to marriage completely by that point.
In fact, your happiness levels might even go down. According to another 17-year, 5-wave panel study, there was no time in a marriage when either spouse actually ever got happier as a result of their relationship. Whether five or 15 years in, participants’ happiness levels either stayed roughly the same or even declined. The researchers questioned whether this was a result of decreased levels of the brain chemical phenylethylamine, which contributes to “feelings of well-being” or decreased sensitivity to it over time.
No other study has really refuted these findings. In fact, yet another study confirmed the previous ones and added that while marriage has plenty of benefits like companionship, emotional support, and sexual intimacy, those things tend to wane over time, thereby negating their positive effects. Whoops.
Positive marriage studies may be operating on a bias. By that we mean that the studies that have found high levels of happiness during marriage may be because the participants involved were happy before marrying their partner rather than getting married and hoping it would lead to happiness. Sounds about right.
That’s not to say that marriage is worthless. If you’re in a long-term relationship and you and your partner want to exchange vows, no one is saying that’s pointless. Marriage can be a wonderful experience shared by a couple who create and share a life together. However, if you’re becoming a wife (or a husband or whatever other qualifier for spouse you’d like to use) because you think it’s the key to happiness, you may be sorely disappointed.
[H/T Psychology Today]
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