Happiness refers to the state of being contented, satisfied, joyful, delighted, well-being and being in good spirits (Martin 3). Considerable support has been found that people need some form of close relationship, coupled with a network of other relationships, to be happy and avoid loneliness. A close relationship allows for a certain level of self-disclosure, or willingness to share one’s feelings or personal issues. Without relationships, people would feel lonely in the other friendships, as there is a tendency to focus on impersonal talk (Jackson, Soderlind, & Weiss 469).
According to Ruesch et al., maintaining low marital distress and a real close social network play a crucial role in one`s happiness and life satisfaction (690). However, happiness is not just gained from the social support but from providing it as well. People tend to lose a sense of meaning of their lives when they are isolated socially. Loneliness creates a degree of depression in people. This research looks at happiness in relationships between couples, and the different factors that affect the happiness of dating or married people.
Are People Happier in Long-term Relationships?
There are expectations and underpinnings that if one has a steady partner or gets married, then they are automatically granted happiness. The notion of “living happily ever after” only exists in fairy tales as most romantic relationships have sad endings. For such unions, individuals will be happier if they find the right partner at the right time in their lives. Happiness comes from an underlying reason for the personal outlook on life, meaning that happiness comes more from an internal feeling (Martin 9). According a study carried out by the Michigan State University, marriage makes people happier. Happiness, in the study, was measured by survey responses and every respondent considered happiness in their terms, in terms of individual satisfaction with one`s life. This study looked at the married and cohabiting couples. The study found that people are happier married than they would have been if they chose to stay single, as marriage protects them from age-related declines in happiness (Burton). The study of over 30,000 people used a control group for comparison. The control group consisted of a sample of people who stayed single throughout the study and were similar to the married people in terms of their education, gender, age, and income. It is, however, incorrect to say all single people encounter a decline in happiness levels with time though the control group showed a decline in happiness levels.
Even in marriage, there is a prime time for the happiness, which revealed an increase in the first year of marriage, but it gradually tapers off. After which, the happiness levels go back to their baselines before marriage though they are better off than if those people had not got married (Burton). What makes this study more significant than the previous ones, is that while previously research checked on marriage causing long-term gains in happiness, this study added a control group to compare the happiness levels of the different groups. This study examined people ten years prior and after marriage, unlike other studies that use already married people without considering their happiness levels before marriage. The study also had a vast number of participants compared to previous studies. What comes out clearly is that marriage plays a role in people`s happiness in the long-run in comparison to people who stay single. It is difficult to take these studies at face value as there are other variables that could contribute to one`s individual sense of happiness, such as a resilient nature that is separate from their personal relationship and positive outlook on life.
If one is enjoying being single, then marriage is not the way to move forward. What came out clearly is that marriage only has a temporary effect on one`s happiness as people generally tend to adapt to their circumstances. Getting married does not solve one`s quest to be happy. Healthy relationships provide feelings of fulfillment and happiness, but if one is not happy within themselves, then the allure of marriage will not change that. Attributes of Happiness in Marriage Sexual Orientation A study revealed that the non-heterosexual respondents were happier and more positive in relationships with their partners. They have higher scores in relationship quality in three measures; relationship maintenance, relationship with a partner, and happiness with the relationship or the partner. However, there is no significant difference between the heterosexual and non-heterosexual respondents when it comes to happiness in life (Blanchflower & Andrew 410). Heterosexual partners are less happy as they are less likely to make time for each other, communicate well, or pursue similar interests. Parenting Status A study revealed that childless couples of all ages in long-term relationships, married or cohabiting, are happiest. Heterosexual couples with children score lowest in happiness, followed by non-heterosexual parents, then heterosexual couples without children. Non-heterosexual participants without children score highest on happiness (Gabb et al. 23). In all these circumstances, mothers come out as the most negative on relationship quality, relationship maintenance, and relationship with a partner than childless women, yet they are the happiest with life than any other group. Age Younger and older men are happier than the men in the middle are, when placed in the following categories; up to 34 years, between 35 to 55 years, and above 55 years. For women, however, the youngest group scored highest in relationship quality and relationship with a partner while the oldest category scored the highest in happiness in life (Gabb et al. 27). This is because for the older women marriage encourages healthy behavior, increased material well-being through pooling resources together, and spouse support and care during sickness. Money Those who clearly outline each other`s role in the relationship and agree to share household chores are happier in their relationship according to a study carried out by Gabb and others. 14 percent of mothers have been found to contribute to financial support while 50 percent of the men contribute financially (Gabb et al. 28). This is due to the fact that it is harder for women to combine household duties of taking care of children with income-generating activities. Most spouses agree financial resources are not equitably distributed, but they share that they both tend not to argue about that. Money is an issue but not one of the primary ones.
Sexual Intimacy Research shows that an increase in sexual activity from monthly to weekly increases happiness in couples. Many men and about 42 percent of women are unhappy with their sex lives due to lack of it. Sexual activities are measured in terms of health concerns and general sexual satisfaction. Couples satisfied with their sex lives are happier (Gabb et al. 30).However sexual results have to be treated with caution as women downplay their sexual activities in sexual surveys while men tend to `big up` their conquests. Sex is an important part of relationships. Mothers felt their partners wanted more sex while the fathers felt their partners wanted less sex (31). This means that previously there is a high correlation between relationship happiness and sexual frequency, but after childbirth, that changes. Mothers and fathers understand sexual fluctuations in sexual activity and desire as part of parenthood, but it does not per se lead to relationship satisfaction. Both mothers and childless women agreed that their men wanted more sex, but for childless women it is less marked (31). Stressors There are certain changes in a relationship that increase the chances of separation due to reduced happiness. These can be childbirth, a new job, bereavement, moving house, job loss, among others. Relationship happiness positively correlates with the addition or the increase in stressors. The number of stressors correlates positively with relationship satisfaction but correlates negatively to general happiness with life. Education There is a link between college education and the risk of divorce, which reveals that college –educated people with degrees are less likely to divorce that the less educated counterparts (Ruesch et al 692). Intelligence and a good education are an attractive trait to suitable partners. The more educated respondents did not have significant differences in the quality of relationship as those with lower educational qualifications; however, they are happier in life (Gabb et al. 18). Religion and Previous Long-term Relationships There is no significant difference in levels of relationship quality between those couples who listed a particular religion and those who listed `no religion`. However, those couples who identified a religion are happier in life than those who did not. Respondents who had previously been in long-term relationships scored higher in relationship maintenance than those who had not been in a long-term relationship (Gabb et al. 20). Conclusion Above are the major variables to happiness in relationships between couples, married or cohabiting. Given that a high number of romantic relationships fail at different points of its development, it is important for people intending to commit themselves in long-term relationships to find the right partner. Happiness can only be achieved when people commit themseilves in relationships for the right reasons.
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Burton, Natasha. “Marriage And Happiness: Does Marriage Make People Happier?” Huffington Post. 2 June. 2012. Web. 19 April 2015.
Gabb, Jacqui, et al. “Enduring love? Couple relationships in the 21st century.”Survey Findings Report. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved January1 (2013): 2014. Web. 18 April 2015
Jackson, Todd, Adam Soderlind, and Karen E. Weiss. “Personality traits and quality of relationships as predictors of future loneliness among American college students.”Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal28.5 (2000): 463-470. Web. 17 April 2015
Martin, Mike W.Happiness and the good life. Oxford University Press, 2012. Print
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