Is Marriage Bad for Women’s Well-Being And Happiness? Research Tries To Find Out


Is Marriage Bad for Women's Well-Being And Happiness

Contrary to popular belief, marriage may actually be bad for women’s well-being and happiness, and several studies attempt to find out the real answer to that.

Researching marital effects on happiness is tricky because happier people are generally more likely to get married than others.
Still, statistics suggest that the chance of marriage being happy is no better than 50 percent. 
Women, research finds, have a lower chance of finding a partner to love than men. But they're also more satisfied with living as a single person.

The book Happy Ever After The Myth of the Perfect Life by Paul Dolan made a splash when it came out in 2019. It was reviewed in several major news outlets. The chapter that attracted the most attention, perhaps, was the one on marriage. In it, Dolan suggested that marriage is bad for women’s happiness.

It later turned out that Dolan had misinterpreted a key piece of evidence on which his claim was based. Married women, Dolan said, reported being happy when their spouse was in the room at the time they were answering the question but not when the spouse had left the room. What the data in fact suggested was that married women who were separated from their spouses – and not those whose spouses were not in the room – reported feeling unhappy.

It could be, however, that marriage adversely impacts women’s happiness, even though the particular evidence Dolan cites does not support the claim. Does it?

Related: Studies Reveal That Men Gain More From Marriage Than Women

Is marriage bad for women’s well-being?

Studies that compare subjective satisfaction among married and unmarried people tend to find that married people and those in committed relationships are happier than those who are single, and this seems true of both men and women, although the effects are not large.

However, these types of comparisons are misleading since happier people are also more likely to get married. So we can expect higher levels of happiness among married people even if the marriage does not increase anyone’s happiness.

A better approach would be to follow the same people over time and see how marriage impacts their happiness. Some studies that adopt this method find what has been dubbed the “honeymoon effect”: an increase in happiness in the leadup to marriage and the period shortly after but a gradual waning of the effect later.

A similar pattern has been observed in other circumstances. We adjust to major life events, both good and bad, and over time, tend to revert to our baseline level of happiness, an effect known as the “hedonic treadmill.”

Another study that followed the same people over time found a long-lasting positive correlation between marriage (as well as stable-long term relationships without marriage) and happiness. However, the effect was much larger for people who saw their spouse as their best friend compared to those who didn’t.

Good marriage, bad marriage

Where does this leave us? When it comes to marital happiness, much depends on how close one is, emotionally, with one’s partner. The best marriages and long-term relationships – the unions of soulmates – seem to make people, men, and women, happier. Mediocre marriages, or those full of turmoil, may do the opposite. Getting married, then, is a bit like playing the lottery.

What are the odds of winning? Statistically, they are not great: 40-50% of marriages, in the U.S. at least, end in divorce (more often initiated by women), and that’s not counting the couples who stay married but are estranged. So the chance any given marriage would last is about 1 in 2. The chance a marriage would not only last but be a happy one is smaller.

Why are happy marriages a rarity?

Related: 10 Reasons Why More Women Are Steering Away From The Concept Of Marriage Nowadays

A striking Tinder finding

There is a long conversation to be had about this, but consider the following: attractiveness seems unequally distributed. A handful of people are attractive to many while a large number are desirable to few. Attractiveness may be particularly unequally distributed among men.

According to one finding, while heterosexual male Tinder users “liked” the profiles of the majority of women, 78% of heterosexual female Tinder users “liked” the profiles of only 20% of men. This pattern is not encouraging. It appears that the majority of women are competing for a small proportion of men, at least on Tinder, which means that few people, men or women, are likely to find suitable dates on the site.

It could be that the asymmetry between men and women on Tinder is driven by different goals in using the app, e.g., it may be that women are more selective because they are looking for a long-term relationship while men are more often interested in casual dating and so set the bar lower. But whether attractiveness is highly unequally distributed among men only or both men and women, the stats do not bode well for the prospect of finding a desirable partner on anyone’s part, at least on a dating app.

We must be cautious in interpreting the Tinder evidence, however. It should not be taken to mean that only a small percent of people can ever find a desirable partner. It is quite possible that users overlook the dating profiles of people they could come to deeply love and be loved by. But that points to yet another way in which luck plays a role here: We must not only happen to meet a potential soulmate but recognize that person when we encounter him or her. And what are the signs?

Sometimes it happens, as it did for my spouse and me, and when it does, marriage is wonderful. My point is that whether it does or not is largely a matter of luck. We can do certain things to increase our chances of building a lasting, loving relationship. I have argued elsewhere that we don’t help ourselves by never making a commitment or by focusing on minor flaws in the relationship. But there is only so much one can control.

The good (and not so good) news

While finding love is not easy, we can be perfectly happy single. In one UK study, 61% of single women and 49% of single men reported being happy with their relationship status, and the percentages can be higher if we combat the singlehood stigma. This brings me to my last point.

Some parents and friends put pressure on single people to get married. If we truly had single people’s interests at heart, a better strategy would be to respect their choices and make it easier to be unpartnered. Among other things, this may reduce the number of failed marriages as fewer will marry for the wrong reasons.

It is, perhaps, surprising that singlehood continues to be stigmatized given that a third of U.S. adults are single. Some single people feel lonely on family holidays. It doesn’t have to be this way. It is this way because the streets become empty on such nights as Christmas Eve.

Related: From Father To Son: 5 Secrets To Have A Happy Marriage

Many single people are averse to the idea of being seen out alone just then. But if everyone who’d rather go out did so, the streets would be as busy as ever. When towns fall silent, we get the impression that everyone is home with their family. This isn’t true. Everyone is home, but millions are home alone.

For more essays by Iskra Fileva, check out her column at Psychology Today: 

Written By Iskra Fileva
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today
Is Marriage Bad for Women's Well-Being And Happiness pin

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Up Next

Friendship Marriage: Japan’s Latest Relationship Trend Explained

Friendship Marriage: Japan's Latest Marriage Trend Explained

Friendship marriage is the latest relationship trend taking the world by storm, and it’s got everyone talking. Forget the traditional notions of romance and commitment; these couples are rewriting the rules of marriage and how!

This unique approach has not only got people talking, but it’s also challenging many societal norms when it comes to marriage, romantic relationships, physical intimacy and cohabitation.

So, are you ready to unravel what the friendship marriage in Japan is all about? Let’s go then.

Related: 5 Simple Ways To Strengthen The Friendship In Your Marriage<

Up Next

Should I Start a Family? 10 Reasons That Might Convince You

Should I Start a Family? Reasons That Might Convince You

Two paths are diverging before you at a crossroads. You can either continue with your present life which has the comforts you know so well, or you could choose the other path which goes into the unknown. 

The decision to start a family is one of those big adventures in life that leaves us breathless with awe; it is filled with twists and turns and love upon love.

This article takes you on an exciting journey of decoding parenthood: an adventure that is both daunting and thrilling, and joyous as well as demanding.

Whether it is from the depths of unconditional love or soaring heights of leaving a lasting impact, each reason acts as a lighthouse in this respect.

Therefore, let’s examine these 10 reasons why to start a family!

Up Next

8 Questions To Ask Yourself If You Want To Avoid Marrying The Wrong Person

Marrying The Wrong Person? Important Questions To Ask

Picture this: you’re standing at the altar, surrounded by beaming friends and family, moments away from saying “I do” to the person who you thought was your soulmate and the love of your life. But deep down, you can’t ignore the nagging feeling that something doesn’t feel right. Could it be possible that you’re marrying the wrong person?

The fear of marrying the wrong person lingers in the hearts of many, and it’s a fear worth exploring, because this is your life we are talking about. In this article, we’ll dive into eight essential questions that you should ask yourself before taking that leap into forever.

So, grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and let’s unravel how to avoid marrying the wrong person.

Up Next

63 Conversation Starters For Deep Dialogues With Your Partner

Conversation Starters For Deep Dialogues With Your Partner

Why conversation starters? Over time conversations with your partner might begin to feel shallow and focused more on the daily grind than topics that actually matter. This is normal. It’s probably not a dangerous red flag that your relationship is about to end, but it is likely unsatisfying and monotonous.

It’s quite easy to reignite the spark with your partner by enjoying deeper and more meaningful conversations just by becoming more intentional in carving out time to talk.

We all know that communication is key to a healthy relationship, but let’s be honest; talking about what’s for dinner or whose turn it is to walk the dog just won’t cut it.

If you’re yearning for a deeper connection, it’s worth dedicating ten to fifteen minutes a day to one of the most important people in your life.

Up Next

When You Outgrow Love: What Is Grey Divorce And How To Thrive After

What Is Grey Divorce and How to Redefine Your Story

Divorce is never an easy decision to make. But sometimes life happens and you have to do the unimaginable. Grey divorce is one such experience that can feel like an unthinkable decision, yet, you know you just need to take the step. But what is grey divorce?

In life, at a certain stage we may feel that it is absolutely crucial that we start over, not only to survive but also to thrive. It becomes necessary that we step into the unknown regardless how scary or irrational it may sound. And the same goes for a marriage. 

Even if you may have shared a lifetime together and created lasting memories and experiences, a divorce may be the only option left for a happier, healthier and better life. That’s the reality for an increasing number of couples who find themselves in the realm of “grey divorce.” 

Up Next

What Does Being Submissive Mean? 9 Warning Signs You Might Be A Meek, Submissive Woman

What Does Being Submissive Mean? Signs Of A Meek Woman

Ever wondered, “What does being submissive mean?” Well, let’s put it this way: it’s like constantly being in the backseat of your life’s car, letting others take the wheel while you navigate the road of existence.

For example, meet Jess. She’s that friend who’s always putting everyone else’s happiness and needs before her own, and she often finds herself getting involved in abusive and unhealthy relationships.

If you relate to Jess and the ways she lives life, then you might be in for a very rude reality check. Because this points to the realm of female submissiveness. Stick around as we uncover nine warning signs that scream, “Hey, you might be more like Jess than you think!”


Up Next

9 Tactics To Trigger The Hero Instinct In A Man

Hero Instinct In A Man: Ways To Trigger Their Inner Hero

Do you know there’s a hero instinct in every man? If you want to unlock that side of your man then you have come to the right place. Today, we are going to talk about how to trigger the hero instinct in a man, and do it the right way.

From understanding their innate drive to protect and provide, to unraveling the mysteries of their emotional landscape, we will explore what is the hero instinct, and what does hero instinct in relationships look like.

So, ready to know more about this side to men? Let’s go then.

Related: How To Make Your Man Happy: 25+ Last Minute Gift Ideas For Him