For decades, many people have adamantly believed that the next natural step in their adulthood is to find a partner and get married. Even if marriage is not tied to cultural beliefs, many simply hope to find a “missing link” – someone to complete their life and bring them happiness.
This belief goes so deep that some people are afraid they'll never be happy, as long as they don't have a partner.
Well, science seems to be proving this to be wrong. Michigan State University researched the connection between happiness and relationships in order to figure out how big of a role can marriage have for someone's general happiness and well-being.
According to William Chopik, one of the authors of the study, you shouldn't bet your happiness on marriage or relationships.
The research followed people from several different relationship groups: some of them married for their whole life, some single, some divorced, some unmarried for some time of their life.
The participants were then asked to describe their happiness in life.
To their surprise, researchers found that those who had been single for their whole life versus those who had been in relationships in their past were equally happy. What this means is that, essentially, you don't need to be in a relationship at all in order to be happy.
Married people did show a bit higher level of happiness but according to the researchers, the difference between married people and other groups was so small that it wasn't really significant.
The research shows clearly that happiness cannot be found from other people. Single people often find their happiness from friends, hobbies or career. “If the goal is to find happiness, it seems a little silly that people put so much stock in being partnered,” said Chopik.
The researchers even went so far as to say that if someone is not already happy, then most likely, marriage won't change that.
“If you can find happiness and fulfillment as a single person, you'll likely hold onto that happiness — whether there's a ring on your finger or not,” concluded the researchers.
Happiness first, marriage second
For years, marriage has been associated with happiness. It's rooted so deep in the American culture that virtually every mother passes on one point of wisdom to her children: you should get married and have children.
There's definitely a strong connection between relationships and happiness. Hundreds of renowned psychologists find marriage the epitome of wellness. Tal Ben-Shahar, a professor at Harvard University, has even called romantic relationships “supreme”.
As our society evolves, this belief is becoming shaky, as the newest study concluded. It's completely possible to feel satisfied, happy, and complete without having a life partner. One study found that single people are finding personal growth more easily since they don't have to worry about anyone else.
Understandably, single people have more time to focus on themselves which gives them a chance to find new energy and, in a way, restore themselves.
And perhaps the most convincing perk of single life: there's an immensely smaller amount of stress involved in daily life since there's no need to deal with familial obligations.
Of course, there are always parents, grandparents, siblings, and other relatives, but people who are in committed relationships often need to deal with their partners' family which is almost guaranteed to cause more stress. In the worst-case scenario, you might end up in a situation where you can't even stand your partner's family at all.
Relationships are usually not a walk in the park. You have to deal with someone else's wishes, find a middle ground, and sometimes, make some sacrifices. Very often, people even lose themselves in a relationship, become co-dependent, and lose their identity.
But what if you feel you simply need to be in a relationship or you can't seem to feel satisfied when being single? Instead of jumping into a relationship just for the sake of having one, consider these tips:
1. Find a hobby
As funny as it sounds, sometimes people resort to relationships because their life is boring. You might be completely unaware of this but your brain is constantly trying to keep you active. And, well, the biological clock can have its own effects.
To keep yourself occupied, find new hobbies or spend more time on things you enjoy doing. Instead of scrolling through Tinder, take up dance lessons, learn a language, or do something that makes you feel good.
By channeling your energy towards things that bring you enjoyment, you soon realize that you don't even need romantic relationships in order to feel great about your life.
2. Find fulfillment from your job
One of the greatest ways to feel happy and satisfied in your life is to work on something meaningful.
If your job creates too much stress and negative emotions, romantic feelings might act similarly to comfort food: they remove stress and make you forget about your job. “If only I could go home after my shift and hug someone.” Sounds familiar?
Instead of forcing yourself to work on something that doesn't bring you any happiness, consider switching jobs, careers or take up new side-projects that bring you that extra little fulfillment. Perhaps open your own webshop, start blogging, sell crafts – whatever makes you feel good.
3. Socialize more, but don't focus on finding a partner
Being social is in our nature. You could even say that it's rooted in our DNA. The reason why married people seem to be satisfied doesn't even come from the fact they're in a committed relationship. Most often, it comes from having someone to socialize with.
When you're aiming to find a partner, you might end up creating a sort of tunnel-vision for yourself where you keep trying to fit another person into a possible life plan. Even when you're swiping in Tinder, you might find yourself considering how some characteristics could fit into your life well.
This tunnel vision creates a situation where you are desperately trying to pick out the best partner but you're not really taking people for their whole self.
Instead of putting yourself through possible heartbreak, just go out and socialize with the aim to have fun. Find a new hobby, go on adventures, do things that are out of your comfort zone. Don't try to see a potential partner in every guy or gal you speak to. Just talk to people without any intention of taking it any further.
If you happen to find love this way, great. If not, that's also great. Your happiness comes from within, not from others.