Happily Ever After?

We all want to “live happily ever after.”  It’s what every couple at their wedding dreams for their union. But most of us are suspicious of the probability — or even possibility — of that really happening. After all, marriages fall all around us with depressing regularity. So…..to find happiness, is it better to stay single, marry and stay married, or to try a second or third marriage, or is it better to keep one’s options open by just moving in together?

There’s an answer to that question.  Social science has done some measuring, and the findings show the best chance for happiness comes with a wedding band, and keeping that same band on one’s finger for a lifetime.

“Happy” better describes married people than any other relationship group. Marrieds are less likely to report psychological distress, anxiety and distress than the single, widowed or divorced. One tabulation found that 40% of the married described themselves as “very happy” with life in general compared to under 25% of those single or cohabiting. 15% of the separated reported themselves to be very happy as did 18% of the divorced and 22% of the widowed. While not every marriage is very happy, or even happy at all, the potential is clearly highest there.

Obviously, walking down the aisle is no guarantee of happily ever aftering. Living on the other side of the high happiness ranking are those marrieds who are not very happy at all.

But, is a period of unhappiness in a marriage necessarily terminal? Interestingly, in one study, an astonishing 9 in 10 considering separation who stayed together were still married five years later — and 3 in 5 of those had changed the rating of their marriage from unhappy to very happy or quite happy! These are impressive statistics and argue strongly for sticking it out and working out the kinks.

In our post modern, cynical society, marriage is often cast as a relic out of an unenlightened past, an unnecessary impediment to adventures in relationship. Here’s the truth: the old relic works, and properly cared for, it is the very best chance of happily ever after we are likely to find in this life.

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