Here’s what the science says.
Couples are waiting longer and longer to tie the knot for various reasons, and many people are simply not getting married at all. In fact, marriage rates in the U.S. have been steadily falling since the 1980’s. This is the case not just in America, but globally – marriage rates are dropping in most countries all over the world. The reasons for this are debatable, but recent studies show that these people are missing out on an institution that provides people with a significant amount of happiness. In fact, research shows that married people are significantly happier than their single counterparts.
But why? Is is the romantic love? Is it the tax benefits? Or are these married couples all simply delusional? One particular component of the study points to quite possibly the most crucial aspect of marriage and the answer to the age-old question, “should your spouse be primarily your best friend or your lover?”
Research has shown that people commonly suffer from a drop in feelings of happiness and well-being between their 40’s and 50’s. Pressure from work, feelings of regret, caring for children, and the responsibility of caring for older parents all play roles in this phenomenon. And this is exactly where the married couples studied reported the most benefits. Their marriage provided a “cushion” for the stressors that typically weigh people down during this stage in their lives. Having someone that you can always talk to and that can always support you through difficult times can help you weather the storm.
In fact, a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research in Canada showed that of married couples studied, the ones that demonstrated the highest levels of happiness were those that considered their spouse their “best friend.” To be fair, all of the people in these studies truly wanted to get married. These benefits can be observed in long-term partners who co-habitate but aren’t married as well.
Does this tell us that getting married will make you happier? Not necessarily. The key point here is this: when evaluating a potential spouse, think about life beyond the honeymoon phase. Romantic love may be important, but it’s actually the “super friendship” aspects of marriage that provide the most long-term benefits for health and happiness.