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Will Finding the One Make Me Happy

October 19, 2020

Louis-Tay.jpg

Many college students are at a point in their lives where they seek a stable and loving relationship. Many have expressed that finding their ideal partner will make them happy.

On the surface, this sentiment jives with research. In many countries around the world, married people are happier than unmarried people. So – is it true that finding the one will make you happier?

The short answer is: no – it will not.

The longer answer is this. First, large-scale longitudinal research shows that, on average, those wonderful positive feelings that one experiences in marriage only last for less than six months post-marriage. And, the positive evaluations of one’s life post-marriage return back to baseline after two to four years. That is not very long, considering that one is committing to a lifetime of being together. If there is any boost in well-being and happiness, its effects are not very long-lived. 

Second, married people are happier than unmarried people because people who get married are themselves happier in the first place. Moreover, people who are happier before marriage stayed married compared to people who are unhappy before marriage. So, research points to the importance of being happy prior to marriage, and being happy in the first place helps with the success of the marriage. 

The upshot is this: we should not marry because we think it will make us happier in the long-run. Resist the pressure to couple with someone just merely because others are doing so. Furthermore, when finding a spouse, one should not go in with a ‘savior mentality,’ hoping to be someone else’s forever happiness source. I advise my students to “marry merry” – in other words, find someone who is already happy to marry. 

Ultimately, marriage and relationships are about what you can give to another person. Leaning on someone else for happiness is not the solution. It is far better to cultivate your well-being and share it with your loved one.

Be well, 

Louis

Dr. Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week!


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