Last week, the media actively published the news that unmarried childless women are happier than those who are married. The opinion of psychologist-behaviorist, professor of the London School of Economics and Political Science Paul Dolan caused a lot of discussions and a flurry of criticism in the comments. We understand why most people are so outraged by the idea that someone can be happy alone.
Why are lonely happier
The fact that childless unmarried women are more likely to spend their lives happily, Paul Dolan said at the literary festival of the Hay Festival in Wales. According to The Guardian, in his speech, the expert referred to the census data among Americans and the experiment that Dolan conducted with colleagues, writes Heroine.ru.
Researchers asked married people in the presence of spouses and single-handedly if they were happy. According to Dolan, most people answered that they were satisfied with life only when a partner was nearby. Separated, the participants in the experiment often recognized that they were in fact unhappy.
“You are a single woman in your 40s with no children - God, what a shame, isn't it? Dolan said in his speech. “Maybe someday you will meet the right man and everything will change. No, maybe she meets the wrong man, and then everything will change. Maybe she will meet a man who will make her unhappy and sick and die sooner. ”
Paul Dolan admits that all people are different, and scientists have not yet found a correlation between marriage, motherhood and the level of happiness. Nevertheless, there is plenty of evidence that lonely people more often maintain those social ties that satisfy them, and are deprived of the need to enter into imposed relationships, for example, with relatives or friends of a spouse. They more often become volunteers and participate in community events. People in pairs, regardless of whether they have children or not, as a rule, on the contrary, isolate themselves from society. Since a person is a social being, this explains why lonely people (if they actively interact with society) are not as unhappy as it seems to many.
Dolan was not the first to talk about the fact that the importance of relationships and marriage in our society is greatly exaggerated. In 2017, employees of the Italian University of Padua reported that a woman’s life expectancy is directly related to whether she’s married. For four years, they watched over two thousand couples over the age of 65. The researchers found that mortality among women who are married increased by 23% compared with similar figures for widows. Experts believe this is due to the fact that married women have more responsibilities: caring for a spouse, taking care of children and grandchildren. In men, the situation is reversed - married people carefully monitor their health and live longer than widowers. We do not claim that all these studies are fair and sufficient to draw concrete conclusions about the dangers of relationships and marriage in general. It’s not interesting, but how people react to such messages, and why no statistics, expert conclusions can shake the marriage myth.
How stigmatized single people
A study conducted in Israel (where marriage is rather idealized) confirmed how strong the influence is in stigma towards people without a couple. The participants in the experiment were presented fictional biographies of married and single people, and asked to evaluate how they feature several features. Most people thought that married people score more points on signs related to happiness than single people. Regardless of how people without relationships were described and how much success they had achieved, participants insisted that their happiness was exaggerated.
It is particularly interesting that the estimates differed depending on whether people voluntarily chose loneliness or were forced to be in it. Contrary to common sense, those who deliberately chose a single life, received less points on positive qualities, although they lived the way they wanted. People seem to believe that the voluntary decision to be alone is too much public insult to become sincere.
At the same time, singles often support the myth of marriage, even if they themselves suffer from stigmatization of single life - which once again confirms the power of social stereotypes.
Singles are discriminated against both at the level of personal communication - with constant questions: “When will you get married?”, Wishes to meet your half and other ridiculous comments; and in the state - support programs and benefits for families. In the professional environment, there are also a lot of stigma towards unmarried people: they will rather be asked to work overtime (although married girls, too, are often discriminated against by employers because of the risk of going to the decree).
Why do people protect the myth of marriage
The persistent propaganda of family relations is largely caused by an attempt to protect the power institutions: governmental, religious. In general, men benefit more from patriarchal structures, so it is not surprising that they are more actively protecting these systems, including marriage.
Perhaps people are so aggressively opposed to singles because they view them as a threat to their intended order in society. Or they cannot refrain from comparing their life with theirs, and if single people are happy, married people should be less happy (although there is no one sure way to become happy). Or maybe they are a little jealous of those who could free themselves from social stereotypes and have the courage to live as they wish.
In any case, society will become less tense and negative if it pays less attention to what kind of relationships other people choose and how they live.