For all you single ladies out there, how many times have you been asked, “Why haven’t you found Mr. Right yet?” or, “Are you thinking of having children?” If these questions bring back cringeworthy and uncomfortable memories, then I have some good news for you.
New research shows that it’s time to break out the rosé and celebrate your spectacular and single self.
Breaking The Cookie Cutter
You know the motif: fall in love, get married, and have children. But new research is shedding light on whether or not that truly is the recipe for happiness.
Paul Dolan is a professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, and in an article written for The Guardian, he says that “if you’re a man, you should probably get married," and "if you’re a woman, don’t bother.”
Dolan used information collected from the American Time Use Survey which examined levels of happiness and misery in single, married, divorced, separated, and widowed individuals.
It revealed that “the traditional markers used to measure success did not correlate with happiness—particularly marriage and raising children.”
Single And Not Ready To Mingle
“Unmarried and childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population,” according to The Guardian. “And they are more likely to live longer than their married and child-rearing peers.”
While men’s health improved after tying the knot, marriage—for the most part—unaffected women’s health. However, middle-aged married women were at a higher risk of physical and mental conditions than their single counterparts. So why is that?
Here's How Men Fared
To answer that, let’s begin first with our male counterparts.
“Men benefited from marriage because they ‘calmed down,'" says Dolan. “You take less risks, you earn more money at work, and you live a little longer.”
This Is For You, Sitcom Wives
“She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children,” he said.
I mean, considering she has to prevent her man-child husband from doing stupid things and thereby keeping him alive, it’s not all that surprising.
So what does society expect of us? Well, the American Psychological Association says that 90% of people in the U.S. say “I do” before the age of 50.
Dolan notes a societal stigma is ingrained in us to view marriage and children as top life goals, saying that 90% of people consider a long-lasting marriage to be very important in their lives. He adds, “Despite the benefits of a single, childless lifestyle for women, the existing narrative that marriage and children were signs of success meant that the stigma could lead some single women to feel unhappy.”
All The Single Ladies
If you single ladies have ever been asked by a nosy relative or friend, “When are you going to settle down?” or, “Do you want to have children?” you can tell them next time to talk to the hand.
“You see a single woman of 40, who has never had children—‘Bless, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Maybe one day you’ll meet the right guy and that’ll change.’ No, maybe she’ll meet the wrong guy and that’ll change. Maybe she’ll meet a guy who makes her less happy and healthy, and die sooner,” says Dolan.
Life Isn’t A Disney Fairy Tale
So what can people do? Dolan says that the fairy-tale trope of “happily ever after” must be challenged because marriage does not necessarily guarantee that every couple will live happily ever after with their Prince or Princess Charming. Sadly, there are a lot of unhappy couples out there.
He adds, “This would then result in less psychological, financial, and health-related support being required for the eventual fallout from a less-than-perfect marriage.”
Not everyone agrees with Dolan’s idea on marriage and happiness, however. An article written by the Institute for Family Studies disputes his theory and claims that people who are married are typically happier and healthier than their single counterparts (although it’s a small margin). But it does come with a caveat: “Marriage might make people happier, but it is no guarantee of happiness.”
With this in mind, it’s extremely important to realize that being in a loving and healthy marriage can be beneficial, but being tied down in an unhappy marriage has negative consequences on a person's physical and mental health.
Happiness Comes In Many Shapes And Sizes
The most important thing to realize is that happiness is not one-size-fits-all. Whether it’s a married couple with children or a single and childfree woman, happiness comes in many forms, and what matters is the right to make that individual choice.
So if you see a woman who’s single or childless, then maybe it’s not because she never found her Prince Charming, but because she chose to be a single—but happy—princess.