Married Life Might Not Be the Key to Happiness

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Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote – “It’s better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all.” Well, scientists decided to investigate the truth of those words in a recent study. What they found out might surprise you.

A new study published by researchers at Michigan State University found that love and marriage might not be the key to lasting happiness after all. The Michigan State study was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology and followed the love lives of 7,532 people over the course of 42 years.

The goal was to determine just how much love and marriage played into a person’s overall well-being. William Chopik, MSU assistant professor of psychology and co-author of the paper wondered “’Do people need to be in a relationship to be happy? Does living single your whole life translate to unhappiness? What about if you were married at some point but it didn’t work out?

To gain our own insights into how your love life might affect your overall happiness, I spoke with one of the foremost leading experts on self-realization, yoga and meditation, Trace Gleen. I asked her just a few questions and got an unexpected epiphany on inner happiness in return.

When I asked Trace Gleen about the results of the happiness study, she challenged the entire concept of pursuing happiness in the first place. She began with “You know this concept of lasting happiness is interesting. Happiness has become such an attachment, so that when we don’t feel happy, well we feel sad.”

“It’s turned into such an addiction, a craving, a deep desire that keeps one desiring it. It’s interesting because it’s actually our most natural state. To desire happiness is like fire trying to light itself on fire. It’s a strange paradox. There is a Zen Buddhist expression that says, if you want happiness, drop the “I” and the “want” and there you have, happiness.”

Related: Can Quitting Lead to More Happiness?

This is quite interesting when you consider the results from the afore-mentioned Michigan State study. Happiness was the focus of the study and the participants were all asked to quantify their happiness. The study participants were all older adults who either were divorced, married or single. They fell into three categories.

In the study, 79% were consistently married to the same partner. 13% of participants had histories of moving in and out of various relationships and 8% were never married and spent most of their life unattached.

Mariah Purol, MSU psychology master’s student and co-author, said “We were surprised to find that lifelong singles and those who had varied relationship histories didn’t differ in how happy they were,” said Purol. “This suggests that those who have ‘loved and lost’ are just as happy towards the end of life than those who ‘never loved at all.'”

That takes us back to Alfred Lord Tennyson. Surely, he wouldn’t agree with the research. He was a hopeless Victorian romantic poet. But maybe he would have agreed with Trace Gleen, our self-realization expert, right?

Well, not so fast. Gleen reminded us that “By generating and resourcing our own happiness through doing things that make us happy, we reclaim our sovereignty. We proclaim our power. We proclaim our free-will to connect to these states of elevated moods on command.”

“When we resource our own happiness by connecting to the frequency and vibrational signature of happiness, like a radio dial, we can tune into it and receive the music it’s playing.”

As my eyebrows raised, she went on to say “It’s really rather simple, but because we’ve been so conditioned to believe happiness is a struggle, well, it will keep being a struggle. That is how powerful our mind is. Yet if everyone knew this, wouldn’t psychologists be out of work?”

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Psychologists and Victorian poets alike. Happiness isn’t the end all of results that the psychologists from Michigan State were hoping for, nor is it something that should be romanticized by poets like Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Surely, the experience of relating to another human being is a unique part of life that has value no matter what the outcome. People want to be together and it’s not just women who want to be in a happy, secure relationship.

Related: Marriage Has Lifelong Influence on Feelings of Happiness

Commitment, love, and marriage are strongly desired by men, even if the stereotypes lead people to think otherwise. Research from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that 82% of male participants thought that marriage was important.

Statistically, men are slightly less happy with their relationships than their female counterparts. A survey conducted by Statista in the United Kingdom found that men were less likely to be very happy with their relationships and more men than women were seriously unhappy with their relationships.

So, on the one hand you have men valuing the institution of marriage and long-term commitments while on the other hand, they are less likely than women to be happy in them. How does that work?

“When it comes to happiness, whether someone is in a relationship or not is rarely the whole story,” Chopik said. “People can certainly be in unhappy relationships, and single people derive enjoyment from all sorts of other parts of their lives, like their friendships, hobbies and work. In retrospect, if the goal is to find happiness, it seems a little silly that people put so much stock in being partnered.”

“It seems like it may be less about the marriage and more about the mindset,” Purol said. “If you can find happiness and fulfillment as a single person, you’ll likely hold onto that happiness — whether there’s a ring on your finger or not.”

So, scientists and spiritualists agree. Problem solved. Let world peace and goodwill toward men commence.

Well, what about that intense ache you feel inside when a relationship ends? On a personal level, I know exactly what it feels like to uproot yourself from the union of two people only to find that your solitary state is withered and malnourished. How can you find happiness when you feel like that?

As if someone has heard my cry, self-realization expert Trace Gleen reminded me that “When we depend on anything outside of us for happiness, we give our power away to what yogis called maya, or illusion.”

My eyebrows rose again. Gleen went on to say, “We were born whole and complete. Perhaps, we should ask ourselves ‘How may we return to wholeness?’ Happiness is just an aspect of the whole YOU. Meaning, it’s like a branch on the tree of life. But you cannot water the branch and expect it to grow, you must water the root so that all the fruit can be enjoyed, in plenty and bounty.”

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Wrapping it Up

I guess I never thought about happiness like that. Maybe you’re reading this, and you’ve never thought about it like that either. Well, marriage and relationships certainly aren’t the cure for the emptiness that we feel inside.

People are imperfect and they’ll let you down if you place too much importance on their role in your life. Ultimately, you have to be self-reliant and find reasons to be happy that have deep roots in your own soil.

If you aren’t able to generate happiness from within, as Gleen suggests – to embody happiness, then you certainly won’t find lasting happiness from someone else.

Well, I certainly have some deep thinking to do, maybe even some meditation on the nature of happiness itself. If you’re interested in learning more about self-realization and yog-meditation, then follow Trace Gleen on Instagram and visit her website Wholly Yogini.

Just prepare yourself for the accidental epiphany.

About Freddy Blackmon 107 Articles
Freddy Blackmon is a freelance writer and journalist who has a passion for cars, technology, and fitness. Look for articles on these topics and more. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.