aww, look at the happy couple: examining the relationship between marriage and happiness

A gorgeous white dress, hundreds of beautiful flowers, a unique cake, delicious food, and the love of your life. Your wedding is (usually) something that you dream about and sometimes obsess over for years before the big day actually arrives. But what about after your nuptials? How often are we consumed by wanting to make our marriages perfect? The truth of the matter is that most people will plan for months or even years so that their 7 hour celebration is just right when they should really spend that time planning for the life they're about to share with their partners.

Even though we all intuitively know that marriage is tough (we all know that, right?), the honeymoon phase that we experience leading up to and directly following the wedding has the potential to bias our opinions about how marriage actually impacts us. Many people think that marriage makes us happy, which makes a lot of sense. Right before we tie the knot and for a while afterwards, we are filled feelings of joy, elation, and completeness. Professing your love for one another in front of all of your family and friends can easily bring about those feelings in people.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but a 2006 study by Stutzer and Fray is likely going to change your mind about the effect that getting hitched has on your overall happiness and well-being. The researchers examined individuals over the span of 17 years to determine the direction of the causal relationship between marriage and happiness. The study revealed that marriage does not make people happy, but instead, happy people are more likely to get married than unhappy people. So in a sense, happiness causes marriage.

If marriage doesn't cause happiness, what does? The researchers found that every couple is different. But, there is one common theme among the majority of couples. Specifically, division of labor significantly contributes to both male and female feelings of happiness and overall well-being, but especially for female spouses. This means that talking about, subsequently divvying up (whether you divide them equally or unequally), and actually feeling good about the division of household chores, childcare, and the like causes you and your partner to be happy or unhappy.

In the end, if you want to increase your chances of being one of those happy couples, signing a marriage license is not going to cut it. You and your partner need to plan for marriage by talking about everything that you may (or may not) face as a couple. In particular, discussing how the two of you will divide labor, creating some ground rules, and actually following through is something that can enhance your well-being and happiness.

If you're one of those happy people thinking about tying the knot, you'll need some rings, right? A great place to find gorgeous engagement rings, wedding bands, or anything with diamonds is Seventy Seven Diamonds, "the largest collection of natural diamonds (over 150,000), beautiful bespoke settings, total honesty and refreshing simplicity."

  • Stutzer, A., & Fray, B. S. (2006). Does marriage make people happy or do happy people get married? Journal of Socio-Economics, 35, 326-247.

quick love tip: communicate about your relationship

Talking about day-to-day happenings and sharing your inner most thoughts and feelings with your significant other are both extremely important to the success of your relationship. And in addition to those conversations, you want to also periodically check-in with one another about your relationship- where it stands, how it’s working out for both of you, and where it’s going. You want to communicate about your relationship and even about the status of the communication in your relationship. Talking to your partner about these things, while it may be difficult at times, will hopefully help save your relationship from the dissatisfaction plague by nipping any concerns that one (or both) of you has in the bud. If you are able to effectively talk about them before they become out-of-control relationship issues, you will not only become more satisfied in your relationship and in your relationship’s communication, but your relationship will likely be strengthened in the process.
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