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Find Happiness Before Marriage

September 10, 2012


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With many of us starting to talk “happily ever after” with our significant others, it’s fairly common to see updates on Facebook and Twitter about our friends becoming engaged. For some of us, monogamy is right around the corner. But for a lot of us, walking down the aisle isn’t happening anytime soon.

When we dream of having bling slipped on our left ring fingers, seeing others do it first can send us reeling. However, despite where we are in our relationships (or lack there of), it’s important to keep in mind that flashy ring or not, what matters more is understanding that marriage isn’t the solution to having what we really desire.

A friend of mine from sixth grade tied the knot this past summer, and for awhile it made me ask, “When’s my turn?” Literally a quarter of all of my friends online are married or engaged, and now that my class and I have graduated, it seems like I never need wait long for news that another person I know is set to wed.

According to a marriage study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, marriage is not the key to happiness and should not be viewed as such. It sounds simple enough, but when culture and instincts combine to suggest that not tying the knot means something is wrong with us and that we’re therefore being weeded out by evolution, it can be a difficult concept to process, especially for us women.

Harvard University professor Daniel Gilbert, who holds a doctorate degree in social psychology, says that generally, married people are happier than those who are not, not because they are married, but because the biggest indication of happiness in one’s life is whether or not he has good relationships with people around him. In that same way, people who were once unhappily married often have spikes of happiness once the divorce finalizes.

So rather than walking down the aisle, what generally makes people happiest is when they’re engaging in some kind of positive social interaction from chatting on Facebook to lounging at The Java Break to having sex.

Further, basic psychology tells us that happiness is relative. My relationship with my own long-term boyfriend is a good one, but I do get bored and become frustrated with it. As long as that’s addressed, though, it’s okay and to be expected.

When he and I engage in new and exciting things, our happiness as a couple spikes but regresses to its normal point with time. And that’s not a warning that our relationship is doomed to crumble out of boredom. All it means is that we’re like everyone else, including my old newlywed friend.

Therefore, as long as our happiness doesn’t fall below our normal level and stay there, whether my boyfriend throws a proposal into the equation is irrelevant. I may dream of weddings on Pinterest, but because what I have with my beau is good, we’re happy with where we are, even against the backdrop of our peers saying “I do.” In the end, I’m really just pinning links of dresses, finger desserts and flowers, not actual marriages.

Despite many of us having desires for our future relationship endeavors, we must first be satisfied with the here and now. Not reaching that point sooner can wreak havoc on our nuptials later.

We need to be satisfied with our single lives because betting on our happiness can come at a terrible price, namely of a marriage, half of our stuff, and $500 an hour. In the end, it’s a gamble no one should take lightly.

Earlier this month when I became a redhead I thought about my old friend and told my hair stylist about my plans to move in with my boyfriend next August and start a life together. I expressed my excitement but also told her about my anxiety about such a major life change. She just kept dying my hair and said, “There’s plenty of time to play house.” It was so simple yet some of the best advice I’d ever heard.

When I left the salon I got in my car, and as I took a picture of my new hair, I looked at my left hand. There was no ring. But I had love.

I was in a good place.

Rachel Keith is a graduate student in education from Wichita. Follow her on Twitter at @Rachel_UDKeith.

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