Years of debunking myths about single people have taught me a sobering lesson: Not only do people believe these untruths, they are invested in believing them. They really want these myths to be true. Why is that?
There is a mythology about marriage that is very appealing and comforting. The mythology says that if only you get married, you will live happily ever after and you will be healthier and live longer, too. I think the mythology also implies that you are a better person – morally superior, even – because you are married. People who already are married like what this says about them and they don’t want to hear that it’s not really true.
The mythology presents marriage as a magical solution: Find “The One” and all of the important pieces of your life will fall into place. That can sound very attractive to single people. So the marriage mythology dangles in front of married and single people a set of magical beliefs that it might be fun to accept at face value.
Scientifically, though, they are just not true.
Another important point is that all this matrimania (the over-the-top hyping of marriage and weddings) is happening at a time when marriage is less essential for attaining important goals than it has ever been before. This is especially true for women.
Back when there were many fewer jobs open to women and when the available jobs paid even less than they do now, women were basically tethered to husbands for economic life support. Now some can earn enough to support themselves and maybe even some children.
With advances in birth control and reproductive science, women can have sex without worrying (as much) about getting pregnant, and they can get pregnant without having sex. They can do all those things without marrying. That’s a huge change from the past. Singles – especially women who have the means and inclination to do so – are not waiting to find The One before buying homes, traveling, pursuing their passions, and in all sorts of ways, living their lives fully.
These kinds of things can’t be denied. It is obvious that women have more control than they used to over their financial security, their sex lives, and their reproductive potential, and that they can pursue all of those possibilities without marrying. So for people who are invested in the mythology, how can they sell it? It is all psychological now.
The mythology is that you can never know true happiness or the best of health unless you marry. What the mythology is selling is the psychological superiority of married people.
[You can read about some of the research on why people cling to mythologies about marriage in Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It.]
Single woman photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 2 Aug 2012