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How to Be Happy When You Are Married

Yes, this is a post about single life, but for once, I want to talk about married life. What I have to say is relevant to single life, I promise.

The topic is how to be happy when you are married. Maybe I should open this article like this:

Being married doesn’t have to be lonely. After being single or if you’ve been married for some time, learning to be happily married is one of the best things you’ll ever do.

Many people are married at one point or another. It’s important to realize that being married doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be lonely and miserable. It isn’t the end of the world! Sure, you long for your single life, but for now, focus on being the best version of yourself and everything will fall into place.

If you’ve read this blog before, you are probably thinking that this does not sound like me. You are right.

I am spoofing an article that was published elsewhere, “9 Creative Ways to Be Happy & Confident When You’re Single.” In those two paragraphs, I changed some key words. For example, what the author said was, “Being single doesn’t have to be lonely.” I rewrote it as, “Being married doesn’t have to be lonely.”

There are times when I think we are making good progress on the singles front. More and more people seem to be realizing that the single life can be a good life. Some even recognize that for some people, single life can be their best possible life, and not because there’s something wrong with them. They are people who thrive when single, and who would not live their best, most meaningful and fulfilling lives if they got married. This blog is named after them: single at heart.

But sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly optimistic, I’m cut down to size once again by regressive articles such as the one I’m mocking. The author seems to think that all single people are miserable and need lessons on how to survive single life, and that what they want more than anything else is to become unsingle.

Consider some other excerpts from her article:

Maybe, she says, you are “wishing for someone to sweep you off your feet and put you out of your singlehood misery.”

She reassures us, “being single doesn’t have to suck.”

When she gets to her specific tips for single people, she provides further evidence for how clueless she is about single people who love their single lives.

The first suggestion is, “Spend some time alone.” She believes “this one will be particularly difficult at first…You’ll need girlfriends around to comfort and distract you at first.”

Does she really not know any people who savor their time alone? There are quite a few of them.

Notice, too, that even though the title of the article is about single people, she’s really writing for only half of them, the single women.

The second suggestion is to “spend quality time with your girlfriends.” Single people who are not matrimaniacs already know that. They typically have more friends and do more to maintain their relationships with their friends than people who are married.

Single people typically do not need to be told about tip #4, either: “Make an effort to be healthy.” Single people exercise more than married people do, and some research shows that when people get married, they become less healthy than they were when they were single.

Let’s skip to tip #8, “Throw yourself a pity party.” I think this is the most offensive section of the article, though it has a lot of competition. Here, the author tells us single people that we “don’t have to hold those tears back at all times.” She just assumes that we are all choking back tears all the time. Wow.

She wraps up her article with a stereotype. Tip #9 is to “treat yourself.” Can you guess what she thinks we should treat ourselves to? Oh, yes, it is that pint of ice cream.

I don’t want to be this author in reverse. So I will acknowledge that there are many people who struggle with being single. But it is wrong to imply that all single people are miserable and lonely and need help in figuring out how to tolerate their single lives. That’s an act of singlism, a way of stereotyping and stigmatizing people who are single.

If you are reading something about single people and it doesn’t sound quite right to you, try the exercise I demonstrated at the beginning of this post. Turn the tables. Take what you are reading about single people and make it about married people instead. You might recognize immediately what was wrong with the original version.

There is an irony to some of the condescending advice that is offered to single people. Sometimes it is married people who could most benefit from it. When married people are unhappy, they are offered all sorts of tips about working on their relationship. Maybe they should instead try some of the things that this author tells single people to do: spend some time alone, spend quality time with your girlfriends, make an effort to be healthy, dive into new hobbies and friend groups, throw yourself a pity party, and treat yourself.

Hey, I just offered some suggestions for how to be happy when you are married! Really, though, that’s not my area of expertise.

How to Be Happy When You Are Married

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyZysfafOAs. Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at www.BellaDePaulo.com.


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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2019). How to Be Happy When You Are Married. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/single-at-heart/2019/01/how-to-be-happy-when-you-are-married/

 

Last updated: 16 Jan 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.