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New study confirms your relationship history really doesn’t affect overall happiness

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Hollie Richardson
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Happy single woman

In one of the first studies of its kind, experts have reported that finding love with a romantic partner doesn’t really affect overall happiness.

Single shaming – society’s inability to accept that a woman can be truly happy without having a partner – is still very much a real thing in 2020. 

It’s an issue that Bridget Jones’s Diary author Helen Fielding recently discussed, explaining how single women in their 30s still need to deal with invasive questions about their love life. 

Maya Jama also recently tackled the sad and single woman trope, saying after her breakup: “It’s like you’re not going to be satisfied until I’m in my Instagram Live crying with a glass of wine.” 

And, Emily Atack has nailed the big problem with the way society talks about single women, tweeting: “Being single shouldn’t be seen as a negative. I became single by choice. Let’s stop making women feel like they’re failing if they aren’t in a relationship!”

Now, a new study has confirmed our relationship status really doesn’t affect our overall life happiness.

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Researchers from Michigan State University conducted a study to measure the happiness of married, formerly married and single people at the end of their lives to find out just how much love and marriage played into overall wellbeing.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, examined the relationship histories of 7,532 people followed from ages 18 to 60 to determine who reported to be happiest at the end of their lives.

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“We were surprised to find that lifelong singles and those who had varied relationship histories didn’t differ in how happy they were,” said the study’s co-author, Mariah 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.’”

Although married people showed a slight uptick in happiness, Purol says the margin was not substantial: the consistently married group answered a four out of five on how happy they were, while consistently single people answered a 3.82, and those with varied history answered a 3.7.

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"If the goal is to find happiness, it seems a little silly that people put so much stock in being partnered."

“When it comes to happiness, whether someone is in a relationship or not is rarely the whole story,” William Chopik, MSU assistant professor of psychology, added. 

“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.”

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If someone longs for a lifelong partner to start a family and build a happy life together, Chopik and Purol’s research suggests that, if that individual isn’t completely happy to begin with, it isn’t likely that getting married will dramatically change anything.

“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.”

We couldn’t put it any better than the experts.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…