If find yourself single, are you ok with that or distressed by it? Do you feel judged by others — or perhaps judge yourself for your current status?
Growing up in our society, it’s hard to avoid the message that being married is required for happiness. We may feel pressured to believe that if we’re not in a partnership, there’s something wrong with us — that it’s shameful to be single.
But is being single so horrible? Are married or partnered folks really happier than the single people among us?
In a fifteen year study of 24,000 people living in Germany, researchers found that marriage offered a boost to life satisfaction, but the increase was tiny — one-tenth of one point on a ten-point scale. And that difference was likely due to the initial effects of marriage.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Richard E. Lucas of Michigan State University, concluded that most people were no more satisfied with life after marriage than they were prior to marriage.
Comparing life satisfaction between those who are married or partnered versus those who are single is not easy to do. Studies offer varying results. One study suggests that happy singles are more likely to marry and that there are wide differences in the benefits of marriage for different couples.
I’ve often seen clients who are unhappy with their single life. I’ve often observed that some of that dissatisfaction comes from the loneliness of being single or the fear of being single forever (when one doesn’t want to be). But an often overlooked part of their dissatisfaction is due to the shame experienced around it — the shame that stems from social norms and self-inflicted shame.
The Buddhist parable of the two arrows offers a useful parallel. The first arrow is the