Being in a relationship won't change your life -- at least not the way you think it will

Daxiao Productions/ShutterstockIt won’t change your life — at least not the way you think it will.
  • “How to Be Single and Happy” by Jennifer L. Taitz suggests that being in a relationship won’t automatically make you happy, the way many people assume it will.
  • You might experience a brief spike in happiness, only to go back to the way you felt before.
  • Some research even suggests that singles enjoy a better life than married people, in that they have stronger social networks and more time to explore personal interests.

Jennifer L. Taitz calls it the “husband treadmill.”

You think you’ll only be happy once you enter a relationship – then you find a relationship and, after a brief spike in happiness, you feel pretty much the same as before.

“Husband treadmill” is Taitz’s riff on “hedonic treadmill,” a theory that suggests we return to the same level of happiness after almost every positive or negative event. But she says it applies to people looking for any kind of romantic partnership.

Taitz, a clinical psychologist, is the author of “How to Be Single and Happy,” and she kicks off the book with a bang: Being in a relationship won’t change your life – at least not the way you think it will.

As evidence of people’s delusions in this domain, Taitz cites a 2012 global Reuters poll, which found that 45% of single respondents said finding a partner would bring them the greatest happiness.

She mentions, too, a 2006 study, published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, that found college students assume single people are insecure, unhappy, lonely, and even ugly.

Taitz uses a client anecdote as an example of how people have unrealistic fears about being single.

One woman was unhappily married but couldn’t imagine life without her husband. Ultimately, Taitz writes, they divorced, and while it was stressful, it was also freeing. The woman told Taitz: “I’m shocked, but I’m less lonely than I’ve felt in years, and maybe 35 per cent happier.”

Taitz experienced this delusion herself. In the book, she writes: “When I look back on my life, especially my single life, I notice that I was miserable because of what was going on in my mind, not my actual life. I’d routinely imagine that a birthday or a pleasant Sunday would somehow be better with a boyfriend and then my mood would plummet.”

Now that she’s married and a mother, Taitz says she still has moments of insecurity and discomfort. Her husband mentioned that he’d like to have friends over, for example, and she (mistakenly) assumed he meant she was a boring partner.

Singlehood can be just as fulfilling as married life

A growing body of research suggests that singles are in many ways better off than their married counterparts.

For one thing, as Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin reported, single people tend to have stronger social networks. A 2015 study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, found that single people are more likely than married people to be in touch with their parents, siblings, neighbours, and friends.

And as Business Insider’s Rachel Gillett reported, BLS data finds single people spend more time on leisure activity than married people do.

The point here isn’t to compare the single and married lifestyle and declare one the winner. It’s to realise that, as trite as it sounds, wherever you go, there you are.

To be sure, if you want to be in a happy relationship and/or start a family, you should pursue that goal. Just don’t assume that you can’t possibly be happy until you hit that goal. You’d waste a whole lot of time being miserable instead of building your social network and exploring your own interests – i.e. just living your life.

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