Is it possible to be happy without love?

Looking for love with the goal of also finding happiness isn’t necessarily the most effective strategy. There is no clear evidence that suggests that having a more or less stable relationship makes one happier than someone who remains single for most of their life. This idea has been suggested by the researchers of Michigan State University, in the Journal of Positive Psychology, who asked more than seven thousand adults to estimate how happy they have been during their lives, and then attempting to correlate that data with their life stories.

From the sample, 79% had been married for a majority of their lives, 8% had been single longer or were not married, and the memaining 13% had been involved in multiple relationships. Analysing the participants’ responses, which were acquired by means of a test which measured if they felt more or less happy, the researchers observed vast differences in the groups.

There were no differences between those who had been mostly single or those with several relationships during the course of their lives. Substantial differences were not even seen in those who had been married for the majority of their lives. Their results showed they were only slightly happier, as described by the researchers. “When we talk about happiness, being more or less happy in a relationship rarely tells the entire story,” said William Chopik, one of the paper’s authors.

“People can definitely find themselves in unhappy relationships, and single people can find pleasure from others in their own lives, as friends, or in hobbies and work. In retrospect, if the goal is to find happiness, it’s rather silly that people put so much work into finding it only in a partner.” The authors do take note of the limitations of the study. By analysing only the marital status of the participants it is possible to miss other factors that have an equally strong influence on health and satisfaction. Factors such as health, work and children also influence a relationship in different ways.

HFTHQ 20-31

Suggested readings

  • Journal of Positive Psychology
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