Now that the holiday season is over and more people are filing for divorce, it is a good time to consider the benefits of both marriage and divorce in Chicago. While common knowledge often suggests that married people are happier than those who are divorced, a recent article in Psychology Today suggests that, on the whole, that notion simply might not be true in practice. Indeed, as the article intimates, we as a society are so accustomed to marriage and “family” being shared goals that we often lose sight of what actually makes us happy. For many people, happiness might mean having a non-traditional family or being divorced.
The article suggests that late January is an important time to reassess the benefits of being married and having a traditional family (as the term is defined in American society). This time of year is shortly before Valentine’s Day on February 14, as well as Singles Awareness Day (often known as S.A.D.), which occurs on February 15. These two holidays seem to emphasize the importance of being in a romantic relationship—Valentine’s Day is marketed as a time to celebrate that romantic relationship, while Singles Awareness Day often is viewed as a time to attempt to find meaning in your life despite the fact that you did not have anyone with whom to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The acronym for Singles Awareness Day underscores how the holiday occurs in response to something—a romantic relationship or marriage—that is missing in a person’s life.
Yet studies do not show that married people are necessarily happier. Rather, many people fall prey to societal norms that tell them marriage is a goal that comes with happiness benefits, even if marriage does not play out that way. The article discusses a recent commotion at Google concerning families and family benefits, to which the company issued an apology, noting that it “needed to be more conscientious about the fact that there is a diverse makeup of parents and families.”
However, as the article points out, “such responses are still the exception and society is still obsessed with marriage and the ostensible benefits it carries.” As a result of the way marriage and traditional family life is treated in American society, many people decide to get married even if it is not the most sensible decision. Accordingly, many of those same people do not file for divorce even when it would make them happier.
According to the article, a recent review of psychological studies concerning a person’s marital status and their health (both physical and mental) suggests that some people are indeed healthier when they are in marriages, we may be missing certain pieces of information. More precisely, these studies may not account for self-selection in marriage, and they may not account for the fact that people who ultimately get divorced suffer from physical and mental health issues because of the way divorce has been stigmatized.
In other words, if we did not place such a high value on marriage, and if we did not stigmatize divorce, researchers could find that many divorcees would not internalize the idea that marriage is a goal. As such, divorcees could be much happier and healthier than married people who remain in unhappy relationships.
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