Pitting the two in a competition for greatest happiness doesn't help anyone... especially single people.
In my early college years, I loathed being single. I constantly sought out ways to make sure guys in my life knew I was available and ready to date. I convinced myself that once I was in a relationship, I would find my purpose in life, companionship, and joy. Surely single life could never compare to that.
Yet after realizing that I was missing out on what my single stage in life had to offer, my outlook changed. While I continued looking forward to the next opportunity to date, I also invested myself in friendships, hobbies, and family. After pouring myself into those around me, I found that I was able to find authentic joy, despite my lack of girlfriend status at that moment.
So three years ago when I started dating my now husband, I figured that I would automatically begin reaping the benefits that I’d heard about from friends who were dating and married. I was looking forward to being happier, healthier, and having more purpose in life — and there’s no denying those benefits come from marriage. But, as exciting and meaningful as it was, it’s not like my engagement ring came out of the box with those immediate and tangible add-on perks.
Any relationship, mine included, isn’t without its share of hard work and hard decisions. Sometimes it feels like a case of the grass is always greener, which only serves to fuel the debate about married vs. single happiness. But after reading through studies and talking to people, I came to a personal realization: it’s not a competition. And the happiness and benefits to any life, whether single or married, is largely up to us.
This is not to say that single life, outside of vocations or other unique circumstances, should be the preferential option. Thousands of years of Church history show us that man and woman are made constitutionally for marriage. And while there may be many reasons why a person would remain single, it is not to “live one’s best life.”
The issue is how we talk about those states of living. To shift the conversation away from marriage versus single, we need to stop viewing married life or single life as if they are pitted against each other, racing for first place in the happiness marathon of life. Because there is no first and last place at all.
Authentically living the life that you are called to opens up a world of possibilities for health, happiness and wholeness. I like reading about relationship experiments and new psychological insights as much as the next woman, but you shouldn’t let one study or article sway you down a path of life simply because “science says so.”
If marriage is where your journey leads, then you will find joy in that life – despite the hardships that come along with giving yourself completely to someone else. On the flip side, if the union you hoped for hasn’t happened yet, or isn’t meant to be, you can still find joy and purpose in this stage of your life.
Everyone’s life journey is beautifully different, so whatever your life looks like right now, married or single, only you can find the joy hidden in the little moments.