It is June 13, 2016. The year is not even halfway over, but Time magazine just published its 37th story about marriage. Below is the letter I sent to the editor of Time, at email@example.com. I also wrote two much more extensive critiques as blog posts: (1) At Psychology Today: “What’s wrong with telling married people to stay married?” (2) At Psych Central: “Why is Time magazine shaming single people and their children?”
[This post was originally published at Psychology Today. I just discovered that it disappeared! I have no idea why, but I thought I’d just republish it at my own site where I have control over what appears and disappears.]
In my previous post, I explained why no study has ever shown definitively that getting married causes people to become happier – and no study ever will. Here, I will critique the research (an unpublished working paper by Grover and Helliwell) that set off the latest round of matrimaniacal claims that we single people would be happier if only we would get married. The claims the authors are making are unapologetically causal: They think their research shows that getting married causes people to become happier. It doesn’t. The very premise of their claim (that married people are happier, and we just need to figure out if marriage is causing married people’s greater happiness) is undermined by some of their own findings – not that you would have read much about those results in any of the many media stories gleefully declaring a win for Team Marriage.
Every time I learn about a new claim that getting married makes people happier or healthier or more connected or live longer (and all the rest), I go to the original research report to see what the findings really did say. The media — and sadly, many social scientists — routinely get it wrong. No, getting married does not cause you to become lastingly happier or healthier or better off in any way than if you stayed single (well, you do get more money because of all the laws and practices that benefit married people and discriminate against singles).
Here (below), you can find links to all my critiques of these studies. I’ll keep adding more as new claims hit the media that I need to debunk. I’ve also put together 2 books of my writings explaining why all those Marriage Wins claims are so wrong. Marriage vs. Single Life: How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong includes a chapter previously available only in an expensive edited volume, a new paper that is the most powerful and comprehensive explanation of what the research does and does not show about the implications of getting married, plus 39 other brief chapters (many from my blogs). Because I think that new powerful and comprehensive paper is so important, I have made it into a stand-alone book (together with an introduction) in The Science of Marriage: What We Know That Just Isn’t So. (Both are available both as paperbacks and as ebooks. You can read more about them here.) My first book, Singled Out, also includes discussions and explanations of what’s wrong with the claims of married people’s superiority.
“White privilege” and “male privilege” are familiar concepts in our cultural conversations. There is, however, another vast swath of unearned privileges that have gone largely unrecognized, even though they unfairly advantage about half of the adult population in the United States. We’re talking about marital privileges. People who marry enjoy social, cultural, economic, and political advantages that single people do not, simply because they are married.
I’ve just put together a collection of 65 of my writings on single life in a book called The Best of Single Life. I think these are some of my most empowering articles, making a strong positive and utterly undefensive case for single life as the good life. In the book, I explain what I think is best about single life, for those who are as enthusiastic about living single as I am, as well as for those who do not want to stay single, but do want to live their single lives to the fullest while they are single.
- Why Singles Are Thriving – Despite All You’ve Heard to the Contrary
- Single Life: We Chose It
- Mocking Those ‘Why Are You Single’ Lists
- The Good Life and the Successful Life
- Savoring Our Solitude: Choosing to Spend Time Alone
- Valuing Our Relationships: Choosing to Spend Time with Others
- Sex and the Single Person: Have It Your Way – or Just Skip It
- Are We Missing Out by Being Single – or Are They?
Here’s a sampling of some of the 65 articles in the collection:
- 7 secrets of successful single people
- Who wrote the book of love? Happy single people
- Fear not: The advantages of people unafraid to be single
- Are single people more resilient than everyone else?
- Why aren’t married people any happier than singles? A Nobel Prize winner’s answer
- Wedding porn doesn’t turn us on: Age at first marriage has never been higher
- The last ‘why are you single’ list you will ever need
- Elements of the good life: Our list is too short
- Sweet solitude: The benefits it brings and the special strengths of the people who enjoy it
- The happy loner
- Best things about living alone – for people who mean it
- Single, no children: Who’s your family?
- If you are single, will you grow old alone? Results from 6 nations
- Who keeps siblings together when they become adults?
- Bigger, broader meanings of love and romance
- Getting married and getting sex (or not)
- Asexuals: Who are they and why are they important?
- Are monogamous relationships really better?
- 23 ways singles are better
- What you miss by doing what everyone else does
- Top 8 reasons not to marry
- Keeping marriage alive with affairs, asexuality, polyamory, and living apart
- How many married people wish they were single?
- The end of marriage
I hope you enjoy it! (You can find my other books here.)
As if all of those singles-bashing “why are you still single” lists are not bad enough, there’s more. I just learned that there is a traveling road show addressing the question, “Why is everyone still single” – as if that’s a bad thing.