The assumption that if you get married, you will get healthier is so much a part of our conventional wisdom that it is rarely challenged. Back when I was just practicing single life and not studying it, I had no idea that the supposed truism was actually a myth. I figured that out fast, though, once I started going to the original research reports and scrutinizing them. I drew from what I had learned from decades of doing research and teaching graduate courses in research methods, but some of the mental errors in the claims about the research are so egregious that you should not need any formal training to realize how ridiculous they are.
Earlier in my research life, I studied the psychology of lying and detecting lies. I knew nothing about the academic research on single life or marriage. I just knew the media narrative proclaiming that if only single people would get married, they would be happier, healthier, live longer, and forever enjoy sugar and spice and everything nice. Even though I loved living single myself (except for all of the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination that I call singlism), I had no reason to disbelieve the conventional wisdom. Until, that is, I actually started reading the original research reports on marital status and life outcomes. I was stunned to find that the many claims about the supposedly transformative effects of getting married were almost always exaggerations, misrepresentations, or just plain wrong. Setting the record straight was one of my motivations for writing Singled Out.
Since that book was published, media claims about the supposed benefits of marrying just keep coming. I have continued to critique one claim after another. Each time, I study the original research report rather than simply relying on press releases. It is amazing what you can find when you actually read the academic articles.
I have been collecting my critiques (and some of my other writings) and organizing them by topic. Below are the ones I have so far. (You may need to scroll down after clicking each link.)
Way too many people think that married people live longer. They think it is a fact. It is not. I have been debunking this for years, starting with Singled Out. Every time a new study comes out that is relevant to the myth of the long-living married people, I take a close look to see what it really says.
First, an off-topic NOTE: My apologies for not posting here as regularly as I would like to. Apologies, too, to the people who asked me about guest posting and are still waiting for me to respond or follow through. I’m behind for good reasons. I’ve been traveling, doing interviews, and working on a proposal for my new project on the creative ways that people are living other than in detached nuclear family households. (You can tell me about yours here.) Meanwhile, I have promised at least nine posts a month to PsychCentral for my “Single at Heart” blog, and I never want to let my Living Single blog go unattended for long. So “All Things Single (and More)” has tended to be the neglected child.
Now, on to the Spinster Superheroes of comedy.
[Bella’s intro: In my last post, I gave a name to the series that has actually been ongoing for some time: Perspectives on Single Life. The first entry posted specifically under that name is from Maya Bernadett. She takes on the pressure to just settle, a topic that, unfortunately, continues to be timely. There are a number of lines from this essay that I especially appreciate, but I think my favorite is the very last one. No cheating – don’t skip ahead to the end! Thanks, Maya, for sharing your essay with the readers of “All Things Single (and More).”]
Today is a big day (at least by my standards). In the cover story of the Atlantic magazine, just posted online today, I am described as “America’s foremost thinker and writer on the single experience.” My Singled Out book is included, as is a discussion of the concept of singlism.
Today is also the official launch date of the new singles site highlighting all of the singles bloggers who write from an enlightened perspective. It is called Single with Attitude. I know it wasn’t everyone’s first choice (though it did come out on top), so I added a note to the section, ABOUT THIS SITE, acknowledging that not all of us think of ourselves as having attitude.
I need your help. I’ve been trying for years to explain what’s wrong with the cheater technique. That’s the one where researchers compare all single people (whether they want to be single or not) to only those married people who got married and stayed married (setting aside the nearly half who divorced, and all the widowed), rather than all of the people who ever got married. Based on that methodologically laughable approach, they then proclaim that if only you single people would get married, you would be happier, healthier, live longer, and (fill in your favorite bogus claim here), too.