Marriage vs. Single Life

How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong

Professor Bella DePaulo (Ph.D, Harvard) has been busting myths about marriage and single life ever since her groundbreaking book, Singled Out. In Marriage vs. Single Life, she makes her case more forcefully, thoroughly, and persuasively than ever before.

The first two chapters, “Living Single: Lightening up those dark, dopey myths” and “Why no study has ever shown that getting married makes people happier or healthier – and no study ever will,” were originally written for fellow scholars. The other 39 chapters are shorter and more accessible. Many were popular posts at her Living Single blog at Psychology Today or her Single at Heart blog at Psych Central. Dr. DePaulo’s joyful and unapologetic take on single life is firmly grounded in her research. Her voice is unique. No one else writes about single life the way she does. Whether you are an eminent social scientist or a smart layperson sick of all the mindless matrimania in contemporary society, this book is for you.

From the author: For nearly 2 decades, I have been arguing that research does not support the pervasive claims that getting married makes people happier or healthier. As a social scientist, I care about the accuracy of claims about research findings. But when it comes to proclamations about marriage and single life, the issues are not just academic. Real single people – over 100 million of them in the U.S. alone – are getting the message that science has shown that their lives are second rate. It hasn’t and they aren’t. In the past few years, several important studies and review papers have been published that make it clearer than it has ever been before that we have been misled about the supposed benefits of getting married. I have discussed those publications in several of the brief chapters in this book, many of which were posts that first appeared on my “Living Single” blog at Psychology Today or my “Single at Heart” blog at Psych Central.

The most important chapter, I think, is Chapter 2, “No study has ever shown that getting married makes people happier or healthier – and no study ever will.” In it, I make the case more thoroughly and forcefully than ever before. In fact, I think that chapter is so significant that I have published it as a stand-alone book, The Science of Marriage: What We Know That Just Isn’t So.

The first chapter in this book, “Living single: Lightening up those dark, dopey myths,” is a broad-ranging discussion of the psychology of single life. In it, I challenge the pervasive claims about the benefits of marriage, but that is just a part of the discussion. The chapter originally appeared in Cupach and Spitzer’s edited volume, The Dark Side of Personal Relationships II. As with most academic volumes, it is very expensive. Now interested readers can access my chapter in this much more affordable book.

Part I of Marriage vs. Single Life: How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong includes just those two substantial chapters. The second chapter was originally written for fellow academics and some sections are fairly detailed. Part II begins with Chapter 3, a briefer and more accessible version of the same arguments from Chapter 2. The chapters, 3 through 19, are about “Getting it right.” I’ve subtitled that section, “On getting married and not getting happier or healthier or more connected and not getting to live longer: What the research really does show and why.” Part III, chapters 20 through 36, are about “Getting it wrong.” The short chapters are critiques of dubious claims about getting married and getting happier and healthier. Finally, in Part IV, chapters 37 through 41, I take a step back to try to account for all the misinformation about marriage and single life. I also offer some suggestions for getting it right in the future.


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