Being Happily Unmarried Before ‘Happily Ever After’

Thinking bride looking out window

People who have never been married may long to walk down the aisle, beginning an adventure that works out for about half of them. But according to Rachel Keith, a graduate student in education from Wichita, Kansas, being happily unmarried should be the first step in the road toward marriage. Too many people believe getting married will solve their problems or, worse, make them happy when they weren’t before, Keith said.

Daniel Gilbert, a professor of social psychology from Harvard, said that people who are married tend to be happier than single people — but not because they are married. Gilbert said that happiness, whether marital or single, is the result of having happy and good relationships with others. In other words, if a couple is unmarried and unhappy, getting married is not going to change that. Keith notes that this is true for her as well. In her long-term relationship with her boyfriend, happiness peaks when they engage in new activities, but drops to normal levels when the novelty wears off. This does not indicate problems, but rather that their relationship is prone to spikes and dips, like all relationships.

Keith knows that as long as she and her boyfriend stay above the red line on the happiness meter, adding a marriage certificate won’t change their dynamic in the long run. Sure, it may spike for a little while, but eventually everything that goes up comes down to some extent. Keith believes that the key to future happiness is finding happiness with your present situation, with or without a wedding ring. “Not reaching that point sooner can wreak havoc on our nuptials later,” she said. Ultimately, marriages are meant to enhance love and happiness, not create it where it doesn’t exist.

Keith, Rachel. Find happiness before marriage. (n.d.): n. pag. The University Daily Kansan. 26 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.

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  • Jenn M

    Jenn M

    September 5th, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    I just don’t understand why so many people feel the need to make it official when they are already happy not being married. Why rock the boat? I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me that my relationship is more worthy than someone else’s.



    September 5th, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    A grumpy unhappy person cannot and will not become a happy person in a day just because he got married! They should know better! They speak of marriage like its some potion that will take away troubles and bring happiness. Marriage is a commitment and more than it. It does not change anything magically!

  • Dr G

    Dr G

    September 5th, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    If you think that marriage is the band aid that can heal all wounds, you are so wrong. If anything, if you go into a marriage with problesm they only seem to flourish once you tie the knot.

  • JungleJudo


    September 6th, 2012 at 1:10 AM

    I agree with this. If you cannot find happiness and containment in life marriage is not going to turn things around by itself. You need to be happy as a person first and only then can you celebrate and be happy in relationships with any other person.

  • Millie


    September 6th, 2012 at 4:03 AM

    I went to college with so many girls who were only looking to get a degree in MRS, as in looking for a ring and that was that. All they dreamed of was getting married and that’s it, nothing else mattered, I am not even sure that I mattered who the guy was as long as he planned to be along for the ride. I really think that when women allow themselves to be distracted by that then they are really selling themselves short. Most of us have far too much talent to throw away just for the sake of getting married. It’s fine to settle down, but let’s make sure that it is with someone we really love and can see ourselves being with for the long haul.

  • Becky


    September 6th, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Haha “Degree in MRS” I’ve seen that too! So true–so sad

  • QP


    September 6th, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    ” marriages are meant to enhance love and happiness, not create it where it doesn’t exist.”

    You hit the bull’s eye there! I’ve seen friends jump into marriage only because they think its gonna make them feel better about life and they think things are gonna turn around just due to the marriage. But they ought to realize that marriage in fact brings in a lot more responsibilities and takes a lot more commitment. If anything, it needs more work and energy from your side, something an unhappy person can hardly contribute..

  • Jill


    September 7th, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    I am SO glad that my boyfriend and I decided the live together for a while before getting married. I have learned so much about him that I did not know before even though we have dated for over a year. A real eye opener for sure!

  • Grant


    September 7th, 2012 at 5:20 AM

    The reason for this is coz most of those people are just so happy with the euphoria that a new relationship brings and that feels so nice and different to them because they were unhappy before.

    They expect that initial high to remain forever and that is what drives them into believing that marriage will change things forever.They are not to blame completely but a little foresight would definitely help!

  • Gracie h

    Gracie h

    September 8th, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    I am a firm believer in marriage, so why should I ever believe that if I am happy with this person when we are not married that we won’t continue to be happy once we do get married?

    I am not sure where the breakdown comes, when it happens after you get married. Why do things have to be that much different when you do get married? If you love this person then you should continue to love him.

    We let the small things take over when we get married. Bills, finances, bleh. Why fight over money when in the end you just have to keep plodding along like you always have?

    We simply let things that are not important take over and take charge once we walk down the aisle, and I love my fiance too much to ever do that.

  • Adam D. Oglesby

    Adam D. Oglesby

    September 12th, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Glad to hear someone speak on this with such clarity.

    I have seldom met anyone who’s actually happier after marriage than they were before—other than during this temporary spike that you mentioned.

    It really begs the question, why get married in the first place.

    I absolutely believe that your chance at long term happiness is actually higher unmarried and living separately than betrothed under the same roof.

    Here’s the thing, being happily unmarried may enhance the potential for a happier marriage. But why not just leave it at being happily unmarried?

    I’ll tell you why: Because folks are inveterate tweakers, changers, modifiers.

    The notion of leaving things as they are would simply not enter into a Tweaker’s mind. It’s as if some internal monologue is murmuring suggestions:

    “If seeing him three times a week is good than seeing him every day just has to be better!”

    This voice is one you should probably seize by the throat and choke until it coughs, gags, spasms and dies.

    But the Tweaker wouldn’t dare do this. The Tweaker is nothing if not persistent.

    The Tweaker will forge full steam ahead with fixing what may not yet be broken—despite the obvious mathematics that suggest altering any situation gives you at least a fifty percent chance of an alteration in the wrong direction.

    I believe that you ignore stats at your peril. If those stats say over half of marriages end in divorce this may not be data at which one should scoff.

    But despite these dire caveats, the Tweaker will staunchly, doggedly, unwaveringly persist—refusing to leave well enough alone until they’ve screwed up both their life and their mate’s.

  • Claire


    April 12th, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    Me & my boyfriend have been dating for 8 years – 5 years living seperate, a 2 year break and now again for 3 years – living together. We care for each other, love each other, I can’t wait to see him at the end of my day and I dream of getting married. He doesn’t believe in it at all and it leaves me unsure of our future. Id like to have children – he’s not convinced that he wants children. He’s in his forties and I’m turning 30. He says he loves me and supports me in everything I do. I can’t imagine leaving him just to marry someone else but don’t know how to let go of my need to get married!

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