Happiness

Spouses Who View Each Other as Best Friends Are Much Happier in Life

There are few weightier commitments than marriage. Through sickness and in health, till death do us part?! No one is playing games here. With marriage comes lots of questions, worries, and doubts. Being in love is one thing, but if you also consider your spouse to be your number one buddy, you can relax a bit.

My Wife

Plenty of comedians have an arsenal of one-liners about marriage as the end of freedom, happiness, independence, you name it. It's a longstanding comedic tradition at this point. Rag on it all you want, but studies point to evidence that married people tend to be happier and healthier than unmarried people. Robert H. Shmerling, MD points out in an article for Harvard Health Publishing that compared to their single counterparts, married folks tend to live longer, have fewer strokes and heart attacks, have a lower chance of becoming depressed, be less likely to have advanced cancer at the time of diagnosis, and more likely to survive cancer for a longer period of time. Certainly nothing to joke about.

A large 2016 study conducted by researchers from institutions including Aston Medical School and the University of East Anglia found that being married could improve your chances of surviving a heart attack. Specifically, the study concluded that married people were 14 percent less likely to die after a heart attack than single people, and married people were likely to spend two fewer days in the hospital, on average. "Our results should not be a cause for concern for single people who have had a heart attack," said Dr. Nicholas Gollop, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, in a press release. "But they should certainly be a reminder to the medical community of the importance of considering the support a heart attack survivor will get once they're discharged."

BFFs 4ever

Individual happiness tends to see quite a bump for married couples too. (To be clear, this is assuming we're talking about healthy, happy relationships, and we're not saying marriage will make unhappy people happy either.) A 2014 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that married people tend to be happier, but the happiness levels of spouses who view each other as best friends is significantly higher. Having your SO as your BFF may mean that you're twice as satisfied with life overall than married people who don't view either other in this way. "...those who are best friends with their partners have the largest well-being benefits from marriage and cohabitation, even when controlling for pre-marital well-being levels," the researchers state. "The well-being benefits of marriage are on average about twice as large for those (about half of the sample) whose spouse is also their best friend."

That lines up with the results of a long-running study from the UK. Between 1991 and 2009, the British Household Panel Survey asked 30,000 people a series of questions that quantified their life satisfaction. One of those questions? Name your best friend. The people who said their spouse was their BFF were twice as likely to be satisfied with life.

Of course, this isn't absolutely necessary to have a happy marriage. "The benefits of marriage are strong even for those who are littered with outside friends," economics professor and happiness expert John Helliwell told the New York Times. "It's just bigger for those who consider their spouse their closest friend. It's a bonus." Having best friends is wonderful, but having a best friend in your partner? Now that's real happiness.

Looking to make the most of your marriage? Check out Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott's "Making Happy: The Art and Science of a Happy Marriage." We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Why Is Marriage a Thing?

Written by Joanie Faletto April 18, 2018

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