Have we overestimated the effect of having a romantic relationship on our life satisfaction level?

Nigar Huseynova |

All our life is spent on finding the right person for ourselves because there is a common belief that we will be happier if we find our lifelong partner. Unfortunately, we were wrong thinking that finding a special person and starting a relationship will increase our life satisfaction level because this study reveals that there is absolutely no effect of having a romantic relationship on our life satisfaction level. To be more specific, there is the misbelief that our life satisfaction and happiness level mostly depend on our romantic relationships. When looking at the previous research done on this topic, it could be observed that many studies show a correlation between these two variables; however, there are mixed results because some studies show a positive correlation, while others show a negative one. To begin with, a study was done by Harvard University, which is considered to be the most extended study, found that relationships are big determinants of long-lasting happiness. Thomas Oppong (2019) elaborates on this study by saying that humans are born to be social creatures; thus, relationships are the most consistent predictor of a happy life and romantic relationships are included in this too. Another study that revealed a positive correlation was done by The London School of Economics where 200,000 people were asked about the factors that affect their well-being and the results showed being in a relationship caused the biggest increase in their happiness level. On contrary to these studies, a study done by Michigan State University, grouped 7532 people into 3 categories (married, single and mixed history of relationships) and their happiness level was compared, it was found that there is no difference in the happiness level of people who were single and who had mixed history with relationships. The authors elaborated on the results by saying that “relationship status does not show the whole story of whether or not someone is happy, true happiness is more about the mindset” (Bryan Robinson, 2020). Lindsey Holmes’ (2015) study gives mixed results; she mentions that romantic relationships and love is the key to a happy life; however, she also states that it does not mean that getting married will add up to our life satisfaction. Holmes (2015) explains that “people do not feel happier or more satisfied with their lives once they are married”. One last study done by Elyakim Kislev (2016) emphasizes the relationship between being single and being socially active. Kislev (2016) administered surveys around 32 European countries and found that unmarried people are more inclined into having social interactions and this leads to an increase in their happiness level. Looking at all these studies, it is seen that there is not a clear result on this topic; thus, I wanted to do a replication study. Additionally, previous research has only focused on European countries; however, these research surveys participants from middle eastern countries.  

The methodology of this study was very simple; 25 people, aged between 18-24, were administered surveys where their relationship status was determined and their life satisfaction level was measured. On contrary to all other research, the results of the study showed no difference in life satisfaction level among people who were in a relationship and who were single. The results were very surprising because it showed that we have been overestimating the effect of romantic relationships on our life satisfaction. According to the happiness pie by Lyubormisky (2007), 50% of our happiness comes from our genetic factors, 10% comes from our life circumstances and 40% comes from intentional activities. Love and marriage can be counted as a component of our life circumstances and this pie shows that our romantic relationships play a very small role in our happiness level; we have had a misbelief thinking that our happiness level will dramatically increase just if we find the love our life and get married. Additionally, we have underestimated how much intentional activities affect our happiness. Many intentional activities can increase our well-being, here are some of them advised by Lyubormisky (2007): 

-Expressing gratitude: Appreciating the things we have or thanking someone whom we feel blessed to have. This can be done either privately or directly. 

-Practicing act of kindness: Doing good things for a stranger or a friend. This can also be done either privately or directly, depending on the way you feel comfortable.  

-Committing to your goals: Picking the goals that are important to you and devoting energy and time to reach your goals. 

Obviously, there are many more intentional activities that could increase our life satisfaction, these are very small portion of it. Practicing these intentional activities could increase our life satisfaction more than getting into romantic relationships. It goes without saying that this study does not suggest that we should forget about our relationships and stay away from people because nurturing our relationships is also an intentional activity that increases our life satisfaction. This study only implies that we have overestimated the effect of romantic relationships on our lives and we should understand that we can increase our life satisfaction by focusing on ourselves too.  

The most surprising part of this study was that the results were totally opposite to the general belief and against the expectations of the society. It should be mentioned that there is a big limitation of the study which is the small sample size; only 25 people participated in the survey and this could affect the accuracy of the results. Another limitation is that the questions in the survey were too general, meaning that participants’ only relationship statuses were asked; however, the relationship types should have been categorized too. The reason for this is that types of relationships could be affecting our happiness levels too. Despite all the limitations of the study, we should believe that we can increase our life satisfaction by practicing intentional activities and we can be self-sufficient in boosting our happiness. 

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