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Do Older Married People Live More Happily Than Single Peers?

by Thelma Duffey, Counseling Professor and Department Chair, ACA President    |    May 22, 2015

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I was asked the other day to comment on whether I believe that older married people live more happily into their final stages of life than do their single counterparts.  A friend read some conflicting research on the topic and asked my thoughts.  I wasn’t surprised by the diversity of perspectives in the research, as I don’t see the question to be a simple one. I see people in my practice who also wonder about this very thing.  So do married people grow old more happily than their single counterparts?  My short answer is: it depends.  

I have seen couples grow into old age together gracefully and I have seen others do so unhappily.  Marriage and commitment are no panacea, and they can be one couple’s living hell as much as another couple’s heaven on earth.  Some people are hard-wired to be part of a committed relationship and marriage, and they learn early on how to sync with another person in ways that are fulfilling and gratifying.  Although nobody’s lives are perfect, their lives are naturally enriched by marriage.  Other people are capable of being part of a marriage but opt to remain single for any number of reasons.  In these cases, people are doing what fits best for them. Who can argue with that?

Still, there are other people who do not have a history of happy relating, and yet they find themselves coupled in later years.  Timing, readiness, loneliness, or tangible loss of career, status, and community can all impact a person’s willingness to invest in and give to a relationship in later life.  Likewise, regret over lost opportunities and recognition of real need can motivate people with a history of failed relationships to step into their older years with more to give others who come into their lives “in the right place and at the right time.”  Certainly, circumstances and opportunities come at all stages of life, and older adults who find one another can indeed increase their happiness.  Consider the relationship between Amy and Fred.

Amy and Fred married at 68 and 69 respectively.  They celebrated their 81 and 82 birthdays this past year.  Amy had been... Read the rest of the blog HERE.

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