The relationship paradox

Published: July 13, 2010
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Relationships can lead to complications and being single means your lonely - so who is happier?

Someone asked me if it was true that people in relationships were happier than those who are single. The issue is quite debatable and the answer evaded me. So, over the past week I have been asking different people, married, single, divorced, engaged, and newly- weds for their opinion. But I still could not easily determine whether people in relationships were happier than single ones.

I decided to analyse data I had. According to my survey people in stable relationships, which offered security and understanding, were happy. But immature relationships led to short-term happiness and extreme sadness in the end.  Facts confirmed my study. People in relationships live longer. Marriage apparently adds around seven years to the life of a man and four to the life of a woman. Figures for those who live together are similar.While both psychologists and physiologists agree that people in relationships are happier than those without them an unhealthy relationship can lead to extreme unhappiness.

According to a psychologist men need to be in a relationship more than women. Men need to have a physical relationship (marital or otherwise) while woman want to get settled. “No matter how successful a woman might be in her life, she experiences a real sense of security after marrying a man, who is physically and mentally strong.” The pscychologist said that women’s desire for security doesn’t exhibit their inferiority. It is necessary both for man and woman be honest in a loving relationship. “The physical need is very natural. If not fulfilled it can create psychological problems like agitation, anger, aggression and depression. So being married or engaged is better than being single than just have a casual physical relationship or living together without any physical relation.”

Why are people in relationships happier (at first!)

Humans are social animals. When  in a relationship people can share things, take care of each other and offer support. People appear to feel better about themselves and their lives when they move into more committed relationships. Which is why many of my friends were happy when their relationships started but now just a few years after getting married, they are miserable. A married friend of mine says:

How lucky single people are… they have no responsibility, no answering to anyone. They just enjoy the golden period of their single life.”

Upon asking her why feels this way she told me that she was sick of her mother-in-law who was kind until the wedding but now prompts her husband to beat her up. But relationships with out violent in-laws are not simple either. One girl tells me that anyone who has ever been in one knows that it can add no value to life. She says that all the expectations and conditions are daunting. “There’s only one kind of love- that’s unconditional. Relationships are just a bunch of rules that hold you down. They’re hard work!” She is against relationships.

A girl I know was dating her cousin. The families didn’t support their relationship and she ended up marrying someone else. Despite the circumstances she was blissful at during the honeymoon stage of the relationship but is extremely unhappy now.

Some relationships are harder than others

When relationships are not fruitful,  individuals start to become unhappy. People in secure and happy relationships show a higher level of well being than those in unhappy or one sided relationships. Well being, here is associated with self-esteem, general life satisfaction, comfort and welfare. Committed relationships have a great potential to affect the mental, physical ,social and psychological health of individuals. For some, relationships can be like a U-turn: meaning they are a slightly unhappy when the relationship starts, are very happy at the time of marriage and become unhappy again  after some years of marriage. Unstable commitments tend to lead to low self-esteem, less satisfaction and depression. These are a few examples:

A 32-year-old  man tells me he hates women. His first engagement broke at the behest of the girl’s family. He got engaged again but it turned out that his fiance was interested in someone else. She  broke it off. He now hates the idea of being in a relationship and doesn’t even want to talk it.

Another girl I know married a man of her choice with their parents bessings. But after six years of marriage she is childless and unhappy. Doctors have told her that her husband has fertility problems.

One couple is facing difficulty as the husband is unemployed and the woman earns for the whole family. She was happy when her relationship started but is now sad as she wants her husband to support her.  

In a case of young love gone wrong a boy’s girlfriend abruptly asked him to stop calling him. He is an extremely unhappy person now.

Another man married a girl of his mother’s choice even though he was interested in a classmate. He never got adjusted with his wife. After some years she left him and took the children with her. He started taking drugs for solace.

Single and not looking

Some single people I spoke to said they would prefer to remain that way. They said they enjoyed their freedom and that relationships brought too much pain when they ended. “If we are secure and content in ourselves we can approach life much more confidently. We can be happier and healthier.”A single teacher told me that she believed in womens liberty and wanted to live an independent life.

But being single can result in loneliness too. People may take drug or tranquilizers to dull their pain. I can generalise that it is very hard for single people (especially women) to live and promote themselves in our society where security and safety needs are associated with committed relationships. However, crushes and even one-sided relationship can prove destructive for a person. Also, relationships that don’t bring desired outcomes don’t prove beneficial

In the spotlight

Looking at the world of showbiz, there are some who say that marriage was the biggest mistake of their life while some manage to live with their families happily. A renowned TV model and anchor, told me:

It varies from person to person. If one gets into a relationship, he or she must be fully committed and loyal. If a person is single, he or she is quite independent. But everyone needs a partner. It’s all natural. A good relationship is important to give you security and a sense of care.”

Sadaf Fayyaz

Sadaf Fayyaz

A freelance journalist, photographer, blogger and writer's take on life, culture, media and everything else.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.