For a Better Marriage, Act Like a Single Person

Research is finding that cocooning with your spouse instead of keeping up with friends could make wedded bliss more elusive.

Comments: 130

  1. Excellent and timely points. They also has relevance for post-retirement happiness. The old saw "I married you for better or worse but not for lunch" still holds. Couples who are used to being at their separate workplaces during the day often do not find it easy to adjust to being around each other 24/7. Many people, particularly men, retire without having developed activities or social networks outside of the marriage and seem helpless to arrange a lunch date with a friend on their own.

  2. When i lived with my first husband, who was a depressed individual, my happiness depended on an alternating week end ski house gathering with old friends. I'm sure it helped him too. When we quit our jobs and went off on our own to live on a boat and travel things rapidly deteriorated. I am sure the loss of frequent contacts with our neighbors and ski house friends made things worse for our marriage.

  3. Thanks for the laugh. My mother always said that.

  4. Most of the divorced, single women I know are extremely happy. Marriages aren't always to the advantage of both partners. Males have a lot more benefits from this tired, old institution. When I was younger, I lost many girlfriends after they got married. The dynamics at play were centered around the new male spouse, who often discouraged their wives from interacting with their old social network. Making it all about them. Often the new wife had to 'ask' permission to do things outside of their coupledom, as if their husband was their new father. This at times goes in the other direction too. But more than often it is the woman who cuts down on time with her family and old friends.

  5. I agree, kc, except with the victim premise that women "had to" ask permission more than men. I think it's pretty much equal. Married people commonly say they "have to ask" their spouse if they want an excuse to get out of something. But in general, I think wives have more control of social planning.

  6. gw, It depends upon what era you know or grew up in. Back in the day, a woman very often had to ask her husband for permission to spend money, even if it were her own. Basically a man could do whatever he pleased with no questions asked, a woman was not allowed this or many other freedoms.

  7. Yes, it seems unhealthy to have to ask permission of one's husband, but as the wife I do more social planning (not all of it, just a little more).

  8. I agree with this article at so many levels. I would add that it's important for couples who do have a community of friends to keep cultivating new friends from time to time. I also have one caveat: no marriage can survive on a single formula for success. There are times (caused by the death of a loved one, say, or the loss of a job) when one partner needs to retreat into a cave or bedroom or bar. That can take a week, or in some cases a few years. I think a loving partner should try hard to be a faithful companion during those dark times, even if it means abandoning the circle of friends for a while.

  9. I agree It's been my experience (especially after the couple starts a family) that a couple can spend too much time apart and really needs to make an effort to communicate and connect better. So I don't think relationship therapists are wrong when they advise this--they are just responding to the issues with the particular relationship.

  10. Or maybe that's when it pays to have a circle of friends.

  11. This is such a breath of fresh air - - or make that fresh research, which doesn't start with a bias that assumes that the default position of all adults is marriage - or some form of "traditional" coupledom - which might actually be a very recent concept anyway - the nuclear family, two parents, two kids, with extended family and friends on the far periphery. And as friends know - you gain from shared experiences. You tend to expect more from yourself in social situations with others; maybe we lose that if we do too much cocooning.

  12. This makes so much sense if you look at the way people in pre-agrarian societies lived. The mom/dad/kids unit is a relatively new one -- and unnatural. Before recent times and in some remaining societies today, people lived in extended families and small communities. Women worked with other women. Men with other men. The marriage was not the center of the community or of any individual's life. Today it is and I believe this is one of the roots of marital dissatisfaction and depression. We have evloved to be social beings and that does mean that we are happier if we have many social connections that do not necessarily include the marriage. I'm not talking about "open" marriages (that's another discussion). I am referring to exactly what this article refers to: simply having more people in your life.

  13. I wonder when we get to the point where we can all just be happy with where we are and not need to compare our life choices to others or look at research like that offered here to feel better about our choices? The older I get, the smaller my friend group has become. This is fine because I have very deep relationships with my daughter, my mother and my husband. I like my work acquaintances and enjoy the occasional happy hour, but for me, time without my husband isn't as enjoyable or satisfying. It is also OK to have your spouse be your best friend. Viva la difference.

  14. Beautiful post. Thank you, because other comments here are depressing.

  15. Lovely!

  16. Children along with their friends and their activities serve as the glue to keep the family together. Now that they have moved on, I can really appreciate the comment in the article about not wanting to hear my spouse tell the same story I've heard for the past 40 years. I have so much more fun meeting new people and experiencing new adventures, typically without having him alongside correcting what I have to say. Sometimes new friends have more respect for what one has to say unlike what one might experience at home.

  17. I agree with the premise of this article. It has long been my opinion that the best recipe for a happy marriage is for each partner to continue to cultivate their personal interests and hobbies. This usually involves each person spending time with persons other than the spouse, and engaging in activities without the spouse necessarily being present. I have lots of friends and acquaintances who very seldom see my spouse because he is not involved in the activity we are pursuing, and my husband has friends likewise. We encourage each other in these pursuits. This still leaves a huge portion of our lives spent together as a married couple, sometimes with family, and doing things together we are both interested in.

  18. In addition, MadelineConant, the separate activities give us something new and interesting to talk about when we are alone together, not to mention the relief from being "under each other's feet" and from "getting on each other's nerves" that so easily occur when together 24/7 in retirement. (Being lucky enough to have 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms does the same, plus the bonus of not being crabby from lack of sleep caused by the spouse's snoring or thrashing.)

  19. Married at 20 to a beautiful young woman of 19 in 1964. 54 years later we're still married. Valentine's Day is every day. A hug and a kiss to start, with a "I love you". The day ends with a photo and text that is a remembrance of the past. Our babies have turned into wonderful husbands and fathers. We both found a common hobby, genealogy. We both enjoy excellent health, a healthy diet, and good exercise. We're lucky and know it, and are very grateful for this journey we're on.

  20. Marriage is tough, raising kids even harder. And..when it comes to wedding the "love of one's life", so much depends on luck. People change. Life changes, becoming more challenging with age, and more stressful with added responsibilities. To quote John Lennon, "Life happens while we are making other plans." This piece is right on the money. There are three elements, albeit added to a host of others, needed, I think, while journeying through our short time on this planet - that being, maintaining healthy social relationships, maintaining our identity and individuality, and a sense of humor. As a final thumbs up to this column, I have two grown daughters, both educated and professionals. One married later in life, the other remains single by choice. They are happy, fulfilled, social, and above all, true to themselves.

  21. John Lennon may have said that, but he didn't say it first. So you should have said, "To quote John Lennon who was quoting someone far less famous and forgotten..."

  22. This makes sense. But I'll add: we are all evolved, over thousands of years, to live short lives (featuring correspondingly short marriages), with lots of exercise, eating a high-plant diet, in communities of extended family. Our current long lives (with potentially long marriages), that includes sedentary, high-caloric lifestyles, nuclear families, and high-pressure jobs with long hours just doesn't suit us. An example, my husband's great-grandfather was a farmer with lots of physical labour and a plant-based diet who was married three times as his wives died in child birth. None of his marriages lasted longer than 20 years and some only a few years. I think we are asking too much of the institution of marriage.

  23. Evolve to lead short lives? No. Historically, people led short lives because there were so many things they could die of. In contemporary civilization, where we have antibiotics, a steady supply of food, protection from the elements, etc., people who eat and exercise like our ancient ancestors usually lead longer lives. It’s the sedentary ones who don’t.

  24. This article makes great points, especially about how couples should be more independent to mitigate the effects of divorce or death of their spouse. I would add that independence also helps mitigate effects if one spouse has an emergency (injury, unemployment, etc). One aspect of singlehood some couples have no trouble emulating, but should really reconsider, is the promiscuity. Unless they have open relationship understanding, flirting and affairs with others can be seriously detrimental to the relationship.

  25. This research is more relevant than ever to people over 60 who have had a more traditional marriage where his friends are her friends and vice versa. Or he handles the traditionally "male" tasks and vice versa. I have met hundreds of retired people who admit that when their work ended and/or their partner passed away, they were desperate for companionship, help in balancing checkbooks and intellectual interaction. Long term marriages are difficult to keep exciting in the best of times; don't shut out friends and other interests. My husband of 35 years has close friendships with men he's known for decades, they get together often, and his friends are like brothers to me. Likewise, I have close friends of ALL ages, socioeconomic strata, religions and gender preferences who are there for me in good times and bad. My husband and I host several dinner parties a year with all sorts of people, because he loves to cook, we both love to engage with people in general, and we all want and need to share opinions, intellectual pursuits, worries and happy times as we grow older. However, we do have a weekly date-night out (we both still work) and, on Valentine's Day, continue a tradition we started nearly two decades ago: an "all red" (or pink) meal, i.e., salmon, radicchio, berries, flowers, etc. and we have a blast planning, preparing and enjoying it - just the two of us.

  26. My parents' only friend that they interact with regularly is probably just me and sometimes my sister. I'm 25 but I'm not rushing to get married to someone who will take all my time away from my parents who are my friends and my other social obligations and jobs. I want to get married one day and have kids but I don't want just them in my life. And romance only goes so far. In the end I want healthy relationships and financial security. Getting married to a man with less income than me will not work. But I don't make that much so it shouldn't be that hard to find a husband who wouldn't mind having a wife that wants some of her time with others.

  27. Act single? Not on your life! I had the most loving wife, Shared sixty six years, And now it appears With emptiness my life is rife.

  28. Thank you for being a mensch, Mr. Eisenberg, and for your comments which are always appreciated.

  29. Larry, you've got a big network of NY Times reader-fans across the U.S. and abroad. So know you're loved and valued!

  30. This article seems to be written by someone who doesn’t have children. What most married couples don’t take into account is the strain that children put on a relationship. I think many single people are happier at different stages because they don’t have children and the emotional and financial stress that comes with that. My wife and I have been married for 41 years, and many would say we got married too young (early 20s), but I think our success has come from “rolling with the punches” of marriage. A big part of that was adjusting to children and the difficulty of maintaining interesting lives within and outside the family. Our children and grandchildren bring us great joy now and bring an interesting complexity to our lives. Even now, I think we’re still “rolling with the punches” as a team, and we continue to have lives that maintain many separate interests in addition to the joys we share together.

  31. Historically, most couples we're solely responsible for raising and caring children, while both working full time jobs. One spouse worked, and grandparents, brother's, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins all chipped in.

  32. Well, nothing makes me as happy as my children.

  33. Perhaps the sociological conclusions drawn from this research are correct. But perhaps they proceed from incorrect premises too. The idea that there is something wrong with marriage as a vital building block of society is an operating premises here. It’s may not be that marriage as an institution is broken but that all the social trends and factors that intercede in a healthy marriage are wilting away at marriages. I’ve handled a multitude of divorces in my many years of legal practice and find that while there are many causes to the demise of a marriage; adultery is the major cause, hands down. Keeping old friends and hobbies as if one were single is actually a not even veiled euphemism for "do whatever you want." I have found that most of couples I dealt with whose marriages ended, usually did so because they seemed to do nothing together and everything separately.

  34. In 1960, Americans were married for an average of 29 of the 37 years between the ages of 18 and 55. That’s almost 80 percent of what was then regarded as the prime of life. By 2015, the average had dropped to only 18 years. What's happening now is that we're spending a whole lot longer together after we're 60+. My mother was a widow--single, on her own, independent--for 35 years. I'm already a decade older than she was when she became a widow. My cohort may have married later, but now we're living couples. THAT is the big new unexplored territory. What holds you together once the kids are grown and launched? When you've both retired? When you both suddenly ask, So what are we going to do for the next thirty years?

  35. Mature adults in a union should give each other space. I think it's very important to continue personal development, maintain relationships that existed before marriage, and also cultivate new relationships/interests together with the partner. Too much of anything is extreme, whether its togetherness or spending time apart. Striking the balance between who you are and who you are becoming as a result of being coupled is the key to personal and communal fulfillment.

  36. Terrific article. Friendships have so many benefits. And a broad array of friends across different interests is so rewarding. As I tell my teens, the friends a person has tells you a lot about the person

  37. The need for outside social interactions is very important. What if it is precisely these social interactions outside the marriage that leads to an affair? As one of the commenters (the divorce attorney) wrote, in many cases, couples need both outside interests and time together alone. Time to pursue activities w people outside the marriage and time to pursue activities with one’s spouse. Otherwise, for many people, with different interests, it’s easy to end up w no there there.

  38. I have been happily married to my wife for almost 52 years and during that time we cultivated many friendships with other couples and singles. Many of our friendships happened through our very active participation in our church. We also enjoy meeting and visiting with people we do not know so we almost yearly invite people from other countries to come and stay with us for a few weeks. We use a house exchange site for that activity. We also take separate vacations at times.. I like cross country train rides and she doesn't, so I go alone.......She just returned from a short cruise accompanied by a friend and I stayed home. The main way to stay truly happy is to keep your life active and interesting.

  39. Good article. As we age there is the increasing realization with all of this: It is the fleetingness of time. There is a hope and desire to spend it wisely. I say this as I take a break from a few hours work on a Saturday, when I should be home with family or exercising or socializing. But, then again, I was very productive for a few hours just now, and I sure wasn't productive on say, Wednesday afternoon, so ... I was married & became a father at 40 and love it every day. I also miss being single every single day. It's like choosing between two nice, but challenging places to live, or two decent but very different jobs: You can't live in both at once. You can't do both at once. I am lucky to have the choice and happy with my new, more busy life. Still, I have lost many friends and gained very few in middle age. It can be very lonely. My wife has so many old and new friends plus so much family, she doesn't have time for them. I have to put in more effort to get out and see other people. I can't and won't depend on a spouse to fulfill all/ most of my emotional needs. But like I said, getting out takes time. And energy. I swear it was so much easier 10 or 20 years ago.

  40. Wow, a discussion of what makes a marriage happy that somehow excludes the influence of having a family with your spouse? You know? Children? Sure not everyone goes into a marriage with thoughts of procreating these days but to leave out that element seems like shoddy work by the researchers. In our happy marriage of 44 years we have watched couples with many more friends that we do experience a lot of unhappiness and loneliness in later life. We have been fortunate that our two children grew into our adult friends (along with their spouses) who could count on us (and we on them). It reminds me of the old "blood is thicker than water". Now with so many couples consciously avoiding having children I agree that they should establish as many friends as possible, and close friends at that. As some of our aging childless friends that they will need lots of social action and it will take more work on their part; rarely being called upon for child care and birthday parties, and having a harder time/ less opportunity to establish inter-generational friendships... As my 4 year old grandson often says to his grandmother and me; Why don't you come live with us? I call that real friendship... No hard and fast rules when it comes to happiness and people staying together in their partnership, but it would have been interesting if they had introduced family/children as a variable when attempting to measure happiness.

  41. Actually, Mr. Cullen. children decrease happiness in marriage, according to research, especially in the first few years and often quite longer (Up to 90 percent of couples say they are stressed, conflicted and less satisfied in their marriage after the birth of a baby, according to the Gottman Institute and other studies). Children often are a wedge between spouses, and the hyper-intensive parenting that occurs today, with two bread-winning parents, adds a lot of stress. Jennifer Senior's book, "All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood," details this quite well. Which is why we are seeing a huge rise (50 percent) in the rate of divorce for those aged 50 and older — the kids are grown and flown (hopefully), Mom and Dad's "job" is done, and, with another 20, 30 maybe 40 year ahead of them, they want out.

  42. I am childless and aging and meet more young folks volunteering in politics, in the schools, and in other community volunteer work than a lot of my contemporaries with children, who know their children and relatives only and fail to expand into the wider world. I find that a lot of U.S. families become exclusive, narrow, impermeable units oblivious to their local communities, even their neighborhoods and the rest of the world. Outside friends and neighbors are selectively invited to join the tribe, a rather suffocating experience. And I do mean "selectively." Very unhealthy aspect of U.S. culture. And very very boring and stagnating.

  43. The idea of marriage and a nuclear family a lifestyle whereby we sever most of our preexisting friendships and push our extended families to the periphery is a recent, artificial, and somewhat American concept. True, historically most people did marry and have kids. They also lived with multiple generations under the same roof, and we're very active in local community, trade, and faith related activities. Today, Americans have migrated to car-based Sunbelt cities where they commute for hours to demanding jobs. Typically both spouses work, and the rest of the time is devoted to child rearing. Social media acts as a (very poor) salve for the bonds that once existed outside the nuclear family unit. No wonder so many modern marriages fail. Sure, some people have no problem spending every free moment with the same person. Most eventually drive each other crazy doing that. Also, is it any wonder our politics seem to become coarser and more divisive each year? We, as a society, have almost forgotten how to form healthy relationships with people outside our homes? It's a wonder things go as smoothly as they do.

  44. Doesn't this directly contradict the accompanying article on the "Epidemic of Loneliness"? As well it should. After leaving my job and where I worked, I've struggled to reform relationships, and it's very hard. I've suffered, my wife is not happy about me, but we are a strong couple with independent activities.

  45. Being single and being lonely are not synonymous.

  46. It is very important to have a real life that is not dependent on the relationship. That "real life" could take many forms; friends and social contacts are one form but not the only possible one.

  47. Long ago someone told me never look to one person to meet all your needs. I cultivated friendships based on common interest and I have maintained these relationships upwards of 30 years. I'm thankful my wonderful husband understands this and encourages me to continue. These relationships are rewarding and provide great comfort.

  48. I was surprised after coming to US that married couples sat next to each other when invited for dinner and talked a lot between themselves. In Europe couples are separated at dinner table and have to interact with other people.

  49. There's a lot of wisdom in this op-ed. I hope young people take heed. When I was growing up, my mom would go around blithely saying, "Married I can always be." Her marriage lasted a lifetime, but her advice must have gone sister and I didn't marry until 40. My sister's marriage took, mine lasted 2 years. Thing is, I love being single, the independence of time especially. The loneliest years were when everybody was busy raising kids. But now I have more friends than I know what to do with! As the article advises......organizational activities are key. And lord knows, there's no shortage of political and environmental causes that need your help. You can meet a lot of great people while doing some good in this world. My dilemma now......the most wonderful man I've ever met in my life! But still, I don't know about cohabitation. I'd hate to wreck a good thing.

  50. My rule that keeps my wife around after 30 years... If it's important to her, it's important to me. (eg, the order of pillows on the bed. That way we spend less time messing with the little things.)

  51. Hilarious!

  52. There is something to be said about the old adage, Happy Wife, Happy Life."

  53. So, if the key to happiness for married people is to act like they're single people, then I suppose that, logically, married people should date others and form sexual and/or romantic relationships with them. I expect the writer did not think she was making a sotto voce argument for polyamory, but her piece turns out that way.

  54. So true! My husband and I have been married 32 years. Our best experiences have been shared with others. It still surprises me we can work together so well (when he clearly doesn't load the dishwasher correctly!) We began in Cub Scouting and eventually ran our entire District Day camp with 200 Cubs. After our boy achieved his Eagle Scout, my husband decided to have a rock and roll band again, so I learned to play bass and we've been playing locally in bars and car shows for a few years now. We fuss with each other at home, but together we're unstoppable. And the friends we have made through Scouting and music have strengthened our relationship and brought us all hours of enjoyment.

  55. Then when your partner dies, you’re all alone in a world of couples. Keep active and maintain friendships inside and outside your marriage. It’s vital.

  56. I believe both the premise of this article and its conclusions but i am curious as to how much of the measured social-network contraction might have been the result of a spouse's deliberate effort to isolate? (especially in the case of abused women)

  57. This is a nonsensical piece of social/psychobabble article. Heavy on conclusions, short on evidence, poor on analysis. Consider this "... single people generally have wider social networks than married couples, who tend to withdraw into their coupledom. On average, unmarried people interact more frequently with friends, neighbors, co-workers and extended family." What evidence is there that married people withdraw into coupledom, that singles have wider networks, none is given. After my marriage, my social network expanded massively, in the form of in-laws, friends of inlaws and the like. And what does coupledom mean anyways? And who else are the unmarried going to interact with since they don't have spouses? The writer essentially begs her question and does a superficial cherry picking of inconclusive research data. There is a reason why per-review is a good policy. This type of report would never make it past those with real knowledge of their field.

  58. Please tell us who these people with "real knowledge" are, so that we all can benefit.

  59. As a twice divorced and now happily single woman, I couldn't agree more. I kept up my friendships and our village of gals helped each other get through good and hard times, from births to divorces to deaths. Men often don't have the same social networks, which is why divorce is often harder for them. We should encourage men to build and keep friendships. I would take Ms. Coontz's suggestion a step further and suggest married couples should act like they're divorced: 1. Freedom: Single people love their freedom; spouses would benefit by spending time apart, too. 2. Shared parenting: Divorced dads take on tasks they’ve never had to deal with before, so they’re forced to become more hands-on. Why not do that while you're still married? 3. Better communication: A good divorce, especially if you have kids, means you have to talk to each other. Communication—or lack of it—is what often sends people to divorce lawyers in the first place. 4. More sex: Divorced people tend to think about sex; we’re either freaked out about how long it’s been since we had it or freaked out wondering if we’ll ever have it again. If you start thinking about sex as something you may never experience again, you might do it and enjoy it more.

  60. Broad generalizations + predetermined results = pseudo science. A grain of truth exists in this article however. Most humans are social interactive oriented, and great benefits accrue from other human interaction. The worst punishment a person can receive in the "Big House" is solitary confinement.

  61. The advice to keep social relationships open is Life advice. To have interests outside the other (or family) in the relationship...again, Life advice. But I/we've met too many marrieds who keep too many outside relationships alive and nurtured to the expense of the married one. Intimacy erodes, conversations become trite, resolve nothing, down-time creates anxiety within the committed relationship. And the children of these couples cant get much alone time with their own parents or siblings as there are always people around. So the general rule is have friends. Don't become insular, and let your partner have friends. BUT - that doesn't mean tolerating all the friends. And you should not have, nor keep friends that your partner finds realistically threatening.

  62. The healthiest, happiest marriages are composed of two individuals functioning interdependently, with both partners continuing to pursue their own learning and growth. Said more simply, what keeps a marriage two interesting people. And, interests, activities, and friends outside the marriage keep you interesting. I have worked as a life coach for almost 20 years and when men or women come to me with serious concerns about their relationship, I offer them a path forward that will serve them well whether they choose to stay and recreate their marriage, or whether they choose to's the same path. It's about reclaiming who you are and what you value; essentially re-claiming those aspects of you - combined with the learning, growth, and wisdom you've acquired over the years - that had you be attracted to your spouse - and had your spouse be attracted to you - in the first place. The most interesting, intimate, playful, long-standing relationships are created by two people seeking to be whole themselves and therefore able to share who they are fully and freely with their partner. When you know you are "enough," you have no need to look to a partner to validate your self-worth. We're not meant to collapse into one another...we're meant to learn to "dance" with one another. And only by learning new steps can we keep that dance interesting, intimate, playful and fulfilling.

  63. One of the wisest essays I've seen on the subject of relationships in a while.

  64. My 19-year relationship with my husband separated me from almost every friend I had when we met. Post divorce, I got a dog which I highly recommend. I am tired of hearing spouses complain and criticize each other in conversations when the other spouse is not around. They don't realize how glad it makes me that I am single again.

  65. How do children factor into this? You barely have enough time together as a couple, not to talk of getting together with friends, and it doesn't matter at what age you marry. By the time you become empty nesters, about 18 to 20 years have passed before you can engage in the kind of social interactions suggested in this article. It would be helpful to us if the author can tell us how to raise healthy, creative, and smart children, keep an emotionally-satisfying marriage, with our social circles and professions intact.

  66. We are social beings, as well as sexual, and thrive when able to exercise those attributes, hopefully prudently. Our diversity is so rich, and individual needs as well, that it is difficult to pin down a straight line of conduct (behavior). It also varies, depending on our station in life, the time available, and our inner strength. But we cannot forget our less than perfect humanity, including our financial and health shortcomings, pesky elements barging in the picture. What seems of the essence is our ability, and willingness, to become open and susceptible to being hurt; that's the price of love.

  67. My partner and I have been together 18 years. As close as we are, we've also maintained our separate friendships and pursued our own interests. We even take separate vacations at times. Many people find this strange, but expecting your partner to be your everything is a recipe for unhappiness. I think the key is that we met in our 40s -- and I had always been single. As this article says, single people develop resources that can help in creating a happy partnership. I've met a lot of married people who are highly accomplished in their work lives yet find the thought of doing anything on their own terrifying - even something as simple as going out for a movie or a meal. While it may sound contradictory, I think a feeling of self-sufficiency is essential for having a healthy long-term relationship. You have to be OK on your own to be able to connect in a truly loving way. Dependency in any form kills relationships.

  68. Interesting article and a support system is good for everyone, but not sure that if you have a problem with your spouse you should be discussing it with a friend rather than your spouse. It might make you feel just as good, but your spouse might not feel the same way.

  69. We were very involved parents with 2 girls , scouts, dance, church, sports etc..Running around like crazy. I thought we had couple friends but they just dried up when the kids went away so now I still have all my sports friends to hang out with (endless 60+ basketball , tennis playing and watching) but no couple friends so I have to live 2 lives where I go to movies, walks, etc with wife and other things with friends with zero overlap. It causes a lot of stress and my wife's "single" skills are eroded as she has not worked much so has lost much ability to be independent. I dont know the answer

  70. Good try Stephanie. But on a note about family and spouses. I have a 90 year old mother who is largely taken care of by myself, her daughter. Guess who is my support network? My husband and two adult children. Our friends have their own elderly parents and grandchildren to fuss over. And at age 90, my mom's friends are deceased or in assessed living. And guess what else? When I had breast cancer, it was my husband who changed my surgery bandages every morning. Again, my friends had their own lives to handle. I don't discount friendships, but family still does the emotional, physical and financial heavy lifting when it comes to birth, sickness and death.

  71. Thank you for a realistic comment, which personally, I relate to.

  72. Many if not most married people don't "withdraw into their coupledom," which sounds selfish and solipsistic. Rather we spend time raising and providing for children, which isn't. With, say, two kids and two working parents--often a necessity--there's not a lot of extra time for "participating in clubs." I'm sure it's healthy to do so, but you paint it as an easier choice than it usually is.

  73. The concept of life-long monogamy was from a time when we were married at 13 and died at 18. Okay, I may be overstating the 18-year longevity, but not by much. Marriage needs to evolve as we learn to live past 100.

  74. I wonder what effect introversion and extroversion have on all of this. To me all of this socializing sounds exhausting. A lot of times I even want to be alone from my spouse. There’s nothing wrong with that either. I think what matters most is having a strong sense of self outside of ones role as a spouse. Whoever you do that with is up to you... you can even do it all by yourself. But sometimes I wonder if when extroverted people have limited social circles they become enmeshed in each other. They should go find 10 friends like that study said, that’s fine for them. I’m fine with my little handful.

  75. It's about time that articles started pointing these things out. I am 61 years old. Except for a couple mid-length same sex relationships I have remained single. I've come to understand that I am by nature a pretty independent sort of person, hence the single status. One of my favorite social pastimes is being the so-called "third wheel" to my married and otherwise coupled friends. I enjoy bringing fresh air into their world and I also really enjoy subtly helping them have more fun with each other. It's not that I am such a great altruistic person. Selfishly, I enjoy my friends more when they are coupled because they can then bring fresh air into MY world without weighing it down with excessive neediness.

  76. For a better marriage, find someone you love who loves you back! Not one mention of love. If the passion has passed, perhaps the marriage is just a shell, and living in a shell is not conducive for marriage. The data invoked here indicates almost a 30% drop in marriage rates in the prime adult years. Doesn't this tell us a lot? What about millennials who are delaying marriage....perhaps indefinitely. For them, it's an economic issue. No job, no marriage. And what about the research that has indicated that for most people, the number of close friends has dropped from 3 to 2 over the past 25 years. Read here: Now the many friends do you think most folks have now that we're all staring at our phones....even married people sitting at a restaurant table. We are all alone. And it's a public health crisis not unlike the opioid crisis.

  77. I use my phone to make calls. It is shut off when I interact with children, and it is shut off when I talk with adults and it is shut off when I am communicating with clients. That's the rules. Therefore I have six lifelong dear friends forever, and I must say tha-hang on a sec, call coming in..

  78. I have a good marriage. My husband and I share many interests in common. But after 15 years, it can feel claustrophobic. I always feel better when we interact with friends. It's like opening a window to a the attic and letting gusts of fresh air blow out the cobwebs and musty air.

  79. I heard a great quote once: "Love is not just looking at each other; it's looking in the same direction."

  80. So true! My husband and I used it in our wedding vows of 17 yrs ago--The quote is attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupery ( the author of "The Little Prince")

  81. My wonderful wife and I have been married for 43 years. I simply don’t understand the mindset at work in this article. It seems to treat marriage as an extended self-help/self-improvement project by which you do a, b and c and get outcome d. Love is our greatest mystery. You are loved, miraculously, for who you are and despite who you are. This article reduces love to nothing more than a goal to be accompanied. I can’t believe I am quoting him but as our awful president would say in one of his tweets, sad.

  82. The issue this article is addressing is social support networks. I was happily married for close to 22 years to a wonderful man. We shared many things including clients, to say nothing of our child. Between our daily commute and trying to spend time with our son, there was precious little time left. He was not only my best friend but my lover, and business adviser. When he died at a young age from cancer, I felt lost. Because our lives were so busy, I had few friends. But young widowhood forced me to make new friends. I'm not sure what I would do without them. My parents, sibling and son have been incredibly supportive, but my friends have been my lifeline.

  83. I missed your point. And I don't feel sad after reading the article. I did not see anywhere that love is a goal to be accompanied. Perhaps what is sad is that a simple little article by Stephanie Coontz can be so thoroughly misinterpreted. And you can believe that you quoted Trump because you chose to quote Trump.

  84. I so agree with the article. I just ended an eleven year relationship (started in our 50s) I'm a widow and he's divorced. In the beginning years of our relationship, we spent a lot of time alone-in love and did not nurture other relationships as much as I would have liked. My ex is an ultra-introvert and doesn't have many friends and spends very little time socializing. I am also a mild introvert, but enjoyed spending time with friends alone and with my partner (as long as I get some recovery time) and would have liked my partner to spend time away from the relationship with his friends and contribute to a network of friends that we could both enjoy. But any socializing with others would be by my efforts. Over the years, I just wasn't happy with our social life (in addition to other factors) and realized that to be happy in my coming old age, I needed to free myself so that I could pursue greater ones with friends. Like with so much else, his reaction to our breakup was underwhelming.

  85. Widowhood is treated shallowly here. Of course a recently widowed person is not, immediately afterward, as "happy" as when married. That doesn't have to do with not having friends -- I had such good friends! who said and did the "right" things. It has to do with grief. After 31 and a half years of sharing the world, I missed him. Doesn't mean I didn't cultivate friendships during marriage and child-rearing. Five years later, I still miss him -- but I have a good and happy life again. Still have good friends; many the same, some new. I didn't like how this article diminishes some states of being as a failure to nurture relationships, but I do understand (and agree with) most of the points she made. I'll add one: This piece doesn't get into that pesky mortality thing, which shrinks even the most vibrant circle of friends. The older we get, we need to cultivate some friends of newer generations. Just saying.

  86. Who has time for 10 or more friendships at age 45? I count myself lucky to have two very good friends and maybe five family members who are close. I don't buy it.

  87. People who aren't slaves to their marriages and children, of course :D In seriousness though, it's a choice in the sense that if one has free time, one can decide whether to watch Netflix or to socialize. I have more than ten friends, and I surely hope that that doesn't change anytime soon, otherwise I'd definitely be on the Prozac train. Cheers!

  88. Agree. Actually at any age-- 10 friendships? I'd say acquaintances, and fewer actual friends. That's different. And among friends, a few close ones at any given time. And friends move away, or relationships shift. The author is trying to push her viewpoint.

  89. I have my beautiful wife of almost 43 years. Great sons, a daughter-in-law and a soon to be one. And yes two adorable grandchildren. I have five close friends, and I don't need or want more. Could I keep track of more? Probably not. And my wife, Charlotte, is my best friend also.

  90. Many of the people who plan to be married do not make an important distinction between ephemeral infatuation and stable attachment, also called true love. Matrimony based on the former is mental aberration, that should have been recognized as such and, perhaps, treated psychologically. But the latter cause of matrimony is not all bed of roses. An air-tight assets separation agreement is a must that will spare much tears, anguish, and money, should the couple find themselves not sufficiently compatible for married life.

  91. I would never rely on my own, unscientific observations over peer reviewed studies based on empirical evidence. But what I have observed over many years of marrriage is this: married couples who are best friends seem happiest and are the most long lasting and stable. Married couples who need to socialize heavily with others all the time seem less satisfied with their marriages and in search of something else. So really, it’s not as much about marriage as it is about who you marry. If you find someone whose company you like above most others, then that’s great. You should socialize with others - keep the common friends and your own friends - but if you really want to be exclusively with your spouse most of the time, that’s not unhealthy. Not at all.

  92. The author confuses "socializing" with singleness. Practicing singleness in marriage implies developing a life outside of the marriage - something your spouse has no part in. This is not a recipe for stronger more fulfilled marriages. Now, socializing more as a married couple and socializing more as a married person can definitely improve individual well being and marital well-being. That is very different from cultivating the skills of singleness within a marriage. That is what you do when your marriage isn't working or when it only "works" because you see so little of each other.

  93. This is all true, but depends so much on luck: - Do you have a spouse that will encourage/support your outside activities/friendships? (My ex did not and actively disparaged my friends) - Will your spouse be willing to watch your children so you can go out and vice versa? (Mine would never say no directly but would weasel out. His time away from me and kids? Sacred, and I had no say in it, and I was a horrible person if I complained) - Does your spouse expect you to have a ready-made social circle for him/her? (Yes, my ex did expect that of me, blamed me when I didn’t produce one for him, and he was restless and anxious if he had to go out with me alone; he didn’t like it.) Thus, I have divorced, and I am much happier now. I do wonder if I will marry again; it’s too soon to say.

  94. The article gives some good advice, however, it has one major flaw that must be considered in modern day society: the ubiquitous cellphone. Notice the graphic at the top of the page. Have you been anywhere in the last ten years when you saw twelve people around a table that was not texting or talking? Of course not. In the image, there is not even one cellphone laying on the table. The author must have return this year after getting lost in a time warp. Cellphones have annihilated social interactions between single people and married people. Answer this question honestly: have you and your wife — or significant other — ever experienced your partner texting while the two of you were engaged in foreplay? Hmmm.

  95. The key here is not to preach. Everybody is different. Your headline is good for some but not all. Yes, when you get marriage, fidelity is one of the basic tenets and goals of the bond. However total fidelity in thought, mind and deed or total cheating either are rare or do not work. You have to find outside interests/activities with other people. It is the nature of the beast. Man (or woman) cannot live by bread alone or wedded to each other like conjoined twins. Having said that, the urge to stray will increase. It is up to each individual's morality, risk tolerance and ability to stray that will rule.

  96. If I have to act like a single person, I'd rather just stay single.

  97. Don’t people all realize by now that Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a cruel marketing scheme connived by Hallmark cards, FTD flowers and Sees candy? It’s not real people! Just live your lives the way that works best for you and your other half, and good luck trying to convince them of that. Swallow hard, force yourself to pretend to like whatever the special valentines menu only is, and try not to think about all the money you just wasted on it. Thank God it’s only one day and not a whole season like Christmas.

  98. It’s reminding” Readers Digest “ articles,not in pejorative way. Stunning about the kind of cost -benefit labeling ,especially all about health risks...

  99. My husband works tirelessly as an ER doc most of the time while I focus on meeting the myriad needs of our autistic child. Now we have to suddenly plan extended social engagements the minute we land some downtime? Give me a break!

  100. I would like to read something on how married people treat their single friends...or even singles who are close opinion is that married people are most selfish in their own interests and treat singles with not as much respect. They like to brag about their issues as though single people have to empathise with them, and single people have to feel as though married peoples' problems are bigger than theirs. Single people deal with everything on their own and dont have much room for whining like married people do...about time married people stop getting the kind of importance they always do compared to singles.

  101. A couple of years ago, while chatting with friends, one of whom had was in the middle of a acrimonious separation from his wife of 25 years, I jokingly said to my wife: "Hey...the kids are finally out of the house...maybe we should just get divorced and then just date like in the old days." Instead of the expected "don't go there" response I got a "...hmmm, interesting idea..." Upon hearing that, I fell in love all over again.

  102. I’ve observed it working well in many Baby Boomer marriages! If I ever get married I’ll try it.

  103. Probably a terrible title for this article. It should have read something about social networks not acting like a single person - aka living alone. As a woman single for 20 years after a 20 year marriage, I married a man who might as well be single. He leaves stuff all around, takes food and drink for himself even if I'm standing there, and makes plans without discussing even when they involve me. I alread raised 2 kids who are thoughtful adults and have no interest in raising another to have manners. Divorce at 72 is looking good.

  104. Who has time for social circles when raising kids and working full-time jobs?

  105. What a bunch of poppycock. Married people have fewer outside friendships due to having children, jobs and a marriage. There is LESS TIME for these! People also tend to prefer the company of those who are at the same stage in life as they are. A married couple with two children, ages 2 and 4, have little in common with there never married friends. My own daughter is 45 with her eldest going off to college next fall; she has old friends with children under age five! They have a history together, but they are SO not in the same place right now. Yes, couples do need to make the effort to continue to have friends outside of family. But with women working, that is so much harder - weekends are the time to catch up on chores, not clean the house and host a dinner party. And going out may not be compatible with that college fund that is getting most of their discretionary income these days. Divorced people with children have a harder time. In order to stay connected to their children, they must use virtually all their spare non-working time to do so - they don't see them on a daily basis. Yes, in some areas, joint custody is the norm, but in major cities with commuter times that are lengthy, that is often not possible without enormous childcare costs. All this "date night" stuff is ridiculous. Buy a nicer cut of meat and fix a special dinner every now and then - one after the children have gone to bed. Rent or stream a movie and watch it together.

  106. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or something like that. ''Coupling'' ( whether you are sanctioning it on paper in front of some God or the state ) is the idea that you have a favorite. You WANT to spend more time with them and WANT to do more things with them. There is always going to be a balance to said things and there is never going to be a ''how to guide'' to doing them. You are both ( or more ) going to have to find what works for all. The trick ( so I am told ) is to have the same enthusiasm for the person(s) long after you have decided to be that couple. You find ways to keep it fresh and surprise the other. You explore and expand as a person with them, It's not where you end up, but rather how you progress along the way.

  107. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or something like that. ''Coupling'' ( whether you are sanctioning it on paper in front of some God or the state ) is the idea that you have a favorite. You WANT to spend more time with them and WANT to do more things with them. There is always going to be a balance to said things and there is never going to be a ''how to guide'' to doing them. You are both ( or more ) going to have to find what works for all. The trick ( so I am told ) is to have the same enthusiasm for the person(s) long after you have decided to be that couple. You find ways to keep it fresh and surprise the other. You explore and expand as a person with them, It's not where you end up, but rather how you progress along the way.

  108. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or something like that. ''Coupling'' ( whether you are sanctioning it on paper in front of some God or the state ) is the idea that you have a favorite. You WANT to spend more time with them and WANT to do more things with them. There is always going to be a balance to said things and there is never going to be a ''how to guide'' to doing them. You are both ( or more ) going to have to find what works for all. The trick ( so I am told ) is to have the same enthusiasm for the person(s) long after you have decided to be that couple. You find ways to keep it fresh and surprise the other. You explore and expand as a person with them, It's not where you end up, but rather how you progress along the way.

  109. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or something like that. ''Coupling'' ( whether you are sanctioning it on paper in front of some God or the state ) is the idea that you have a favorite. You WANT to spend more time with them and WANT to do more things with them. There is always going to be a balance to said things and there is never going to be a ''how to guide'' to doing them. You are both ( or more ) going to have to find what works for all. The trick ( so I am told ) is to have the same enthusiasm for the person(s) long after you have decided to be that couple. You find ways to keep it fresh and surprise the other. You explore and expand as a person with them, It's not where you end up, but rather how you progress along the way.

  110. In which group did all these studies place the "long-term coupled / cohabiting but not actually married"?

  111. A secret to surviving the ups and downs of many years of marriage to the same person is to manage expectations. Marry the person of your dreams. Wish and work for them to be your best friend. Include them in your social circle. Then stuff happens. Stress turns those charming eccentricities and foibles into boondoggles. You manage endless workarounds. They stake their claim to separate space and money and decision-making, yet you want to stay married. It's complicated. You live life as if you are single.

  112. This article and the responses are similar to the Indian fable about a group of blind people trying to describe an elephant. Each come up with an isolated truth which they think describes the nature of the beast. Humans are social animals, similar to ants, termites, and bees, or slightly more relevant, mole rats. Such animals are known as eusocial creatures in that they have hive minds. On our planet, only Homo sapiens have instincts of eusocial animals but are self aware individuals, most critically aware of our mortality. Like all animals we are motivated to stay alive and to pass on genes. Our complex evolved natural computers (human nervous system) is buggy because of our animal nature and primitive lower brain. No human invented brain (which may reach self awareness in a few decades) currently feels similar complex drives and urges. To go back to the topic, most humans feel urges to survive, mate, and reproduce and to be accepted and approved by other humans.Part of our evolution is to is to be curious and exploratory and to lie. I have been married for over 50 years to the only woman I ever mated with and who ever mated with me. I felt the urge to explore other relationships and never gave in to those urges. I think my wife never even felt such urges. Our example tells you nothing more than we are two examples among the billions of human relationships. This article has some mildly useful general observations, but everyone will have to find their own way.

  113. My late cousin who was like my Mom always said to be to remember we come alone and go alone. Yes I have been married for a long time with a great guy but we are worlds apart. Perhaps have nothing in common, I listen to music alone with no television going and hubby after a long day wants TV only. I do everything alone, shopping and other things. But also enjoy when my Husband comes home doing whatever he wants to do like watching news. It is simply just okay to be alone and more and more I see women or men dine alone in a restaurant .

  114. The author relies on data about heterosexual marriages. Which makes sense; I’m not complaining! Something like 99% of U.S. marriages are probably between straight men and women. Still, I’ve gotta wonder what data these studies would yield if they focused on gay couples. We’re used to thinking about homosexuality for all its disadvantages—for obvious reasons. But there are a couple benefits, the most important of which, in my experience, is the absence of all the baggage associated with heterosexual gender roles. It’s a lot easier to conceive of your partner as a true equal, which... is kinda beautiful. I’ve also noticed that my gay friends in long-term relationships behave like best friends and lovers simultaneously, whereas my straight friends sometimes treat their significant others like they’re different species with whom they only share a sexual language.

  115. How about the married folk just stop competing with each other, a competition that sometimes devolves into frequent interruption of the other spouse? How about an occasional truce of all conflict just to get the flavor of a peaceful home and soak up a little quiet? Love is a very powerful force to keep couples together and there are a lot of couples that do manage to do that for a long time whatever the obstacles.

  116. I "like" my wife. I was 35 when we married, and she was 30. Now some 30 years later I still really "like" my wife. What we have in our relationship, and that makes it successful, are "boundaries". Independence. Time alone (due to business travel), and intimate conversations that are approached with respect and caution. I can be an idiot, but I will eventually realize that, and while my wife may be "instrumental" in that epiphany, I never feel attacked. All of this comes from making mistakes in earlier relationships, and learning from it. Most of our married friends follow the same pattern. There are couples we know that got married early, had children, and now feel "trapped" and miserable. They don't seem to be unsuited to each other, it just seems like they got together "too soon"; before they each became adults.

  117. Marriage is out of date in the modern western world. It is a traditional institution used to control society, and particularly women and imbue guilt on those who fraternize with people outside of the marriage. Today women have careers, social lives, and increasingly don't even need a man to have kids (and many rear kids alone anyway due to the rife phenomenon of deadbeat dads).

  118. Please, relax with the studies! That's the problem with us Westerners, is that everything needs to be quantified, and ideally, justified by how "profitable" or well-off it makes us. Europeans don't live in the same scientific bubble. Sure, studies have their place, but with the tendency to "p-hack" to report sensationalist "junk science" that attracts readers, we lose sight of basic common sense that has been passed along centuries from treasured sources like literature (Dostoevsky, anyone?) or music (try any Ella Fitzgerald love song) that might teach us more about love and human nature than a percentage sign.

  119. @MarkSiegel below: Hear, hear! Not a mention of love. We Americans simply adore this entire transactional/Return-on-Invement psychobabble even when it comes to the most intimate details of our lives: the love in a marriage/partnership. We're a gay couple in our mid-50s who will celebrate 25 years together in May. We are now in our 11th home, in the seventh country, on the fourth continent. Unlike the "business model" explained in the article, we didn't actually "arrange in love"... we "fell" in love. And we call it falling... for a reason.

  120. Much of this seems like a crock to me. I've been with the same guy for 38 years, married 32 of them. I don't think one needs a huge social network to provide some kind of support outside of marriage. A few close friends would do. Anyone so cocooned in their marriage as to have no friends is probably in an overly controlling and unhappy marriage anyway. My husband tells people I'm his best friend; I certainly have no other I would choose over him as mine. But we have friends we dine with, friends we have over for parties, friends we travel with, and friends we just see once a year, new friends, old friends. Dates are good; double dates are good. Time with the kids is good; time without the kids is good. Moderation and all, you know. Be nice. Treat everyone the way you wish they treated you. Like they say about being rich: It's not hard to have a happy healthy marriage, if that's what you want.

  121. For a better Marriage, act like an older person. Seriously.

  122. "participating in clubs, political organizations, teams, unions and churches." I guess those of us who are not social justice warriors (political organizations, unions), jocks (teams) or believers in medieval superstitions (churches) will have to stick to socializing with our spouses :-)

  123. The artificial social construct of “marriage“ needs to disappear. It was useful when the species needed to expand. Now that we’ve overpopulated and are actively destroying our only home it is irrelevant. Relationships should be OPEN and free of false societal dictates of morality. Go forth and enjoy companionship with whom ever and with as many as you like. Yes even simultaneously if you like. Just don’t MULTIPLY!

  124. The headline is clickbait, of course, and the idea is that a marriage is more likely to succeed if both partners have friends rather than relying on their spouse to be their everything. Sadly so many couples are working incredibly long hours and then playing catch-up on time with kids on weekends that they struggle to maintime friendships or make new ones.

  125. My advice. Both of you keep your friends and see them often. Respect one another. Curb that critical tongue. Maintain separate checking accounts and investments as feasible. Respect boundaries. Say nice things. A kiss going out the door adds 5 years to your lives. Share the housework. Have parties and sports-related gatherings. Make sure that job of yours comes with a pension. Purchase what enthralls you, and stop buying junk.

  126. What dangerous nonsense is this? I admit, it has some interesting research cited, but completely erroneous (yet feel-good) inference drawing. Happy marriage, and good social network of friends are largely independent things. Why? Because having one does not require another. Drawing some sort of a connection is nonsensical; correlation is spurious. Analogy: owning a nice car makes you happy, Having running water in your bath and kitchen makes you happy. Having both make you happier. If the car is unreliable, and/or the water service is either not there or intermittent, you would be miserable. But you are saying: in order to be happy with your car, go out and create a happy running water situation. Now imagine how absurd some pundit would sound, if while addressing people happy with cars, s/he says: get a house with running water in bath and kitchen. Is about how absurd you sound. Kalidan

  127. A Willa Cather quote that sticks with me whenever I think about giving up my precious and coveted singlehood for romantic male company: “men are all right for friends, but once you marry them they turn into cranky old fathers, even the wild ones. They begin to tell you what is sensible and foolish....I prefer to be accountable to nobody.”

  128. Having friends and being social while married is healthy.

  129. My grandmother once advised me not to marry a man who didn't have any friends.

  130. The secret to marriage is selflessness.