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Do You Think The Average Person Needs A Romantic Partner To Be Happy?

CanadaApple
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Joined: Dec 1 2011

This is the first thread I'm starting here, so I'm sorry if I'm doing anything wrong!Smile

Basically, what I'm asking is, do you think that the average person needs a romantic partner to be happy in their life? Im sure that some people can get by with out one, and I'm sure that the average person doesn't need to be in a romantic relationship every single day of their life, but on average do you think it's a kep part of being happy?

I ask because, and I hate to say it, but I've never really been in a relationship, and I've always felt like it was something that was missing in my life.

So, what are your thoughts? Sorry if this shouldn't go here, but I wasn't sure wheer else it would go...

 


Comments

Ken Burch
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Joined: Feb 26 2005

Actually, that's an interesting question.


A partner in love and life can make a person happier, in my own experience, but it's a little dangerous to your own mental health to predicate your own happiness on being in a relationship.  You need to be happy on your own before you can really be part of a healthy emotional partnership, from what I've seen.

 


Maysie
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Joined: Apr 21 2005

Hi CanadaApple.

You've asked an interesting question, but I'm not sure how possible it is to answer it.

Everyone will have their thoughts about it, but as a sociology-type I prefer to look at what is possible to study and measure, in a social-sciencey kind of way. In other words, any conclusions from research will be about generalities and not specifics. This also means such studies will be guided by our current society's prerogatives, ie, hetereosexuality, class assumptions, race assumptions and the idea of "women and marriage", something loaded with all of that, plus sexist assumptions.

By the way, I found no articles (quick google search) that discussed "men and marriage." Not a surprise, but still.

Cohabitation also seems to be not seen as an option. Perhaps since it functions the same way as marriage does, it's the social equivalent.

So, that said, I heard of a study from years ago (sorry, no link), about happiness as connected to being married or being in a relationship, that lists the levels of happiness as follows:

From happiest to least happy:

Single women

Married men

Married women

Single men

Here's what my quick google search found:

Who's happier: Single or married women?

Quote:
In many ways, staying single makes sense, especially for women. Legally, women who choose to forgo marriage have all of the same rights married women do, aside from a few tax breaks, and personally, they're free of the stress and compromise marriage inevitably involves.

This article is a bit stupid, but worth a look: Are married people happier than singles?

Quote:

But betting on marriage to bring you happiness may be a risky gamble. After all, the odds of holding on to that perfect partner forever have been whittled down to a coin flip -- about 48 percent of marriages end in divorce [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

I love how the marriage stats come from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Hee hee. But that's my bias.

My quick and dirty "happiness as related to being single or coupled assessment" goes something like this. 50% (or so) of legal marriages end in divorce. Of the remaining 50% who are married, many are miserable at a point in time where a survey might be done (even if they get divorced later). There are also many couples who stay together and are miserable unto death do them part.

This math ain't hard to do. Smile

And finally, studies on happiness and other socially desired phenomenon are notoriously problematic because of response bias, that is, participants giving answers they think the researcher is looking for.


CanadaApple
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Joined: Dec 1 2011

Thanks for that very well thought out answer Maysie, though I didn't exactly have marriage in mind when I asked the question. Tongue out

 

But yeah...I'm not exactly sure how you could scientifically measure happiness in/out of relationships. Maybe it's better to go with just your own personal experience?


Catchfire
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Joined: Apr 16 2003

Thanks for starting this thread, CanadaApple. Great topic!

If it's true, I worry for humanity (well, I do anyway) because I wonder how many people actually have "romantic" partners--even those who are married! I mean, what do we mean by "romantic" anyway? Sexually attracted? Economically co-dependent? Personality affinity? Domestically cemented? Shared appreciation of rock climbing?

Humans are social creatures, right? And there are a myriad of relationships that make life better--work relationships, family relationships, romantic relationships, random relationships--and we invest and profit from in them in different ways (excuse the capitalist metaphor).

There is simply no way you could throw all your energy into a single relationship--say, a monogamous, long-term, sexual and economic pact--and it could give you everything you need to be "happy." It is not a panacea to alienation and malaise. Sure, you could find yourself in a rewarding, enjoyable relationship with a member of a gender to which you are attracted erotically, but you'd need all kinds of other relationships to coexist with that one. I know many people who get by great without a conventional romantic partnership, because they have wonderful relationships with friends, colleagues, family and even pets (maybe especially pets! I know I do...)

I mean, we also need to ask what it means to be happy, right? Is that possible in a social and economic system which strips us down to our net dollar worth and reduces human relations to an economic exchange? How can we know anyone in that context? How can we know ourselves? Just think about the pressures that make us ask the kind of question phrased in the OP: we are told, everywhere, always, that the impossible Hollywood relationship--which will fulfill us in all parts of our life--is all we need to be happy. How can we be happy, truly, when the one blueprint we're given is so obviously impossible?

In short, no. And also yes. But mostly no.


Merowe
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Joined: Apr 16 2003

Catchfire wrote:

Thanks for starting this thread, CanadaApple. Great topic!

If it's true, I worry for humanity (well, I do anyway) because I wonder how many people actually have "romantic" partners--even those who are married! I mean, what do we mean by "romantic" anyway? Sexually attracted? Economically co-dependent? Personality affinity? Domestically cemented? Shared appreciation of rock climbing?

Humans are social creatures, right? And there are a myriad of relationships that make life better--work relationships, family relationships, romantic relationships, random relationships--and we invest and profit from in them in different ways (excuse the capitalist metaphor).

There is simply no way you could throw all your energy into a single relationship--say, a monogamous, long-term, sexual and economic pact--and it could give you everything you need to be "happy." It is not a panacea to alienation and malaise. Sure, you could find yourself in a rewarding, enjoyable relationship with a member of a gender to which you are attracted erotically, but you'd need all kinds of other relationships to coexist with that one. I know many people who get by great without a conventional romantic partnership, because they have wonderful relationships with friends, colleagues, family and even pets (maybe especially pets! I know I do...)

I mean, we also need to ask what it means to be happy, right? Is that possible in a social and economic system which strips us down to our net dollar worth and reduces human relations to an economic exchange? How can we know anyone in that context? How can we know ourselves? Just think about the pressures that make us ask the kind of question phrased in the OP: we are told, everywhere, always, that the impossible Hollywood relationship--which will fulfill us in all parts of our life--is all we need to be happy. How can we be happy, truly, when the one blueprint we're given is so obviously impossible?

In short, no. And also yes. But mostly no.

Great post, great subject! An intimate relationship doesn't have to give you everything, just something.

I'm thinking about modernity, how its sundered the apparently traditional institution of marraige which was what, formalized sexual pairing for the purposes of childrearing? That must go back culturally, I mean, to biological places...if birds do it...it's not even mammalian behavior ha ha...

Isn't the whole 'romantic' construct a relatively recent creation, a few centuries maybe? Before that, what? How far back is the first love poem? (And what was the object of the poet's attention?)

But doesn't a pair, a couple, realize all sorts of useful economies of scale in mundane tasks of daily life that are also compelling from a survival point of view?


MegB
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Joined: Nov 28 2001

I think of "happy" as the punctuation in periods of relative satisfaction in life.  I've lived most of my adult life as a single person, but met someone special 10 years ago and married him (a big surprise for me) 4 years ago.  When I was single, I enjoyed my life.  I was social, had a decent job that I didn't hate, had creative outlets and had the love of my family, children and wonderful friends.  Being married was never on my radar and being in a long term relationship wasn't a goal for me.

What I can say is that when you share your life with someone in a romantic way, it can either be a source of stress or its opposite.  I am happily married to someone I love without reserve, but we've been through some hellish times and I think that the measure of any relationship is how it weathers life's storms. 

Is being in a romantic relationship necessary to happiness?  Hell no.  Is being in love with your best friend and having that love reciprocated a good thing?  Hell yes.


Gaian
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Joined: Aug 5 2011
Yes, I had to learn that love and friendship are a necessary pair, second time around. Spent my adolescence in the company of Bogey and Bacall, Clark and Vivien. Was warped. CA, if it's not to be marriage but " happiness in/out of relationships. Maybe it's better to go with jusst you own personal experience?"- keep in mind that while your "experience" will mount, you should look around at the experience of the aged single, before letting life leave you in that condition. Not to be too utilitarian about it all, of course, but contentment is great. :) p.s. It seems to me that Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's life, mentioned in babble's obit thread, demonstrates the flexibility sometimes forced on us by life's "experiences" and absolutely necessary to reach anything approaching "happiness."

wage zombie
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Joined: Dec 8 2004

Quote:

I'm thinking about modernity, how its sundered the apparently traditional institution of marraige which was what, formalized sexual pairing for the purposes of childrearing? That must go back culturally, I mean, to biological places...if birds do it...it's not even mammalian behavior ha ha...

Isn't the whole 'romantic' construct a relatively recent creation, a few centuries maybe? Before that, what? How far back is the first love poem? (And what was the object of the poet's attention?)

I've heard that idea, but I've considered it, but I just don't believe that romantic love is come new cultural creation.

Rumi is listed as being born in 1207, and while his love poems may have been about God (the Mystery), the richness of the language suggests to me that romantic love must've been around already then.

I don't know how old the source is for what we think of as "the Greek myths", but certainly whoever came up with them had a developed working notion of romantic love.  I think there are "beloveds" and "love potions" and "love rituals" going back several thousand years easily in Indian literature (the Vedas).

I don't think there is much pair bonding among non-human primates, and I have read theories about how pair bonding was a significant strategy in our evolution.  One wonders how this could've come about.

On the other hand, I believe I have witnessed two dogs "falling in love".  And check out this video of a leopard and tiger couple.

Did white europeans invent 'falling in love' a couple centuries ago?  What about brain chemistry?  I'm not sure it responds that quickly.


Gaian
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Joined: Aug 5 2011
When a hunter - maybe someone working on his third marriage - shoots one of a pair of geese, he condemns the other to life on the edge of the flock, alone. No, it's only Homo sapiens' hubris that allows it to make such statements about sentiments among other sentient creatures.

Maysie
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Joined: Apr 21 2005

Catchfire wrote:
 It is not a panacea to alienation and malaise.

That would be where recreational drugs come in. Wink

In related news, rats have feeings too. Awwwww.

Quote:

Given a choice between munching on a tasty chocolate treat or helping a fellow rat escape from a restraint, test rodents often preferred to liberate a pal in need, indicating that their empathy for others was reward enough.

.....


Researchers started by housing 30 rats together in pairs, each duo sharing the same cage for two weeks. Then, they moved them to a new cage where one rat was held in a restraining device while the other could roam free.

The free rat could see and hear his (or her - six of the rats were female) trapped buddy, and appeared more agitated while the entrapment was going on.

The door to the trapping enclosure was not easy to open, but most rats figured it out within three to seven days. Once they knew how, they went straight to the door to open it every time they were put in the cage.

To test the rats' true bond to their cagemates, researchers also ran the experiment with toys in the restraint to see if the rats would free the fake stuffed rats like they did their comrades. They did not.

Now that's friendship! Or love. Or something.

 

Smile

 

 



Bacchus
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Joined: Dec 8 2003

Merowe wrote:

Isn't the whole 'romantic' construct a relatively recent creation, a few centuries maybe? Before that, what? How far back is the first love poem? (And what was the object of the poet's attention?)

But doesn't a pair, a couple, realize all sorts of useful economies of scale in mundane tasks of daily life that are also compelling from a survival point of view?

 

Roman love poet Catullus?  Thats 2 thousand years ago for one example just off the top of my head.


Catchfire
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Joined: Apr 16 2003

As much as I'm sure you all want me to go into a historical exposition of love poetry, starting with Ovid, I think I'll demur for the time being. But it should be obvious that what counted as love poetry to Catullus is much different than what counts as love poetry to Petrarch, Shakespeare, Keats, Eliot and Ginsberg. Not to mention Sappho, Browning, Dickinson, or Plath. So I'm definitely inclined to agree with Merowe that modernity and modernism have shattered what we used to think of as romantic and so we're in the process of writing new definitions which are just as fragile as the conventions we know.


MegB
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Joined: Nov 28 2001

The Epic of Gilgamesh dates from about 4 thousand years ago, and it deals with the love and friendship between Gilgamesh and his friend Endiku, and the goddess Ishtar certainly has the hots for Gilgamesh.  I also remember an archaeology survey course I took in first year. In one of the lectures about ancient Sumer, the prof mentioned an even older text - a romantic poem written by a woman believed to be a priestess of Ishtar.


CanadaApple
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Joined: Dec 1 2011

Rebecca West wrote:

The Epic of Gilgamesh dates from about 4 thousand years ago, and it deals with the love and friendship between Gilgamesh and his friend Endiku, and the goddess Ishtar certainly has the hots for Gilgamesh.  I also remember an archaeology survey course I took in first year. In one of the lectures about ancient Sumer, the prof mentioned an even older text - a romantic poem written by a woman believed to be a priestess of Ishtar.

And IIRC, Endiku was made "human" after he was seduced by a woman.


Gaian
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Joined: Aug 5 2011
The first cautionary tale.

Maysie
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Joined: Apr 21 2005

Cautionary tale to whom? Men, to beware of evil sinful lustful women? Nice, Gaian.

What year is this?


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

Agreed, Maysie, that hit me wrong too.

I think I'd rather be single forever than to be in a relationship with this guy.  (Thanks for the link, Maysie!)

In answer to the thread question: I don't know - maybe yes for the "average" person.  (Or, at least, society gives us messages all the time that the only way to be truly happy is to be in a good romantic relationship, and the "average" person buys into that idea, whether they ever manage to achieve it themselves or not.)

But then, who's average?  My friends fall into at least one of these categores: In relationships and happy, in relationships and wish they were in a happier relationship, single and happy to be out of a bad relationship, or single and wish they were in a good relationship.  And then I know a couple of people who are simply single and just happy to be single.  So I guess it varies.


Gaian
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Joined: Aug 5 2011
Maysie wrote:

Cautionary tale to whom? Men, to beware of evil sinful lustful women? Nice, Gaian.

What year is this?

I would not DARE to write that without tongue in cheek, Maysie. There must be some tiny place for humorous treatment of that hoary old canard between the sexes? Indeed, who today could state that with a straight face except the very ugly? Does it always require this :) as a followup? Just a soupcon of space for solace? Cause I sure as shit am not going to offer an apology to those who have no space left for repartee. Not only am I not a part of "the problem," I worked beside my late partner for many years with overcoming society's sexism in mind. Find another, easier target, and some space for the not completely humourless. I did post this in the obit thread next door with empathy for her task in mind: "Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, 65, biographer, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, and Anna Freud: A Biography. Leaving a tenured professorship, she continued to write, The Anatomy of Prejudices leading to her last work, Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children. She had no children of her own from a brief marriage 40 years ago and had, as the Globe's Sandra Martin tells it, " made her name writing about two other childless women, became fascinated with children through writing Anna Freud's biography, her own work as a therapist and her personal life as an aunt and a stepmother. "She came to believe that prejudice against children was intertwined with all the other prejudices she had written about, and was also embedded in the history of psychoanalysis. "Childism" will be published by Yale Press next month." She died on Dec. 1 from a pulmonary embolism after attending a Tafelmusik concert in Toronto with her partner in marriage, Christine Dunbar." Or do you suspect a Jekyl and Hyde personality at work here :) Just to be safe, another one :)

Maysie
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Joined: Apr 21 2005

I never asked for an apology, Gaian. babble has taught me to set achievable goals.

(Hint, that was a joke)

Back on topic:

Michelle wrote:
 My friends fall into at least one of these categores: In relationships and happy, in relationships and wish they were in a happier relationship, single and happy to be out of a bad relationship, or single and wish they were in a good relationship.  And then I know a couple of people who are simply single and just happy to be single.

I have been all of those things, and depending on the day/week/month/year/decade, can be more than one in a relatively short period of time. The answer to your original question, CanadaApple, is, like the phrase "It was nice to meet you", inconclusive. I hope you're happy now. Tongue out 


takeitslowly
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Joined: May 31 2009

imo, i need a romantic and sexual partner in order to be happy.

 

I feel like i am undesirable when i do not have a man who want to be with me, i feel ugly, i know thats really my self esteem problem, but thats how i feel.


Glenl
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Joined: Jun 22 2011
Partners are not required to be happy, but being loved by someone makes everything easier.

Maysie
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Joined: Apr 21 2005

A successful [relationship] is basically an endless cycle of wrongs committed, apologies offered, and forgiveness granted…all leavened by the occasional orgasm. – Dan Savage


MegB
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Joined: Nov 28 2001

Ha! Maysie that made me smile out loud!


eastnoireast
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Joined: Apr 27 2011

"generally, yes", in answer to the question,

but the tricky thing for me has always been, and i think is the big qualifier to the question, is that you have to be fairly happy with yourself, single, in order to be happy in a relationship.

if a relationship is a raising of something larger, something more complex than just one person, then the more autonomously stable (happy, non-dependant), each of the people, the inputs, are, the better.

of course, in a relationship you kinda pool your skills and such, so one does become "dependant" as well as stronger; but the idea is to grow something larger, not entangle you or your partner.

i've been through famine and feast, relationship-wise, and that's how it's seemed to me, anyway.


autoworker
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Joined: Dec 21 2008

Can an average person find happiness in a relationship with someone on either side of the mean?


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

I think the average person thinks he or she needs to be coupled up to be happy. 

But the fact is that if you are in a relationship you still wind up having to deal with your own shit (on some level, anyway) just the same as before.

 


milo204
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Joined: Feb 3 2010

We all need a little romance in our lives.  Doing that with the same person or different people isn't important except for what makes you happy.  It doesn't matter if you're in a long term relationship or not, you can be happy either way.  And you can be pretty sure there's tons of other people who feel the same way.  

I know people who are always in a committed relationship, i know folks that have been single for years, i know celibates, people in open relationships..they have all found their own particular happiness and it works great for them.  The common theme was they were all just taking it in stride without too many expectations of what things should be or what kind of relationship they "should be in" at that stage in their life.


CanadaApple
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Joined: Dec 1 2011

Maysie wrote:

I have been all of those things, and depending on the day/week/month/year/decade, can be more than one in a relatively short period of time. The answer to your original question, CanadaApple, is, like the phrase "It was nice to meet you", inconclusive. I hope you're happy now. Tongue out 

I expected that "answer". Tongue out

It doesn't exactly make me happy, so I guess I have to find another answer for myself. SmileEmbarassed

 


wage zombie
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Joined: Dec 8 2004

You'll never really know until you try it.


CanadaApple
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Joined: Dec 1 2011

wage zombie wrote:

You'll never really know until you try it.

True, but it's easier said than done for some people. Tongue out


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