The Sex and the City ladies were feisty, gutsy. Our
Friends girlfriends had great ... friends. Thirty years ago, our
mentor was Mary Tyler Moore. In the 1960s, our guru was Helen Gurley Brown with
her liberating book, Sex and the Single Girl.
But medical studies show just the opposite -- that married people are
happier and healthier than single women. The pressure to marry is even greater
than ever, says Bella M. DePaulo, PhD, social psychologist at the University of
California, Santa Barbara, and author of the book Singled Out.
By Laura Berman
It happens at my speaking engagements, of course, but also at cocktail parties and PTA meetings, even in department stores: People who've learned that I'm a sex therapist have tons of questions for me. Some just want to hear more about what I do, but most are concerned with very specific issues — things they've been wondering about but haven't felt comfortable asking (until they run into me shopping for shoes!). I'm happy to answer, if time and the setting permit. Not only does...
"It's an old-fashioned message, that you're better off if you find a
man," DePaulo tells WebMD. "It's this idea that you can be single, have
your big career and all your friends, but that's not the route to happiness,
it's not deep or meaningful like marriage is. That's ridiculous. The best
friendships often last longer than marriages ... you don't have ridiculous
expectations of your friends like you do a spouse."
Yes, those old, mopey stereotypes are still alive and kicking.
"The stereotypes that single women are either promiscuous or don't get
any are a scam," she says. "It's like if you're married, all you have
to do is roll over and have perfect sex. Anyone who reads the divorce columns
knows that's not true! Single women can now get sex outside of marriage. It's
probably quaint not to. Single women can even have kids without a husband, and
without having sex!"
DePaulo's favorite line: "Single women can pick up the check at work and
sperm at the bank."
The Happiness Bullet?
Marriage isn't a magic bullet for a wonderful life, says DePaulo. "But
it has that appeal that you will meet this person and everything falls into
place. Yet if you look to one person to be everything, it's not fair to that
person, not fair to you, and it's not healthy. And if the marriage doesn't
last, it's devastating."
One study tracking 1,000 couples for 15 years found that marriage brought
only a "tiny blip" of happiness during the brief time closest to the
wedding ceremony. "But on average, afterwards, people go back to way they
were before. The researcher's perspective is that we each have a baseline of
happiness, and marriage on average isn't going to change that -- except for
that little blip," DePaulo says.