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What percent of people are happier after divorce?

Women happier than men after divorce, study finds

Ongoing survey of 100,000 people found that women are significantly more content than usual for up to five years following the end of their marriages.

By Theresa Boyle Staff Reporter
Thu., July 11, 2013 timer 3 min. read

Despite the hellishness of divorce — emotional turmoil, disrupted living arrangements, and a shrinking income — there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, especially for women, a new study has found.

Research published in the journal Economica has found that women are much happier and satisfied with their lives following divorce.

“In the study we took into account the fact that divorce can sometimes have a negative financial impact on women, but despite that it still makes them much happier than men” said lead author Yannis Georgellis, director of the Centre for Research in Employment, Skills and Society at the Kingston Business School in London, England.

“Getting out of a long-lasting bad marriage is a possible explanation,” he said in an email.

The study involved an ongoing survey of 10,000 people between the ages of 16 and 60. Over a period of 20 years, participants were regularly asked to rate their happiness after major milestones, including divorce, death of a spouse and loss of a job.

Researchers examined the psychological process of “adaptation,” or the way in which we adjust to new circumstances.

They found that women are significantly more content than usual for up to five years following the end of their marriages. In fact, they are even happier during this time than compared to their average or “baseline” of happiness throughout their lives.

While men also felt happier following divorce, the increase was much less marked than for women.

Georgellis said the study is a hopeful one for women who might be afraid of the huge life changes that come with divorce.

‘There is always hope that life will be better than before marriage,” he said.

The findings may even bolster the courage of women who might be too afraid to take the bold step.

“As the results of the study suggest, on average women are better off after divorce so there is no need to be frightened. But again we are talking about on average,” Georgellis said.

Guy Grenier, an adjunct psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario, said other studies have shown men are happier after divorce. A big factor affecting happiness is financial stability, and following divorce men’s incomes have historically dropped by about 25 per cent compared to 50 per cent for women.

“Now that trend is beginning to change,” he said, noting that in recent decades women have been marrying later, staying in school longer, establishing careers and earning more money.

Grenier is also a marital therapist and author of the book, The Ten Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married (And How to Have Them) . He says it’s really not surprising that women as well as men are happier after getting out of a bad marriage.

“Sometimes couple’s therapy is actually giving people permission to recognize this is a bad relationship and you are allowed to leave,” he said.

Doreen Fumia, an associate professor of sociology at Ryerson University, said one reason men may not be as happy as women following divorce is that they have to take on more of the domestic work traditionally done by women.

“The second thing is men don’t have friendship circles in the same way women do. Women tend to have a support system in place and often the girlfriends are the people they have a lot of fun with and they are freed up to go out with the girls,” she said.

Divorce makes women happier than men

Divorce makes men feel devastated, confused, betrayed and even suicidal; while women are more likely to feel relieved, liberated and happy following a split, according to a report published today.

While breaking up will usually make adults feel happier than they were before, divorced men are more prone than women to find solace in drinking. They are also more likely to go back to an old flame, have casual sex or join a dating agency.

Divorced women will give greater focus than men to engaging in «positive» activities such as spending time with friends or family, or seeing a counsellor for therapy. In contrast, men will worry more about finding a new partner and throw themselves into their work as a distraction.

The survey, which questioned 3,515 divorced adults about the impact of their marital break-up, found that nearly three-quarters of those separating more than two years ago were happier now. Splitting up within the last 2 years had left 57% of divorcees happier.

But the most significant trend highlighted by the research was that women are comprehensively shown to handle divorce better than their male partners.

Recent splits had left 23% of men devastated, whereas with women the figure was lower at 20%. Of recently divorced women, 46% said they felt «liberated» at being single; only 37% of the men concurred.

Among the recent divorcees, 7% of men said they were «suicidal», as opposed to just 3% of women.

The report suggested that the figures were the result of women’s «greater emotional strength», pointing to differences in coping strategies among both sexes.

Men were more likely to take time off from work (8% versus 6%) as well as being more likely to be unable to work as well as usual (13% versus 10%). More women will spend more of their time with friends (51% versus 38%), while men are more likely to turn to alcohol (33% to 23%) or casual sex (23% versus 12%).

Despite going through greater inner turmoil as the result of a divorce, men are actually more likely than women to remarry first. None of the women respondents had remarried within the first 2 years of a break-up, but 4% of the men had.

Two or more years later, 15% of the men had remarried; for women the figure was just 5%. More of the women were just not interested in a new relationship, preferring to cohabit or just date instead.

The biggest fear among both sexes after a divorce was whether they would have enough to live on, followed by concern about the impact the split might have on their children.

But the most striking aspect of the research, commissioned by Yorkshire Building Society to help design better mortgage products for divorcees, was that men were shown to suffer more emotional trauma than women following a marital break-up.

More than two years after a divorce, 41% of men were still sad about the failure of their marriage; for women the figure was only 33%.

«The differences between men and women’s emotional experience of divorce is startling; women simply appear to be stronger than men throughout a break-up and afterwards,» said Rachel Court, head of mortgages at Yorkshire Building Society.

Fewer Sex Partners Means a Happier Marriage

People who have had sex with fewer people seem to be more satisfied after they tie the knot. Is there hope for promiscuous romantics?


October 22, 2018

If you are on the proverbial market, as you rack up phone swipes, first dates, and—likely—new sexual partners, you might start to ask yourself, Is all this dating going to make me happier with whomever I end up with?

In other words, are you actually getting any closer to finding “the one”? Or are you simply stuck on a hedonic treadmill of potential lovers, doomed like some sort of sexual Sisyphus to be perpetually close to finding your soul mate, only to realize—far, far too late—that they are deal-breakingly disappointing?

Well, sociology has some unfortunate news!

Over at the Institute for Family Studies, Nicholas Wolfinger, a sociologist at the University of Utah, has found that Americans who have only ever slept with their spouses are most likely to report being in a “very happy” marriage. Meanwhile, the lowest odds of marital happiness—about 13 percentage points lower than the one-partner women—belong to women who have had six to 10 sexual partners in their lives. For men, there’s still a dip in marital satisfaction after one partner, but it’s never as low as it gets for women, as Wolfinger’s graph shows:

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, when it comes to sex, less experience is better, at least for the marriage,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist and senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies (and an Atlantic contributor). In an earlier analysis, Wolfinger found that women with zero or one previous sex partners before marriage were also least likely to divorce, while those with 10 or more were most likely. These divorce-proof brides are an exclusive crew: By the 2010s, he writes, just 5 percent of new brides were virgins. And just 6 percent of their marriages dissolved within five years, compared with 20 percent for most people.

Other studies’ findings have also supported the surprising durability of marriages between people who have only ever had sex with one another.

In this latest study, women who have had one partner instead of two are about 5 percentage points happier in their marriages, about on a par, Wolfinger says, with the boost that possessing a four-year degree, attending religious services, or having an income over $78,000 a year has for a happy marriage. (In his analysis, he controlled for education, income, and age at marriage.)

This analysis merely suggests that sleeping with fewer people is correlated with marital happiness; it doesn’t say one thing predicts the other. Even people who have slept with the entire Polyphonic Spree could go on to live in blissful matrimony. Moreover, this analysis is not peer-reviewed; it’s just a blog post. And Wolfinger acknowledges that, because of a quirk in how the survey was worded, some of the people reporting one partner might have meant “one partner besides my spouse.”

Still, researchers I spoke with speculated about a few reasons that sexually inexperienced marriages seem so solid.

First, Wolfinger says religiousness doesn’t explain the difference between the happy virgins and the less-happy everyone else. But it could be something more subtle: People who avoid sex before marriage might simply value marriage more highly, so they feel more satisfied by it. Contrary to what pop culture might have you believe, Americans are overall a pretty chaste people. The median American woman born in the 1980s, Wolfinger writes, has had only three sexual partners in her lifetime, and the median man six. So if you have even less sexual experience than that, your significant other might be your dream man simply by virtue of being your spouse.​

“Those who have never had sex with anyone but their spouse may be the kind of people who value commitment highly,” said Andrew Cherlin, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist. “They have never been interested in sex without commitment, and once married, they may be more committed to their spouses, and therefore happier.”

At the same time, Cherlin points out, it’s important to remember that the analysis was done based on retrospective reports by older adults. “If we looked at young adults who are just marrying today, the results could be different,” he said.

The second theory is one I like to call “Not Knowing What You’re Missing.” If you were a virgin (or close to it) before marriage, you might not have had that many relationships to compare your current one with. You don’t get wistful about the hunk who got away, the one whose biggest hobbies were vegan cooking and reading novels with strong female protagonists. You are happy with whomever you ended up with, love handles and all. Maybe it’s no wonder, as Wolfinger writes, that divorce rates are higher when there are more single people in a given geographic area.

It could be that, Wilcox told me, “having more partners prior to marriage makes you critically evaluate your spouse in light of previous partners, both sexually and otherwise.”

Third, Wolfinger says, this trend “could reflect personality types that are less conducive to having a happy marriage.” To put that more gently, some people just aren’t the marrying kind. And they might be the types of people who play the field a lot before marriage.

Or, as the University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen puts it, “you could have a lot of sexual partners not because you’re good at sex, but because you’re bad at relationships.”

Cohen also pointed out that it’s impossible to disentangle the promiscuous chicken and the unhappy egg here. Wolfinger’s analysis, he said, could simply be capturing people who are in unhappy marriages, so they’re cheating. Their two sexual partners aren’t necessarily past college girlfriends; they could be current mistresses.

Finally, there are all sorts of other, hidden possibilities that might exonerate people who sow their wild oats. For example, people who live in communities without very many marriageable partners might end up going through lots of sexual relationships and failing to find one that sticks. Other people, meanwhile, might be forced to have sex when they don’t wish to.

Also, women who have had previous sexual relationships might be more likely to have had children from those relationships, and according to Wolfinger and others, bringing a child from a previous relationship into a new marriage can be uniquely stressful. These kinds of marriages, they say, tend to have disproportionately high divorce rates.

In other words, as Cohen put it to me, Wolfinger’s numbers might be correct, but it’s hard to draw straightforward conclusions from them.

Of course, all these data points might also start to imply that a happy marriage is life’s ultimate goal for everyone, which it might not be. Perhaps all the premarital sex you had was satisfying enough to make up for even the dreariest of unions. Maybe for you, it’s all about the journey, not the destination, bro.

Either way, it doesn’t seem like all the prenuptial bonking is hurting marriages writ large. In Wolfinger’s study, most people—64 percent—reported having a “very happy” marriage, meaning that for the most part, we still live happily ever after.

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