Scientists have identified links between loneliness and illnesses – heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other maladies, which lead to a shorter lifespan. The researchers have found that lonely people develop cellular changes which lowers their immune protection, allowing disease to flourish. However, each individual differs in personality so that loneliness varies, too: an introvert may be perfectly happy living alone and an extreme extrovert may feel neglected at a teeming football party. It’s all about expectations and one’s view of reality.
One New York City therapist commented that each week he sees patients who feel depressed over Facebook postings: everybody has friends but me. The article concluded that loneliness has become a public health issue, especially for those over 60.
Why over 60? Well, look at our divorce rate, now at 54.8% and approaching Sweden, the world’s leader in that statistic (54.9%). So, yes, there are a lot of single, divorced people in America and a many are over 60. Companionship, additionally, seems more important than ever later in life. As our relatives and friends die (the USA has a much higher death rate than other countries), our network of companions diminishes. So why not get married? Or live together, known scientifically as cohabitation?
That thought drove me to look up Professor Scott Stanley who has researched marriage, divorce, and cohabitation for over 40 years. I used his research in developing the relationship aspects of LifeNuts. https://portfolio.du.edu/sstanley
In looking at thousands of relationships, he found that cohabitation, living together before marriage, led to unpleasant topics: an increased divorce rate, shorter life expectancy, and, what’s amazing, less happiness during marriage for those who cohabit than for those who didn’t cohabit before marriage. There are many reasons for this, which are available in Dr. Stanley’s research, which has been validated by other university professors.
In one of his blogs, he referred to an article in the New York Times, which began with a story about a therapist’s client who spent a fortune on a lavish wine-country wedding. The two had spent four years living together before their wedding. A year later the wife was in therapy, terribly unhappy and wanting a divorce. She was 32.
The author mentioned that in 1960 there were 450,000 Americans who lived together; now there are more than 7.5 million. Why so many? There are two main reasons: one, it seems logical to check out your partner before committing to marriage and two, if everybody’s doing it, it must be OK (the lemming effect). Also, Hollywood stars, idolized by many, frequently have children out of wedlock proudly (Webster still defines such children as bastards), cohabit, and divorce frequently, glamorizing this lifestyle. Movies, stories and reports in the news media, and advertising have a subtle way of changing our culture, sometimes for the good, but often for the worse.
The NYT article delved into cohabitation and the dilemma of the wife-client but it failed to look at the major issue: commitment, although the article mentioned that word once or twice. And it ignored world-wide trends on marriage, happiness in marriage, and divorce.
So, to conclude, if the USA and Sweden (where some of the most beautiful people in the world live) are nearly tied at 55%, which country has the lowest divorce rate? India. One.one percent. That’s right – 1.1 %, one out of a hundred, versus 55 out of 100 for our county. How can that be? Don’t parents arrange marriages there? Yes. You don’t understand? Neither did I … until I asked a running friend, from India, about it. He told me that he and his wife met in the US but returned to India to ask their parents for approval. They’ve been married for nearly 30 years now. I’ve known other Indian young adults who return to India to get married. Their parents in India select a mate, the two meet and get to know each other for a few weeks, then get married. That’s it. Divorce rate: one percent. Go figure.
I asked my friend if Indians have sex before marriage. No, they don’t, he said. What interested me more were his comments on the western concept of “love,” which he said was extremely embellished. Hollywood stuff, again. He explained the difference between commitment and love, difference which seems to be a factor in why Indian marriages survive and American marriages don’t. Perhaps it also reflects happiness in marriage, which studies show is higher in those who don’t live together before they get married.
So, the question remains: to stay single and be lonely or to get married and risk divorce? LifeNuts aren’t lonely, and, although their longevity depends on many factors – diet, exercise, finances, they know that maintaining good interpersonal relationships is important. The website and the book explain this crucial component of a long, healthy, and happy life in detail. Don’t be a statistic: be a LifeNut.