For several decades, the time that people have spent as married adults has decreased significantly. We are living as singles longer, and with divorce, becoming single again at higher rates. The good news here is that marrying at a later age decreases your chance of divorce. It also allows you more single time to get your finances together, achieve educational goals, and learn to stand well on your own two feet. Singles usually have wider and stronger social networks than married folks—and interact more frequently with those in their neighborhoods, with coworkers and with their families of origin. In other words, they have higher social integration, which is a very big plus for anyone because research has shown that this deceases health risks and increases life expectancy.
Who knew? Relationships with friends and others in our environment are better predictors of good health and happiness than relationships with family. In summary—we thrive on friendship and association with folks in the wider world around us, and marriage can be very insulating.
None of this is to say that marriage does not have proven emotional and financial benefits—because it does, and this is well documented. But happy singles are more likely to bring those factors from their successful single life to marriage, and be more successful there as well. It seems that those at the greatest disadvantage are the previously married—it may be that they get the worst of both worlds through the experience of an unhappy marriage and divorce. This may be because they relied too heavily on their spouse when married and lost their self-reliance and those social connections and supports that would have sustained them through and beyond divorce.
Having strong relationships with others outside your marriage also strengthens the marriage. Couples who socialize with others are happier with one another. Women handle marital problem issues better when they have a close friend to talk to and get support from. This may be one important reason that focusing solely on the couple relationship when addressing problems is a problem in itself. It leaves out the importance of others to the individuals within the couple. Couple who socialize with other couples enjoy one another during these interactions and report that date nights alone are not nearly as pleasurable. Us married folks can attest to this—much more fun to go out with a fun couple or two. You get to see and experience your spouse in a different way.