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Are Married Couples Happier?

Updated: Jan 4

The ability to understand the way couples view their romantic relationships can provide valuable insight into what makes relationships work when it comes to romantic relationships.

Pew Research conducted a study in 2019 to examine the perceptions and experiences of married and cohabiting adults in the United States. Let us take a closer look at the key findings of this study to gain a deeper understanding of how individuals in these types of relationships perceive their relationships.

How married and cohabiting adults see their relationships

Marriage: A Lifelong Commitment

The majority of married adults (88%) consider their marriage to be a long-term commitment in their lives. They believe marriage is a lifelong journey shared with a partner that encompasses a shared vision for the future.

Love and Companionship at the Core

The foundation of any successful relationship is based on love and companionship. Emotional support, a deep connection, and respect are all viewed by both married couples and cohabiting couples to be the most important characteristics of a successful relationship.

Cohabiters Value Independence

While cohabiting adults also place importance on love and companionship, the survey suggests that they tend to prioritize individual freedom and personal space more than married individuals. It is not uncommon for cohabitation to be seen as a way for people to maintain their independence while sharing their lives with one another.

Economic Factors and Practicality

According to the study, financial security is more important for cohabiting adults than married individuals, whereas married individuals place a greater emphasis on finding a suitable partner.

Benefits of Legal Recognition

A marriage offers both legal and societal advantages that cohabitation lacks. A married couple is more likely to report that their relationship has given them a sense of security, as well as social recognition and support from other people.

Equality and Gender Roles

Cohabiting and married adults both express a desire for equality. However, married couples, were more likely to adhere to traditional gender roles, with women taking on more household and caregiving tasks.


Care to test what you know about money and marriage? Try this quick 10 question quiz.


Should I marry or cohabitate?

The decision to marry or cohabitate comes down to personal preference. Love, companionship, and commitment are universally valued. According to Pew, the difference appears in priorities. Cohabiters emphasize independence and financial stability, while married individuals place a high value on finding a life partner.


Looking for tips for a happier marriage? Read 21 marriage tips after 21 years of marriage


Why are Married Couples Happier and Healthier?

The General Social Survey (GSS) is a longitudinal study from the University of Chicago that asks about happiness and marital status. GSS data have been the basis for more than 25,000 scholarly publications, books, and Ph.D. dissertations.

This data can show how happiness changes around key family events, such as marriage, divorce, and widowhood.

As illustrated below by the Institute for Family Studies, a conclusion can be drawn that people are happier married, evident in the years following divorce and being widowed.

Are Married Couples Happier?

Married couples are even healthier.

So marriage will make you happier and healthier, right? Not so fast.

A prominent study compared cohabiting and married people and found that higher happiness in marriage was due to other contextual factors, not marriage itself.

Nobody can say for sure why married couples are happier and healthier; we just know they are.


Learn More

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Mitchell, Travis. “4. How Married and Cohabiting Adults See Their Relationships.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, 6 Nov. 2019,

“Our Research.” The General Social Survey | NORC at the University of Chicago, Accessed 26 May 2023.

Schmerling, Rob. “The Health Advantages of Marriage.” Harvard Health, 30 Nov. 2016,


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