Are relationship problems the most important aspect of unhappiness, or personal unhappiness the greatest factor in relationship problems ? This is a typical example of circularity in logic that makes objective, scientific studies of happiness often meaningless, due to a huge overlap in criteria being defined for such studies. A typical such study was published a few years ago, in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (22:5, 2005)(1), where the relationship between marriage and happiness were studied. The results, unsurprisingly, showed that the higher the degree of commitment in a relationship, the higher it correlated with happiness of both partners.
Kamp Dush, the lead researcher of the study even went on to formulate that the stability, self-esteem and security that marriage provides other main reasons for happiness for married people, compared to those who are in noncommittal relationships. “In general, people appear to feel better about themselves and their lives when they move into a more committed relationship,” she stated.
But could not be the other way around ? That people who have a worldview that is conducive to happiness are more likely to settle into committed relationships? Cause-and-effect is often difficult to establish conclusively when it pertains to matters of the mind, as eastern philosophy, notably Buddhism, would assert. Mindsets often arise co-dependently, and if applied to the above example, might mean that the same people who are happy in their relationships are also happy in life in general.
Spirituality is not about developing certain facets of our life in the way we desire, rather it seeks patterns of general outlooks on life that are most conducive to happiness for one and all. In the spiritual outlook, relationships too are not a special case : they conform to a broader desire to bring happiness to the lives of all those who are within our circle of influence. No amount of scientific or sociological studies of happiness or unhappiness can ever reach the heart of the matter – that happiness is a matter of putting effort into the well-being of people around us as a whole, and not just those who we consider to be romantically ( or genetically or culturally) linked to us.
And logically, the more we devote ourselves to the happiness and well-being of all people around us, the more happy we are likely to become in our personal relationships too. But perhaps it would be difficult to frame an experiment to ‘scientifically’ prove that.
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