Science says, "No kids, no problem."
Great Britain's Understanding Society finds that happiness in marriage declines with age. Older couples are less content than their younger counterparts, while young, childless couples are the happiest of them all.
Understanding Society, a £49 million nationwide research project commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, surveys the lives of 40,000 households via annual interviews with 100,000 people of all ages for at least the next two decades. Think of it as a taxpayer-funded investigation on happiness, which will be made public so that the country can adjust its behavior accordingly.
The information they've gathered so far says that the happiest marriages are under five years long, and occur between college-educated couples with no children where the man has a job. Cohabiting couples are less happy than married ones, but women, especially, grow worn out over the course of their marriage. The news just gets better and better!
But don't worry: if you're older, are raising a growing brood of children and have been married for over half your life, you're already past the worst period of marriage, which occurs when your children are in preschool. To no one's surprise, the report says that couples expressed greater contentment once their youngest child had grown up.
Obviously, the answer here isn't to ditch your spouse after five years and find another one. Nor should you avoid procreating to prolong your own contentment. If anything, this study may serve as a reality check to bright-eyed young things who see marriage as the be-all of happiness, when maintaining it beyond five years requires a lifetime of work.