Why Do Married People Abandon Their Friends?
Married individuals are more likely to neglect their friends and family.
Posted April 3, 2022 | Reviewed by Vanessa Lancaster
- Research shows that people who get married become less involved and connected with friends and relatives.
- Past research showed that singles are more likely to be in touch with their parents and siblings.
- Singles have reported equal or higher levels of life fulfillment and satisfaction when compared to their partnered peers.
Research shows that people who get married become less involved and connected with friends and relatives.
In contrast, singles are more likely to be in touch with their parents and siblings.
They also benefit from emotional support provided by friends and family and receive practical help from others.1
The phenomenon witnessed here, sometimes known as "greedy marriage," is that married individuals donate the majority of their time to their spouses, while singles maintain a richer and more diverse social life.
A wide range of studies supports this claim, although many of them only look at a specific point in time, leading some to claim that it is not clear whether married individuals are more likely to neglect their friends and family or whether those who would neglect their contemporaries while they are single are more likely to get married.
However, a recent longitudinal analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households points more to the former reason.2 Survey participants (N = 2,737) were asked over the course of six years to describe the quality of the relationships they have with their friends and family as well as the frequency of meetings.
At the point of the first sampling, all of the participants were single and under 50 years of age. At the end of the sampling, and in order to check if differences exist for those who are in new relationships, comparisons were made between those who were still single, those who had entered a relationship in the previous three years, and those who had entered a relationship four to six years previously.
The results unequivocally suggest that those who remain single spent more time with their friends and partner. Moreover, the withdrawal from friends, family, contemporaries, and neighbors was the same for those cohabiting with their partners regardless of the duration of their relationship. This suggests that the social distance is not necessarily a temporary effect at the start of the relationship.3
To that end, singles are relatively happier not only because married individuals devote less time to their friends and family but also because singles are more attentive to these relationships. Specifically, singles are more likely to involve their siblings in their adult lives and cultivate relationships that raise their overall levels of happiness.
As a result, singles also have a more diverse set of confidants than their married counterparts, especially since they are more likely to include non-relatives in this set of people. By diversifying the number of people they can confide in, singles have stronger networks and are less likely to experience isolation than their married counterparts.4
Singles are also more likely to build a social network for themselves and contribute to a community by volunteering for civic organizations and charities. Some note that this is especially true for women since marriage and cohabitation are less time-demanding for men.
As a result, singles – especially females – not only have more diverse social networks but also report equal or higher levels of life fulfillment and satisfaction when compared to their partnered peers.
1. Naomi Gerstel, and Natalia Sarkisian, 'Marriage: The Good, the Bad, and the Greedy', Contexts, 5 (2006), 16-21.
2. Kelly Musick, and Larry Bumpass, 'Reexamining the Case for Marriage: Union Formation and Changes in Well-Being', Journal of Marriage and Family, 74 (2012), 1-18.
3. Janine Hertel, Astrid Schütz, Bella M DePaulo, Wendy L Morris, and Tanja S Stucke, 'She’s Single, So What? How Are Singles Perceived Compared with People Who Are Married?', Zeitschrift für Familienforschung-Journal of Family Research, 19 (2007), 139-58;
Bella DePaulo, 'Single in a Society Preoccupied with Couples', Handbook of solitude: Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone (2014), 302-16.
4. Keith N Hampton, Lauren F Sessions, and Eun Ja Her, 'Core Networks, Social Isolation, and New Media: How Internet and Mobile Phone Use Is Related to Network Size and Diversity', Information, Communication & Society, 14 (2011), 130-55.
5. Eric Klinenberg, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (Penguin, 2012)