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And health researchers report that maintaining high levels of social integration provides as much protection against early mortality as quitting smoking.

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And doing that doesn’t benefit just people who never marry. No matter how much Americans may value marriage, we now spend more time living single than ever before.

In 1960, Americans were married for an average of 29 of the 37 years between the ages of 18 and 55.

Socializing with others provides some of the novelty and variety that leading social psychologists call “the spice of happiness.” It also allows partners to show off each other’s strengths.

My husband tells great stories, but I’ve heard most of them and am not interested in hearing them again when we’re by ourselves.

This is partly because at this income level, married couples actually maintain higher levels of social integration than their unmarried counterparts.

But as income rises, the advantages of married over never-married individuals evaporate and even reverse.A long-term study of more than 6,500 Britons found that men and women who reported having 10 or more friendships at age 45 had significantly higher levels of psychological well-being at age 50, whatever their partnership status, than people with fewer friends.And two recent studies of nearly 280,000 people in almost 100 countries by William Chopik of Michigan State University found that friendships become increasingly vital to well-being at older ages.Among older adults, relationships with friends are a better predictor of good health and happiness than relations with family. Marriage can provide a bounty of emotional, practical and financial support.But finding the right mate is no substitute for having friends and other interests.People feel better when their spouses have good friendships, over and above the effects of their own friendships. That’s what’s wrong with the pressure put on couples to plan the perfect date night.