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"What immediately intrigued me about the results was to rethink marriage as a whole," University of British Columbia economics professor and study coauthor John Helliwell recently told the New York Times.

"Maybe what is really important is friendship, and to never forget that in the push and pull of daily life." This study isn't the first to arrive at this finding.

Both types of relationships, however, were still linked with increases in overall well-being.

Other studies suggest that marriage might even be more closely linked with negative outcomes than positive ones: A 2011 review of the impact on happiness of major life events found that couples who got married generally felt less happy and less satisfied with their lives over time.

More importantly to me than all these negative studies, however, was a recent bright spot in the research which suggests that it isn't marriage that's the key to happiness, but the quality of the relationship itself.

In 2012, four authors published a statistical analysis and summary of 18 studies of people who wed and eight of couples who divorced.

Social psychologist Bella De Paulo recently took another look at that meta-analysis in a blog post for Psychology Today.

You're probably wondering if — and how — such a big commitment will impact your relationship.

A friend who knows I'm in a long-term relationship recently sent me a New York Times' opinion piece titled "13 Questions To Ask Before Getting Married." What she probably doesn't know is that she sent me on an entirely different research mission: to see what we know about the effect marriage actually has on peoples' happiness.

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