Happy Ever After by Paul Dolan

I was eager to read Happy Ever After by Paul Dolan – Escaping The Myth of The Perfect Life. Even before finishing his first book, Happiness by Design, I stopped and reserved this one at the library. It was a disappointment though. I gave it 3.5 stars, but I’m still thinking if 3 weren’t a more suitable rating.

In this book he tackles so called myths, like finding everlasting love. He wants to show a different perspective on these narratives. I liked the idea, but not how the book turned out. He is so entrenched in his working-class background and values without realizing how absurd some of the things he says are. I will give a few examples.

For me, the education chapter was the most annoying of all. For example, he says things like: “Perhaps if more working-class folk had been involved in the banking activities that led up to the global financial crisis, for example, the excessive risk-taking that resulted in the widespread economic downturn would have been mitigated.” That seems like a bit of an overstretch. It could have also been much worse, we don’t know. Then he goes on to say that climate change is in a similar situation. I think is easy to blame the greedy CEOs with middle-class background while ignoring that the working class want cheap products without thinking of what impact this has on the environment, or the reverse. In my views we are all to blame, we buy more than we need and so we hurt ourselves by polluting the planet we live on.

Happy ever after by Paul Dolan

He also talks how unhappy Oxbridge students are and shares his thoughts on his personal University experience, which was much more fun. I’m not surprised Oxbridge students are stressed, it’s only natural. I’m a part time student at Oxford and my working week in the last two terms averaged over 20 hours a week. Full time students spend over 40 hours a week working, so that’s pretty intense. Also, there is a lot of pressure, because everybody else is working just as hard. He also says he is willing to commute to London from Brighton because teaching at LSE is so rewarding. Isn’t that puzzling? Pressure is only one aspect, how purposeful an activity is makes a significant impact too.

Another point which is puzzling in his book is: “so more couples would surely be happier if they gave up on the silly (and actually relatively recent) idea that sleeping apart is a bad thing”. Really? He uses a comparison to monkeys to tell us that not all humans shouldn’t be expected to be monogamous, but when it comes to sleeping, plenty of apes are sleeping hurdled together. Also, as someone so proud of his working class background, saying that sleeping in a shared bed is recent is rather strange. Sure, Henry VIII had his own bed, but from craftsmen to yeoman and peasants, they all slept in a bed (or straw mattress), with their wives and maybe even their children, all in a room.

He does make lots of good points too. I fully agree with him that divorce is too hard to get, that people are pressured into having children. I think we would all be happier if we had to wait for 2 years to get married instead of having to wait for 2 years to get a divorce. He raises an important issue with the right to die, as a sceptic. I fully support assisted euthanasia, as it is in countries like the Netherlands. In UK, under the current law, helping someone to end their lives even if they are in constant pain from a terminal disease, with only a couple months to live, can get you life imprisonment. To put that into perspective, causing death by dangerous driving is liable to imprisonment for up to 14 years. Also, we are all encouraged to do what’s “humane” if our pet is experiencing so much pain, and put them to sleep to end their useless suffering. When it comes to loved relatives or ourselves, this “humane” turns into leaving someone who wants to die to be in pain due to illogical reasons such as “sanctity of life”. I think we should be allowed to choose and strict guidelines put in place so nobody is forced to do something against their will.

I recommend the book, but with a pinch of salt. It’s a shame it’s not as good as his first book was.

Happy Ever After by Paul Dolan

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Allen Lane
Year it was published:
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): Psychology

About the author: Paul Dolan is Professor of Behavioural Science at the LSE. He is Head of Department in Psychological and Behavioural Science and Director of Executive MSc Behavioural Science.
Dolan is doing research in two topics, how to measure happiness and subjective wellbeing, data that can be used in policy and by individuals looking to be happier. The second one is looking at ways in which the lessons from the behavioural sciences can be used to understand and change individual behaviour. He uses methods as surveys, big data, lab studies, and field experiments.
Books by Paul Dolan: Happiness by Design – Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life; Happy Ever After – Escaping The Myth of The Perfect Life
Website & Social Media Links: pauldolan

2 thoughts on “Happy Ever After by Paul Dolan”

  • Lots of interesting stuff in your review. Over here, ease of divorce can vary greatly from state to state. Some would say that it’s too easy, that couples marry quickly thinking “if this doesn’t work, we can just get divorced.”. They don’t realize that marriage (or even cohabitation) can sometimes be hard work.

    As for euthanasia… that’s one of those topics for which I have mixed emotions (key word there? emotions?). While my brain tells me one thing, my heart tells me another. At least we do have an excellent hospice/palliative care system here, which eases (or eliminates) suffering once a patient (or their family) decides to no longer seek treatment in terminal cases.
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    • I’ve been happily married for over a decade, but I am a staunch supporter for an easy to get divorce. If people are not happy together what’s the point in forcing them by law to stay together, even if it is only for a while. I agree that marriage is not easy and we, as a society, should do more to teach our teenagers about that. I was asked so many times if for me it was love at first sight when this is nonsense. Nobody can love someone who they know nothing about, that’s just a projection of their own ideas. But love at first sight is presented as desirable. If all of us would understand better what emotions are, we would all be happier.
      With euthanasia, there are only a small amount of cases, and most us would never have to deal with situations like those. I don’t think some of the people who would decide to do that should be forced to go to another country because their own Parliament wants to impose some random rules. It is their life and it should be their choice.

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