In general, we adapt quite quickly to life events, says Dolan: "As a general statement of fact, with lots of caveats, you get used to most stuff, good and bad, relatively quickly." But the things that have longer-term effects are the things that, in his words, "draw attention to themselves".
So marriage makes you happier, temporarily – about five years after marriage, you'll be back to baseline, on average. But during the period when you're going to get married, you're happier, because the happy-making event is imminent and on your mind. "A good piece of advice is to keep postponing your wedding," he jokes.
On the flip side, though, one thing that draws attention to itself is uncertainty, and that can be hugely negative. So if your relationship breaks down, and you separate but don’t get divorced, you could end up incredibly miserable. "In separation, you have uncertainty – will we get together again, won’t we,” he says.
When you get divorced, though, "happiness starts rising again", because we need closure and certainty. "We need to close off options sometimes," says Dolan. Sometimes, he says, a loved one's long illness can be worse than the death itself. "There is often a release, because the alternative is being unable to move on."