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The Elevation of Single Life

Jeppe Hein

Earlier this year, Rebecca Traister wrote in New York Magazine about the rising political clout of single women. I especially loved the illustration that accompanied it. And today, there’s a new article exploring the science of people who never married. Within it is an interview with Dr. Bella DePaulo, a good friend of First Person Singular, who is one of the few social scientists exploring the subject. (My essay, Goodbye to the Spinster is featured in one of Bella’s books.) We already live the truth that you can be single and satisfied. Now, everyone else is finally starting to catch up.

Neon by Jeppe Hein


31 comments for “The Elevation of Single Life”

  1. Leyla says:

    It’s true that they become more insular, my married friends all dropped off the face of the earth as soon as they tied the knot. My older friends assured me that they tend to come back into your life after they get “over” their husbands and the kids are in school. And one of the reasons I just broke up with my bf is that the relationship took too much away from my alone time. I crave solitude, so while it would be nice to get married and have a family some day, it’s hard for me to compromise on that. So here I am!

    • Dee says:

      Layla, Could you ever envision a scenario where you got the best of both worlds – a relationship that left time for solitude?

      • Leyla says:

        I honestly can’t picture what that would look like. Maybe I just haven’t experienced it yet. I’ve been in love before (I was this time too), but I just found it all to be a bit too much. My latest guy didn’t give me any space, he texted me all day every day from 7 in the morning to when he went to bed. Then after I told him to cut back because it made me feel like I could never be alone, his bubble of happiness burst and then mine burst as well. We both gave up on each other.

        • wendy says:

          Have you been in touch with him, Leyla, since the breakup?

          • Leyla says:

            No, I have not been in touch with him at all. We agreed on at least one month of no contact. I am sad about what happened, but it feels like the right decision. I feel as if I’m waking up from a dream. As if I was unconscious for those 6 months, like not really myself.

          • wendy says:

            It’s good that you’ve both agreed to boundaries. I had a BF with whom I was really in love and it took me 5 times before we ended our relationship for real.

      • wendy says:

        Great question!

    • wendy says:

      As a single person, it takes a lot more work to stay connected to your married friends. For the ones that really matter, it’s worth the effort.

  2. claire says:

    Love the illustration. 😉 I might enjoy this framed in an unsuspecting corner of my apartment.

  3. Thanks, Wendy, for posting this! And thanks for all you do.

    • wendy says:

      Great to hear from you, Bella. You have singlehandedly (pun attended) moved the ball forward for all of us. And I, for one, am eternally grateful.

    • Claire says:

      Just read the article about your research that Wendy posted. Fascinating! Thank you for working on this.

  4. Abdul says:

    Thanks for this motivational post. I realize your staifaction is always associated with your appreciation to what you have. It takes a while to know what you really need but sometimes you are over estimate your needs not because you really needs them it’s because other people have them and this is absolutely wrong.

    • wendy says:

      That is so true, Abdul. We anticipate our needs based on external influences. And many times, those needs are not truly our own.

      • Dee says:

        This is exactly what I was thinking today! Actually, I framed it as a question to myself: What is “enough” for me? Because I realized that much of what I think I want/need is based on cultural messages and fear of scarcity. So it’s a new question for me that feels like there is room for a new level of self-awareness.

        It’s a question that I’ll have to explore over time. But it’s reaffirming that it was mentioned here!

        • wendy says:

          Also, what’s “enough” isn’t fixed. It’s fluid.

        • Abdul says:

          I think the bad thing about being married is that you are more committed to the people that you are taking care of so so dont take decisions easily and “enough” usualy takes place in their lives . But as an unmarried person i think it is easy to change jobs, continue education spending more time on professional certificates, travel, taking risks that married people cant take… Etc so i beleive for us enough is never enough and thats what makes out lives amazing.

        • Jess says:

          Dee – this is something I have been considering as well. A lot of the “shoulds” and “supposed to’s” I tell myself about my life aren’t really coming from me – they’re coming from society. I don’t think I fully realize just how much is external. Sometimes I think that if suddenly tomorrow there was zero stigma attached to being a single woman – I would be a 100% happy camper! Because truly, life is good and most of my needs are met. I suppose then it’s just a question of being able to tune out those expectations from outside, and just stop caring what others think.

          • Dee says:

            I agree, Jess. There’s a quote in Brene Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection” that is attributed to author Marianne Williamson that is fitting for this conversation: “Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”

          • wendy says:

            Gratitude – so much of joy is about that, I think.

          • wendy says:

            It’s such a useful, honest conversation to have with yourself. What is that you really want, apart from the cultural (and familial) expectations?

          • Dee says:

            Wendy – It’s a conversation I’m finally starting to have with myself (better late than never). The challenge is quieting those cultural/family influences. But it’s worth the effort to dig deep!

          • wendy says:

            Keep on knowing and owning your truth.

  5. Petra says:

    Wonderful post, wonderful links, wonderful comments. I agree that it’s time to rethink this idea that marriage is the ultimate goal and that it’s associated with only good-good health, absence of loneliness, etc.

    Although I’ve been in relationships (and am currently in one as well), I am a lifelong singleton–never married. And I’ve used this gift to develop a wonderful, interesting set of friends (some married, some single). Some days I think I’ve got an ideal life–I own my own home (well, me and the bank 🙂 ), I have a good job, great friends, interests, etc., AND I get a fair amount of alone time, which I also relish. Not saying that I’ve not had days where marriage seemed to be something I longed for, but I’ve also had many days where the sheer joy of being an independent “solo” is the ideal!

    AND I get to be part of FPD!

  6. Julia says:

    This article really resonated with me. In the past, I think that marriage between a man and a woman that resulted in children has been held up as the “healthy, normal ideal,” while any other kind of life, whether it was being single or LGBT has been held up as “abnormal” and “unhealthy.” Even in the comments to DePaulo’s article reflect this. JoeS54 writes:
    “Without children, maybe marriage isn’t necessary for the self-centered, sexually promiscuous type of people produced by modern society.”
    Ouch! Compared to this comment, arsenic is refreshing!
    I appreciate Bella DePaulo for pointing out the unevenness of the research studying married and single folks. Hopefully we can start some conversations that don’t include such poisonous assumptions about us singletons.

    • wendy says:

      Bella DePaolo continually chips awa at the old assumptions and shoddy research in relation to single life. She has been a signficant change agent.

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