// you’re reading...

filed in featured, Myths and stereotypes

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


41 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.

  7. Mark says:

    I have a suspicion that women are more likely to be happy in a single and childless life than men. I know that runs contrary to conventional wisdom, but I have seen this around me. Why? Well, I think it is because, on average, women are much better at building a community for themselves than men are.

    • wendy says:

      You might be right about women being better at building community. But the fact that you’ve taken the time to reach out here, says a lot. Please continue to share your experiences.

      • Mark says:

        Thanks for your reply Wendy. I will happily continue to share my experiences. In part, because I know I need community of people like me – single and childless. Even if only on the Internet.

        Was there some point that you decided to call yourself “single”?

        I ask, because I only just recently (in the past few months) became aware that my current state is likely to last until the end. It was not easy to face that. Still isn’t. I’m hoping it gets easier.

        • wendy says:

          Why do you think your current state is “going to last until the end?”

          • Mark says:

            The childless aspect, yes. I don’t see any possibility of having a family at this point; in fact, I don’t think it would be fair to a child.

            Regarding the single aspect, I can’t say for sure. These days, it doesn’t seem likely.

          • wendy says:

            I don’t have human children, but I have family. And of course, my incredible dog.

  8. Cheryl says:

    Wendy, I’ve just learned about you, your work, and this beautiful blog. Dr. DePaulo, I’ve also been learning about you. You are both luminaries! Your collective work in this space, and all of you fellow readers’ comments here, brought me so much comfort and reassurance today. I just wanted to thank you all for helping me and others like me see more of ourselves in the world.

    I’m in my early 30s, and all of my friends are settling down and into their significant others. During our most recent Zoom call to catch up, I got several questions about my love life. They sound so worried about me! My friends tend to have more traditional views about relationships, and I am not totally sure if they understand that I am single and satisfied (yet always learning and growing).

    This is why I feel so indebted to you for sharing your experiences. I relate to them so much more than I relate to those of my friends. I also come from a collectivistic culture and have progressive and doting parents. They always prioritized my education (PhD in Psychology!) and have never really pressured me to be or do anything. My family has always instilled in me a spirit of independence and wholeness. I so value my time with myself. But sometimes (and especially with Covid), I worry that my family members will be the only people who understand me and who can connect with me at my truest self.

    Reading everyone’s comments here helps me remember that there are so many people in the world, so many people like us, and so many people who are just open and understanding of the fact that there is no one way to live life! Please know that you have made such a strong, positive impact on me during a time when I have been doubting myself, and I’m extremely grateful!

  9. Jannah says:

    Hi Wendy! It seems like we are in the same boat. I also worry that my family will be the only people who understand me, regardless of whether I am single or childless or not. I am now 33. Tried my luck again in online dating, but I have been blocked 3 times in the last 4 months. I guess i dodged the bullet because while these online dates were great, in the back of my head, i was worried how I’m going to sustain it, when i takes so much of my time. maybe I’ll just stay single

    • wendy says:

      Great to hear from you, Jannah. The good news is there’s no need to decide now whether you’ll stay single or not. Both married and single have their upsides. Right now, I’m really appreciating the single time.

Leave a Reply