# Single people
Research, opinion: People who are unafraid of being single have high standards and healthy personalities
Have you noticed those people who just won’t quit their romantic relationships, no matter how miserable they have become? Or the people who cannot bear spending any time at all uncoupled – when one romantic relationship ends, they rush off to the next? I’ve always thought that those people were scared of being single.
Opinion, research: The fear of being alone in public is widely shared but often unwarranted
When I taught the graduate course, “Singles in Society,” years ago, one of the assignments was for students to go out for a meal by themselves. The students were totally into it. They upped the ante: It had to be dinner, not lunch. And then they upped it again: They could not bring anything to distract them during dinner, such as something to read or to look at. They had to just dine on their own.
Single people with no kids often give more gifts than they receive
We like to think of many relationships as roughly equal. With friends, coworkers, and relatives such as siblings and cousins, we usually don’t think of one person as more valuable or more worthy than another. Ideally, the give and take is fundamentally, if not precisely, reciprocal.
Couples who want togetherness and the freedom of being single, too
A few years ago, an essay by Isabelle Tessier, "I want to be single – but with you," zipped around the internet, amassing hundreds of thousands of likes. The longings Tessier described may well be even more widely shared now than they were then.
Single people value freedom more and get more happiness out of it
People who are not married have different values than married people do. They care more about expressive and individualistic experiences such as creativity, freedom, trying new things, and having fun. People who embrace those kinds of post-materialistic values, regardless of their marital status, are happier. But married and unmarried people do not benefit equally from such values. People who are not married get more happiness out of the valuing of freedom, creativity, trying new things, and having fun than married people do.
Single people experience subtle and not-so-subtle put-downs
Getting asked questions such as “Why are you still single?” or “Just one?”. Getting invited by couples to lunch but not dinner, outings on weekdays but not weekends, kids’ birthday parties but not movies with grown-ups.
Couples who move in together or get married become more insular
In the decades I have been studying single people, one particular story comes up over and over again. Single people tell me that they had other single friends they socialized with frequently, but then when those friends got serious about a romantic partner, they didn’t see those newly coupled friends much anymore. They wonder about two things: Does this happen to other single people, too? And, are they just getting sidelined temporarily because their friend is newly infatuated with a romantic partner, or is their marginalized status going to continue?
Over the past 75 years, couples have been acting more like single people
While researching my book, How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, I discovered something interesting about how coupling has been practiced over the past three-quarters of a century. In some significant ways, couples have been acting more like single people. It started with couples living together and skipping over the part about getting married. Those who did marry have ended up doing so at later and later ages. From 1980 through 2000, married couples began to do things separately from each other a bit more often. Now, a nontrivial number of couples are deciding not to live together at all, even though they are totally committed to their relationship.
What single and married people think they will miss if they stop working
When adults get to the age when they start thinking about retirement, a big factor in whether they actually do retire is, of course, money. For single people who pay all of their expenses themselves, financial factors are likely to loom especially large in their decisions.
Fewer Americans are finding fulfillment in romantic partners
In 2021, the Pew Research Center asked a representative sample of adults in the U.S. this question:. “What about your life do you currently find meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying? What keeps you going and why?”
Turning to different people for different emotional needs is linked to life satisfaction
One and done. That's how some people think about their relationships. Find "The One" and now your relationship challenges have been mastered. In your spouse, you have the person who fulfills all of your wishes and needs, especially your emotional needs. You have the person who cheers you up when you are sad, calms you when you are anxious or angry, and cheers you on when things are going well. Popular songs romanticize the idea of "The One and Only" with lyrics such as "You are my everything" and "I just want to be your everything."
People who choose to be single value their friends and have satisfying social lives
Here are two different stories about people who choose to be single. In the first, they are sad about being single. They didn’t really choose to be single – they are just stuck with that status. When it comes to social life, they aren’t doing that great. They don’t have a romantic partner and they don’t have many friends either. The more they say they want to be single, the less likely it is that they are satisfied with their social lives or value their friends. That’s why “alone” is so often used interchangeably with “single” – because people who choose to be single “don’t have anyone.” Don’t take this story too seriously until you hear about the next one.
When making the wrong romantic choices is a step toward a fulfilling single life
In my decades of studying single people, a question comes up with some regularity: “Do you think I’m commitment phobic?” I’m a research psychologist, not a therapist, so I cannot offer advice to particular people. And I’m interested in people who want to embrace their single lives, not escape them, so I am rarely interested in stories about dating.
Single people are not just doing better than people in bad romantic relationships
“Single? Well, it is better than being in a bad relationship.” Well-meaning friends and relatives sometimes convey such sentiments to single people. There are even some single people who say the same thing about themselves. But is it true?