When I do research on single life, I sometimes ask large numbers of people to report on their experiences using rating scales that I provide, then I analyze the results statistically. Sometimes, though, I want to hear from single people directly, in their own words.

When Wendy Morris did her doctoral dissertation on stigma awareness among single people, she used a variety of methodologies across the four studies she conducted. As part of one of those studies, she asked 38 single adults (including widowed, divorced and always single) to describe a time when they had been treated a particular way because they were single. The participants ranged in age from 30 to 73 and included whites, African-Americans, and people of mixed races.

Here are some examples of the experiences the participants shared:

People feel bad for me because I’m single

“They think I have been hurt.”

“There is not a family dinner I attend that does not include the conversation that sympathizes with my ‘plight’ as a single woman.  Don’t worry, I am told, someone will come along.”

Social exclusion

“They don’t want to hang out with me because they have a spouse.”

“I am not invited along with married couples after work.”

Married people treat me badly when we’re together

Married women are unfriendly”

“Husbands become suspicious when single men talk to their wives”

Feeling out of the mainstream

“At my church, the women’s ministry consistently, favorably and almost exclusively holds events that cater to the interests and schedules of stay at home mothers.”

“I was born in 1950 – the attitude was that when I grew up I would marry and have children.  I felt pressure to conform.”

Financial issues

“Airline packages are priced for doubles, so I can never get a package.”

“Less pay because they think singles don’t need as much money.”

Living conditions

“Difficulty renting an apartment because single.”

“Forced to live on Post in the Army because single.”


“Did not get hired because I was single.”

“Always expected to work on Christmas”

People question why I’m single

“They want to know why I never married.”

 “They don’t understand why I am not married because marriage is the norm.”

Negative perceptions of singles

“My sister is happy I am not married because I can babysit for her.  But it can be negative because she thinks I don’t do anything.”

“My glass is seen as half empty rather than half full.  It would be very refreshing to hear that the reason I am single is because I enjoy my life as a single person, that I’m discriminating and careful, and independent, and smart enough to make it on my own.  It is utterly disabling to have my family look at my life and think something is missing.”


So, readers, what about you? Are your experiences of singlism represented in this list of examples?

Young woman photo available at Shutterstock.



View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 8 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.


No trackbacks yet to this post.

    Last reviewed: 7 Apr 2012

APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2012). The Singles Treatment: Unmarried Adults Reveal their Experiences. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 28, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/single-at-heart/2012/04/the-singles-treatment-unmarried-adults-reveal-their-experiences/



Subscribe to this Blog: Feed

Recent Comments
  • Jason: “The proportion of adults that had married only once has decreased from 1996, from 54 percent to 50 percent of...
  • Paul: I am a 49yr old male with Asperger’s who has never had a girlfriend, never been on a date and never had...
  • Bella DePaulo, Ph.D: Thanks for sharing this, Tricia. I also found Wendy to be wonderfully insightful.
  • Tricia: Where were you, Wendy, when I was 20?! Wow. What a great piece. I’ve been single for about 5 years now...
  • Alan: I’d agree, I was more anxious about being single when I was in my 20s. Once I hit 30 I started to get...
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!