I had planned to follow up my previous post, 6 psychological insights about solitude, with a related article about the 20 varieties of solitude. With the big jackpot in the news, though, I will instead make that my next post. I just looked up the available research and whether any of it could help us understand the psychology of lottery winners, and whether marital status matters. The most relevant study I could find does not include everything I would have liked, but it is based on quite a lot of data.
People who are single-at-heart love the time they have to themselves. In fact, when thinking about spending time alone, just about all of them react with something like, “Ah, sweet solitude,” and almost none of them react with, “Oh, no, I might be lonely!”
With more and more people living single, and more and more people living alone, a better understanding of solitude is becoming increasingly important. Just recently, The Handbook of Solitude was published. I have a chapter in it, but in this post and the next I want to tell you about one of my favorite chapters, “Experiences of Solitude,” by James Averill and Louise Sundararajan. It is a chapter that acknowledges the potential negative experiences of solitude, such as loneliness and boredom, but has far more to say about what can make solitude so sweet.
I love chocolate, but do you know what I love even more? Smart, enlightening writings about single people and single life! Yesterday, to my surprise and delight, one story after another set aside the tired old Valentine’s Day stories about gooey-eyed couples and myths about the transformative powers of marriage and coupling, and instead told some truths – or, in some cases, they at least got close to some truths.
Considering that this is not the first time that the matrimaniacal holiday was inflected with a bit of singles savvy (here, for example), maybe we can start expecting something like this to continue into the future.
Here are some of the sweetest things I found online, or in my email inbox, over the past day or so:
To be single-at-heart is to feel that single life is, for you, the most meaningful way to live. People who embrace their single-at-heart status pursue the life that fits them best as individuals. That might mean spending lots of time alone or lots of time with friends or family. It might mean pursuing some passion, such as art or science or sports or social justice. Or it may mean feeling totally comfortable in a routine of your own making.
Being single-at-heart can mean lots of things, but what it does not mean is becoming a sappy, matrimaniac when many in the rest of the nation lose their collective minds over the 14th of February. I am so used to dealing with – or ignoring – hype about coupling every other day of the year that I would be happy to just continue rolling my eyes on Valentine’s Day. The problem is, February is peak season for people who just cannot believe that other people do not share their obsession with coupling.
Sometimes people give me gift cards. I know some people think that’s impersonal, but I love it. I get to browse though all the possibilities, fantasize, then get what I want without paying a penny. Recently, I thought I’d pay some of it forward, by giving a gift card to someone else. But the site wouldn’t let me! I had to spend it on myself.
That’s too bad. If I could have spent that money on someone else, I would have been even happier than if I spent it on myself. That’s what a whole series of studies has shown. Here I’ll tell you about a review of that research that just appeared in Current Directions in Psychological Science. The book Happy Money is probably a great source, too, though I haven’t read it yet.
The English language is filled with an ever-growing collection of nasty and insulting words to refer to maligned groups. Just think of all the slurs used over the years to refer to African-Americans, or to gays and lesbians, or to just about any group that has ever been stigmatized or marginalized. I don’t even want to list any of them.
Those labels can be horribly hurtful. They can also set off shouting matches over what should happen when people use those words. Sometimes, though, people who are the targets of those slurs adopt a bold and imaginative strategy for sapping them of their power: They embrace the words and make them their own.
With the War on Poverty marking its 50th anniversary, the scolds are out in force. Their target? Single mothers – especially the poor ones. The preachy ones are reviving an old argument – that if you are a single mother and you are poor, there is a clear solution for you – just get married. There is a blaming quality to the argument, an implication that if you are poor it is your own fault.
To bolster their argument, the just-get-married crowd says that two can live more cheaply than one and that married people have more money than single people do. It is important to recognize the ways in which these claims are true and the ways in which they are misleading.
[Bella’s intro: I have been writing now and then about couples who are committed to each other but live apart – not because they have to but because they want to. Usually, I draw from published research. It is also good to hear first-hand accounts from people who have actually experienced this way of living, and I’m happy to have this two-part essay from Diane Marty. It is a bit longer than most blog posts, but I think you will find it to be a good read. Thanks, Diane!]
Every year, starting in 1972, a representative sample of American adults (different people each year) has been asked to describe their overall health. Researchers have reported on how health has changed over time, depending on whether the people answering are currently married, divorced, widowed, or have always been single. One report looked at trends across about three decades, from 1972 to 2003.
My favorite listicle – and also my nomination for the saddest and most discouraging one – has been making the rounds lately. Shani Silver’s 10 things NOT to say to your single friends started out at xoJane and was picked up by Alternet and probably lots of other places as well.