Welcome, PsychCentral readers! I’m delighted to introduce you to my new blog, Single at Heart.
This will be unlike just about everything else you read about singles. It is a blog about living your single life fully, joyfully, and without apology, whether you are single for the moment, for a while, or for a lifetime. It is not a blog about dating tips or advice for finding The One.
Much of what I like to do is myth-busting, and one of the most persistent myths about single people is that what they want, more than anything else, is to become unsingle. Not so!
In a Pew survey based on a national sample, unmarried Americans (including the divorced and widowed, along with those who had always been single) were asked whether they were already in a committed romantic relationship and whether they were looking for a partner. The biggest group, 55%, said that they were not in a relationship and that they were not looking for one.
So what are they doing if they are not devoting their lives to the search for The One? Different singles have different answers. Singles are a diverse group that includes, for example:
- women and men of all ages
- divorced and widowed and always-single people
- adults of every race, ethnicity, and social class
- people of every sexual orientation
- people who are parents and people who have no children
- people who live solo and people who live with others
People who are unmarried and cohabiting with a romantic partner are single in the legal sense. Socially, though, they are coupled. In everyday life, other people often treat them more like they treat a married couple than how they treat solo singles.
I’m 58, and I’ve always been single. I love living single (except for all of the stereotyping, stigmatizing and discrimination that I call singlism). I never wanted to get married. I never had fantasies of a puffy wedding dress or a row of color-coded bridesmaids. Single is who I really am. I’m single at heart.
I see single life as a place of opportunities. You can, if you have the resources and the inclination, create the mix of socializing and solitude — spending time with others and time on your own – that is just right for you. You can choose the living arrangement that suits you best. You can pursue your passions. Rather than following a conventional life path – finish school, get a job, get married, have kids, stay married, retire, have grandkids – you can create your own way through life.
My foray into the study of single life began informally, when I started to ask other single people about their experiences. I asked, for example, if they ever felt that they were excluded from social events because their friends were coupled and they were not. I asked if they were expected to cover for the couples in the workplace. I asked if other people made assumptions about them – for example, that simply because they were single, they must be miserable, lonely, and selfish.
The responses were amazing. So many single people had the kinds of experiences I described – and more. We all loved comparing notes. We did not appreciate the stereotyping or the exclusions or the discrimination that we had experienced. But we savored so many other aspects of our single lives.
And yet, when we turned on the TV or read books or magazines or searched online, we did not see our real single lives reflected there. Instead, we saw cheesy reality shows about a pack of women all pining for the same bachelor, or we read that we were supposed to “settle,” or we heard about how other people felt sorry for us because we were single. Even the scholarly journals seemed to favor married people over singles.
My mission is to challenge all that. I hope you will join the conversation.
Photo by Gareth Williams, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.