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What is Life Like for Singles Who Wanted to Marry?

middle aged manI am single at heart. I love my single life. There is not a day in my life when I wished I were married – though there are many days when I wish I had all of the perks and protections of married people, or that I wouldn’t be excluded from events simply because I am single.

Other singles, though, do want to marry, including some who are in their 40s and beyond and have been single the whole time. How do they feel about their lives? That’s the topic of a cover story in this Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine.

You might think that people willing to tell a reporter for a national newspaper that they wanted to be married and they are still single, would tell life stories full of sorrow and loneliness and woe. That’s not at all how they described their lives. I quoted some of them elsewhere, so here I’ll just mention one more person from the article – James, who is 48.

James has dated often throughout his adult life. For a long time, he was “certain his time would come.” Here’s how the story continues:

But four years ago, he realized it might not. And, more importantly, he wasn’t sure he wanted it to. “I decided, ‘No, it’s not right for me,’ ” he says.

Other single people interviewed in the story described lives full of friendship and meaningful work and the pursuit of their passions. Yes, they did want to marry – some still do – but the miserable single life that our cultural myths threaten just did not happen to them.

James had something else to say that seems important:

“Day to day is probably when I most know that I want to be single.”

Among those who are not sure they want to be single, doubts and insecurities are probably greatest around holidays. It can feel awkward not to be with a spouse or romantic partner at times, and at events, when everyone else seems to be. Other anxieties are about hypothetical future events – what if I’m alone at home and I fall and can’t get up? (Surprise! Even married people do not have their spouse nearby 24/7.)

If you, like James, enjoy your single life on a day-to-day basis, if on most days of the year and most years of your life, single life is the life you like best, should you really change your life so that you will feel more comfortable on those much more infrequent special days? Should you let what might happen to you in the future dictate how you spend your real life now?

On a related topic: Remember that Washington Post survey of single people that I mentioned in a previous post? More than 1500 people responded, and the results are in. I’ll describe the findings in a future post.

Middle aged man photo available from Shutterstock.

What is Life Like for Singles Who Wanted to Marry?

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2012). What is Life Like for Singles Who Wanted to Marry?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 12 Feb 2012
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