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The Singles Treatment: Unmarried Adults Reveal their Experiences

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.

The Singles Treatment: Unmarried Adults Reveal their Experiences

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). The Singles Treatment: Unmarried Adults Reveal their Experiences. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 27, 2019, from


Last updated: 7 Apr 2012
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